- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

BEDFORD, Va. (AP) Donations from history buffs throughout the country will allow the Bedford City-County Museum to restore and display a rare Civil War flag.
The museum has raised $8,200 to restore the fragile company flag of the Southside Dragoons, a volunteer cavalry unit from Bedford County that fought among Confederate forces at Manassas, Sharpsburg, Dranesville and elsewhere.
The flag was cut from a woman's blue silk skirt and was hand painted. One side features a portrait of George Washington, the other the Virginia state seal with the slogan "State Rights" below and the state motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis," above.
In July 1863, Union soldiers captured the flag as the Dragoons retreated from Gettysburg. It was donated to the museum in 1932.
Ultraviolet rays, humidity and temperature changes have taken their toll. The banner has faded and dried out, and many of the silk fibers have broken down.
In March, museum director Ellen Wandrei asked for help in raising $7,250 to restore the flag. Donations poured in from Civil War and history enthusiasts from several states, and now the museum has enough money to pay for the restoration and buy an exhibit case that will help prevent further deterioration of the flag.
Fonda Thomsen, a textile conservator in Maryland, will begin the restoration in January. Miss Thomsen's work is so in demand that Miss Wandrei had to schedule the work nearly a year in advance. She did that before the museum had the funds to pay for restoration a gamble for a small museum that relies heavily on local support.
"I was really concerned when I started this project if I would have enough time to raise the money," Miss Wandrei said.
She said that preserving the flag is important because Civil War artifacts, especially Confederate ones, are popular among collectors and the museum probably could not afford another one.
Miss Thomsen said Confederate battle flags routinely sell for $150,000 and that company flags such as the Bedford County one have sold for $40,000.

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