Two superbly documented fragments from “The Star Spangled Banner,” the very flag that flew over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, MD on Sept. 13, 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to America’s national anthem, sold for $65,725 as part of Heritage Auctions’ $1,361,858 June 25 Signature Arms & Militaria Auction. All prices include 19.5 percent Buyer’s Premium.
“The Star Spangled Banner is the most famous example of America’s most potent symbol,” said Dennis Lowe, Director of Civil War and Militaria Auctions at Heritage, “and these mere fragments of that important flag brought a final price realized quite in line with that significance.”
The auction saw 925 bidders vying for 954 lots, resulting in an 89.22% sell-through rate by lot value.
“Overall we were quite pleased with the results of the sale,” said Lowe. “Collectors were enthusiastic about the offerings and responded with solid, competitive bidding.
The history of these amazing fragments is rock solid and indisputable. The flag, which was commissioned in Baltimore by Brevet Lt. Col. George Armistead in 1814, went home with him after the battle at Ft. McHenry, where it stayed for the remainder of his life, passing to his wife upon his death and subsequently to, first, Armistead’s daughter and then to his son, who loaned it to the Smithsonian in 1907. In 1910 the gift was made permanent.
These fragments were donated in the early 20th century to the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Museum in Philadelphia – a treasury of the holdings of that patriotic order organized just after Lincoln’s death in April 1865 by Union military officers who fought in the Civil War – by former Union officer, author and all-around Renaissance man John Heysinger, whose clean script details the fragments on the manuscript mount.
American battle flags were actually the top order of the day, with fully four of the top 10 lots in the auction being flags. Besides the top lots, as related above, the other three flags in the top echelon of the auction all related to the Civil War, with the Confederate Battle Flag of the 37th Mississippi Infantry, retained by the family of Col. Orlando S. Holland since the Civil War and offered for the first time in this auction, bringing $50,788.
A Confederate battle flag, from the Army of Tennessee, captured at the Battle of Mine Creek, KS, on Oct. 24, 1864, also captured the imagination of collectors, and several rounds of spirited biddings, before finishing the days at $26,290, while the fascinating Confederate Naval Battle Flag of Capt. William Harwar Parker, commander of the Confederate gunboat CSS Beaufort and the ironclad CSS Richmond, proved quite popular at $17,925.