See “Grand Division Flag” (June 20, 2022) for an updated version of this post.
“The first time I heard of the 8th Virginia Standard was during an internet search on the 8th,” writes Rob Andrews, an SAR member and Revolutionary War reenactor with the 1st Virginia Regiment. What he found was an 1847 reference in the Richmond Whig. The newspaper quoted Peter Muhlenberg’s great nephew saying, “The regimental color of this corps (8th Virginia Regiment of the Line) is still in the [my] possession. It is made of plain salmon-colored silk, with a broad fringe of the same, having a simple white scroll in the centre, upon which are inscribed the words, ‘VIII Virga. Reg’t.’ The spear-head is brass, considerably ornamented. The banner bears the traces of warm service, and is probably the only revolutionary flag in existence.”
After this, there was no discoverable mention of the flag anywhere. “I emailed the folks at Valley Forge and the Trappe Foundation in Trappe PA, where the Muhlenberg family lived. Emails bounced around and finally one person said he thought he knew who had it. I didn't hear anything for awhile and then one day an email from Bernard Goetz popped into my box with two pictures of the flag. It was in a frame and had a card at the bottom stating its provenance. I was appalled at the pictures and immediately advised Mr Goetz to remove the flag from the frame.” The flag had not been professionally conserved, had faded where it faced the glass, and was displayed with a card that claimed a service history that followed General Muhlenberg’s career—not that of the 8th Virginia (which he led for a year).
“That was all I heard of it for several years,” says Rob.
Sometime later, “Mr. Goetz passed away and [in 2012] his descendants placed all his historical artifacts up for auction at Freeman’s Auction in Philadelphia. Prior to the auction, Freeman’s brought it to Shenandoah County to be displayed. I was lucky that I found out about it just a couple of days prior to the event. I contacted my friend Erik [Dorman] who also was interested in writing about the 8th and we decided to show up in our uniforms. We caused quite a stir when we walked around the corner of the Courthouse into the square. We were immediately enlisted to "guard" the flag and unveil it during the event.”
Rob also shares one important explanation about the flag’s appearance. “As someone in the past painted the flag so that 8th Virginia was visible” the opposite side of the flag is displayed “to show its original condition. And its years in the frame have led to its faded rectangle appearance.”
As mentioned a few posts ago, the flag was purchased anonymously for $422,500 and is once again owned by an anonymous collector.
Thanks to Rob Andrews for the information in this post.
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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