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Civil War Flag Rediscovered

A precious but nearly forgotten family heirloom is rediscovered.
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Bill Stafford of Norfolk, Nebraska, remembers wanting to see the flag his maternal grandmother, Clara Tracy, kept in the box when he was a little boy of the rare Civil War flag. She would stay with his family for about six months each year. Stafford said he would always ask her, “Show me the flag." Tracy kept the flag in a box inside a wardrobe trunk. The flag was always folded, but the stars and bars were visible.

Stafford remembers his grandmother telling him the story of her uncle, Col. William S. Brooks, and how he had acquired the flag. Brooks was a soldier for the Union Army in the Civil War, eventually ending up as a colonel in charge of a regiment of black soldiers. According to the story Stafford’s grandmother would tell, Brooks had secured the flag from the enemy and, in doing so, was shot in the arm. That explained the sleeve cuff with a hole that was kept with the flag.

Before she died, Tracy gave the flag to Stafford's older brother, Edward. The elder Stafford passed away about twenty years ago. Bill Stafford had forgotten about the flag. Then in late 2007, he heard a story about the Civil War on the radio. He remembered the flag. He called his brother's widow, Dorothy Stafford. They met and he saw the flag for the first time in decades. After the meeting, he gave some thought about who should own the flag. He encouraged his sister-in-law to donate the flag to a museum. On Stafford's 89th birthday last November in Norfolk, however, Dorothy presented the flag to her brother-in-law.

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