- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - A piece of American history dating back to the Civil War is back in Spartanburg for the first time in 150 years and on display at the headquarters branch of the Spartanburg County Public Library.

The library and the University of South Carolina Upstate have collaborated to host an exhibit called Freedom Summit: Spartanburg’s History 150 Years Ago and Today, where a 150-year-old hand-sewn American flag will be displayed.

It will be on display through the end of the month and will be part of a two-night event including a panel discussion examining different perspectives of people at the end of the Civil War. The summit also includes a lecture from John W. Franklin of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture regarding the building of the museum.

The exhibit was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Steve Smith, coordinator of local history with Spartanburg County Public Libraries; Andrew Myers, professor of American Studies and History at USC Upstate and Brad Steinecke, local history assistant with the library.

The flag was hand-sewn in Spartanburg by a black Baptist minister’s wife near the end of the Civil War, Steinecke said. Extensive research has shown that the names of the minister and his wife weren’t recorded, Steinecke added.

As a token of gratitude to Norris Crossman, a Union captain, and his soldiers, the minister’s wife sewed the flag from memory and gave it to Crossman and his troops to carry during a parade that went from the old courthouse that was on Morgan Square to a spring off of Union Street, Steinecke said.

That flag was almost lost forever, and its discovery was only possible through Crossman’s family, a historical society in California, a newspaper article written in the 1920s and extensive research by Steinecke, Myers and Smith.

“Andy found the flag and came to me earlier this year and said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring the flag here and present it to the people of Spartanburg County 150 years to the day after it had been used in a procession?’ ” said Smith. “So, we decided to try to partner on that and collaborate to make that happen.”

Myers said he was able to locate the flag after corresponding with a historical association in Whittier, Calif., and matching a description of the flag to entries in Crossman’s diaries and then having it triple verified by a newspaper article and a vague recollection from Crossman’s great-grandson.

While the flag is a key piece of the exhibit, there are other items of Crossman’s that are included. Myers said there are excerpts of Crossman’s five-volume diary that spanned from 1862 through 1866.

Crossman’s writings, Myers added, paint a clear picture of how he saw former slaves at the end of the war compared to how he saw Confederate southerners. Steinecke interjected, saying Crossman viewed former slaves with higher regard than Confederate southerners because of the white residents’ secession from the Union.

Looking at different perspectives of different classes is at the center of the Freedom Summit panel discussions being held at the library, Smith said. There will be three professors on the panel who look at perspectives of the Union solider, existing planters and newly liberated slaves working as sharecroppers, Smith said.

“This is a very big period of transition for every single person living here,” Steinecke said. “People are forming new identities. The Confederacy and the hope for most of the white population in this area had failed. They were the conquered and having to figure out what their role as Americans was now.”

“As we build our archive, we’re hoping more of this material comes to light,” Smith said. “We’re hoping to encourage people to value what they have and share it for research.”


Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/

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