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    Description

    "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."

    Emanuel Leutze-Designed Flag Presented to Union Major General John A. Dix commemorating one of the most famous quotes to have come out of the Civil War. This historically significant flag was presented to Dix in a public ceremony on the evening of April 23, 1864, at the close of the New York Sanitary Fair. Mrs. William T. Blodgett, wife of a prominent New York businessman, active participant in the Sanitary Commission, and promoter of the arts, had commissioned the manufacture of the flag by the legendary Tiffany & Co. (which, by the way, supplied the Union with swords, flags, and surgical instruments during the Civil War). At the time of this presentation, Dix was president of the United States Sanitary Commission. The design is a striking scene of Liberty rising from her seat, grasping the American flag in one hand and the thunderbolts of war in the other. The display further incorporates along the bottom the famous slogan assigned to Dix: "If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." Elegantly framed by the original intricately designed standard, the needlework retains much of its color and graphic appeal. Although removed from the original silk backing in 1970, the focal point of the piece has been maintained and displays in very fine condition. Complete at 47.25" x 49.50" with the central feature measuring 38.5" x 41".

    Born in 1798 in New Hampshire, John Adams Dix started his military career early, joining the Artillery as a military cadet at the tender age of 14. After moving to New York with his wife to manage some of her family's land holdings, he entered the practice of law, later serving not only in various New York state offices but also as a U.S. senator (1845-1849). James Buchanan appointed him secretary of the treasury in January of 1861. One of Dix's immediate concerns was the fact that local authorities in southern states were seizing U.S. forts, arsenals, and revenue cutters. He sent a special messenger, W. Hemphill Jones, to New Orleans to provision the cutters there and move them to New York. Jones sent Dix a dispatch saying that southern-born Captain Breshwood of the revenue cutter Robert McClelland had refused to obey the order at which point, on January 29th, Dix sent the famous telegram with his strong comments about the flag:

    Treasury Department, January 29,1861
    Tell Lieutenant Caldwell to arrest Captain Breshwood, assume command of the cutter, and obey the order I gave you. If Captain Breshwood, after arrest, undertakes to interfere with the command of the cutter, tell Lieutenant Caldwell to consider him as a mutineer, and treat him accordingly. If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.
    John A. Dix
    Secretary of the Treasury

    Although the telegram was prevented by the Confederates from arriving at its intended destination, the press discovered and printed the text. Dix immediately became one of the first Union heroes of the Civil War. He later said of the telegram, "...the order was not the result of any premeditation- scarcely of any thought. A conviction of the right course to be taken was as instantaneous as a flash of light; and I did not think, when I... wrote the order in as little time as it would take to read it, that I was doing anything particularly worthy of remembrance..." Millions of patriotic northerners certainly saw it differently! Here we offer the flag that became a testimonial to the service of John A. Dix and the motto that was emblazoned in the minds of every Northern recruit. Dix was quite touched and honored to receive this flag and, in a letter to Mrs. Blodgett, he said of this flag and the presentation ceremony, "...I can never forget that I owe to your kindness the most valuable testimonial of my public services that I have ever received. The obligation is the more grateful to me, because you seem of all others to be the least conscious of the value of what you have conferred."

    Emanuel Leutze, the designer, was a German-born painter who specialized in American patriotic images. One of his greatest works is the iconic Washington Crossing the Delaware. He was commissioned in 1860 to decorate a stairway in the Capitol Building in Washington which produced another very familiar and famous work, Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way. One of Leutze's students at the National Academy of Design, Augustus St. Gaudens, would later become famous for his eerily similar interpretation of Lady Liberty on the beloved United States $20 gold piece in 1907.

    This is an important and stunningly beautiful flag, commissioned, designed, and manufactured to pay honor and respect to a great and inspirational man who served his country faithfully and selflessly for 63 years. It is worthy of inclusion in the finest collections and should remain a symbol of the very best of American patriotism for generations to come.

    Provenance: Handwritten letter dated October 16, 1970, signed by the owner of Forge Antiques, Patricia S. Sullivan, of Katonah, New York . The flag was purchased at an auction of items stored in outbuildings at the Dix estate on Orange Rd. Mt. Kisco, New York.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    24th-25th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,091

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