The Flag of the 76th New York

Roundtable member and local historian Ed Raus found the following letters in the New York State Archives (B0462-Box 72-Folder 9). They concern the efforts of Henry Randall, a member of the Cortland County Military Committee, to purchase a new flag for the 76th New York Regiment. 

The first letter is from Randall to the State’s Adjutant General:

Cortland Village N.Y.
Nov 3d. 1863

To John T. Sprague, Adjutant General 


For want of knowing where else to address my enquries, I send you what I suppose are some very un-official questions! Our Cortland boys of the 76th. Regt. N.Y. Vols. want a stand of colors. Some of us here would like to present them a flag – such an one as is described in within letter.

May I ask you where we can get the work faithfully done, & without unnecessary expense. May I also ask what a fair respectable flag would cost? Is it customary to put on the names of the battles in embroidery?

I am ashamed to trouble you with this letter, but I don’t see what other course to take. Please return me enclosed letter.

Yours very respectfully,
Henry S. Randall

The second letter is from Capt. Samuel Byram, of Co. D, to Randall. Byram knows exactly what he wants the new flag to look like—and he ends with a postscript which is especially interesting to our roundtable!

76th Reg. N.Y. Vols.
Rappahannock Sta. Va.
Aug. 12, 1863

Dear Sir,

Your letter arrived yesterday. I congratulate myself that my letter was so well received and that its contents were not displeasing to you. I will gladly furnish you with all the necessary information in regard to the matter, and will send you a rough draft of a flag that there may be no mistake in inscribing the names of the battles.

The materials should be silk. Length 6 feet 6 in. Width 6 feet. Thirteen horizontal stripes, red and white alternately, beginning with red. The field blue, one third of the entire length, and extending to the bottom of the fourth red stripe, with 35 white stars, and the U.S. coat of arms. The staff 9 feet 10 in. long with a joint and ferrule just below the flag. Tassels blue and white mingled, and cord 4 feet long. No fringe. The names of battles if printed should be in gold letters, and if embroidered should be white on red and red on white.
The flag of the 14th N.Y.S.M. was got up at the firm of Tiffany & Co. on Broadway N.Y. and the stars and inscriptions are embroidered.

Hoping this communication will be as well received as the former one. Allow me to remain,

Very respectfully and truly yours,
Samuel M. Byram
Capt. Co. D. 76. N.Y.V.

Hon. Henry S. Randall
Ch. Co. Military Comm.
Cortlandville N.Y.

P.S. Commissions arrived last night for Col. Livingston (late Lieut. Col.), Lieut. Col. Grover (Late Major), & Maj. Cook (late Capt.) the names were sent in before Maj. Grover’s decease. Maj Cook arrived yesterday from Washington and took command of the Regt. I have heard nothing in relation to Capt. Place since the battle. --- S. M. Byram

According to the regimental history, “At the battle of the Wilderness, Captain Byram distinguished himself by bringing away the colors of the Regiment, under a most galling fire”. Could those have been the colors he sketched here, a year before?

The question of when Lt. Col. Grover’s promotion actually happened has often been a subject of discussion at our Roundtable. 

In the 1902 Adjutant General’s report, Grover’s promotion to lieutenant-colonel is listed as “not mustered, July 23, 1863, with rank from June 25, 1863, vice C. E. Livingston promoted.” Grover died on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, so his promotion was approved after he died, but effective before his death. Five years ago, the Roundtable voted to acknowledge this by giving his rank as “Lt. Colonel” in the name of our organization. But, the question remained what did the members of the regiment think at the time? 

Here, we find out—when the commissions arrived at the regiment in August 1863, Capt Byram referred to him as “Lieut. Col. Grover” and indicates “the names were sent in before Maj. Grover’s decease”, so it’s quite likely that Grover knew of the promotion before his death.

Capt. Byram died December 30, 1894, aged 57 years. He is buried in Cortland Rural Cemetery.

Henry S. Randall was New York Secretary of State 1852-53. He wrote The Life of Thomas Jefferson, published in three volumes in 1858. Randall died August 14, 1876, and is also buried in Cortland Rural Cemetery.

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- Last Updated March 1, 2009