Civil War Battle Flag of Company C of the 130th NY Regiment/1st NY Dragoons before restoration.
ATTICA — There were more than 300 men who comprised the 130th NY Infantry Regiment. From blacksmiths to bankers, these men, fathers and husbands from the Attica area, formed the nucleus of Company C in 1862 during the Civil War.
The unit’s flag meant much to the soldiers serving within. After years of storage, it has now been preserved and will be viewable by the public starting Saturday, the beginning of the village’s Civil War Days Festival. The event runs through May 30.
The Civil War Days Festival also will feature “Reynold’s Battery Civil War... A Living History Encampment,” A Civil War Ball slated for 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at The Presbyterian Church, a Ladies Civil War Costume Contest, period music and more.
As for the preservation effort?
The Attica Historical Society experienced a flood several years ago. The village’s Historical Museum was cleaned out and reorganized in the aftermath.
At that time, members of the Historical Society noticed the timeworn, tattered silk Company C flag that was folded up inside a frame.
“The flag was housed in a frame,” said Anita Hayes of the Historical Society. “You could see the deterioration of the flag through the frame and the board decided it needed to be restored because of its history.”
“Silk sort of disintegrates if it lays on top of each other after 160 years,” added member Rick Montford. “It started to dissolve itself. We sent it to a curator and restoration place. They conserved it. The curator also does work with the Smithsonian and is well-known.”
The handmade, hand stitched Company C flag was conserved by the Spicer Conservatory and framed for display. The cost was more than $20,000 and was paid for with the help of donations.
The 130th NY Infantry Regiment Company C flag is the “mother flag” of the 1st NY Dragoons.
Company C included 42 men. It was formed after a Democratic meeting at Dotys Hall, which was formerly on Market Street in Attica.
Rowley P. Taylor and other members of the Democratic party were quarreling about going into a civil war. The Democratic Party thought it would just be something similar to a scrimmage.
“Rowley P. Taylor said, ‘This is my country and country comes above anything else,’” Hayes said.
Led by Capt. Taylor, Company C trained near what would eventually be Letchworth State Park at its “Parade Grounds.” The unit joined men from Livingston, Wyoming and Allegheny counties and later went on to form the 130th NY Infantry Regiment Company C.
After training, the 130th NY Infantry Regiment Company C joined the Army of the Potomac. From there, the men went to battle.
In Attica, women had hand sewn a silk battle flag for Company C to take into battle with them. The flag was presented to Taylor on Sept. 9, 1862, at Portage by Miss Juvenilia O. Tinker, 16, who was a well-known opera singer.
Those men fought under that flag for quite a while.
“Company C was a very good fighting unit,” Montford said. “There was one general that observed that (Alford Gibbs). He was a cavalry man. At this time, Rowley P. Taylor had been killed in action. (Gibbs) announced and changed the 130th NY Infantry Regiment Company C to a cavalry unit. They were one of the deadliest units.
“This would be comparable to the Green Berets or the Navy SEALS,” Montford continued. “The Confederates did not like them because they were very maneuverable and very quick responding.”
Rowley P. Taylor was killed during the Battle of Deserted House in January 1863.
The cavalry unit became known as the 19th Calvary and was needed at the time. The federal government wanted to rename the cavalry unit, New York’s governor and Western New York representatives would not allow its name to change.
“These are our boys. We’re going to call them what we want. The cavalry unit soon became known as the 1st NY Dragoons,” said Montford. “That was the only time in American history and United States Army history that a unit was changed under those terms.”
Added Hayes: “They were the fiercest fighting unit known to that period. There was a saying, ‘Dragoons would load on Sunday and fight all week. The New York governor wanted them to be named the Dragoons. This was the only time in history an infantry unit converted to a cavalry unit.”
The 1st NY Dragoons flag is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Visit the Attica Historical Society Facebook page for more details.