Company F, 36th Illinois Infantry's Missing Flag
By Elmer Dickson
The first G. A. R. Post hall was in rented rooms in the Union Building, downtown Yorkville, where the Masonic lodge currently meets. When Post membership declined, as Civil War veterans died, it became difficult to meet the expense of a hall. Prior to the construction of a new jail in the summer of 1893, the old jail and sheriff's living quarters were located in the basement of the courthouse. With the completion of the new jail, the former jail and sheriff's residence were no long used. In 1899, one of the Supervisors, some members of the G. A. R. and the Women's Relief Corps suggested that the unused space would make a suitable hall for the G. A. R. The Board of Supervisors agreed and partitions were moved to create a fine hall complete with comfortable anterooms. The new Post hall was dedicated in March 1900 as a memorial to Kendall County's veterans. The understanding was, the Yorkville Post would occupy the hall for their meetings and headquarters but it was to be available to all old soldiers. This was the final home for Yorkville Post No. 522, G. A. R.
Portraits of some of the old soldiers and various war relics were displayed on the walls and in display cases in the hall. During the Civil War there was only one Regimental Flag per regiment. It was customary, however, for each company to have its own flag. These flags were not carried in battle but used when recruiting and when the company was in camp. They typically were flown in front of company headquarters to mark its location. Company F, 36th IL Infantry, was originally commanded by Captain Porter C. Olson of Newark. Company F's flag was sewn by the ladies of Newark before the company left Kendall County and presented to the company August 21, 1861 at Newark.
Captain Olson was subsequently promoted to Lt. Colonel and elevated to Regimental Commander. Unfortunately he was killed in the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee.) Following his death, Lt. Colonel Olson's personal effects were returned to Newark and Company F's flag was found in one of his trunks. At the conclusion of the war, nobody in Company F seemed inclined to take the flag so it remained in the hands of his brother James "Webster" Olson, a member of Company F. Webster moved from Illinois to Kansas, and subsequently to Santa Rosa, California where he kept the flag for about twenty years. In 1904 Webster returned to Illinois to attend a reunion of the 36th Illinois Infantry Regiment, bringing the flag with him. He felt it was time to secure a permanent place for the flag so the surviving veterans of the company in the immediate area could again view their flag.
A committee of members of the regiment was formed to locate a permanent home for the flag. In 1905 Yorkville Post No. 522, G. A. R. offered to care for the flag and arrangements were made to transfer it. According to terms of the agreement, the flag was to be displayed in an appropriate case in the post hall. Accordingly a custom made oak case about six feet, six inches in height, two and a half feet wide, and six inches deep with a glass front was built to display the flag which was then gracefully draped inside the case.
What became of the old flag after the Yorkville Post disbanded is a mystery. Aurora Post, number 20, G. A. R. is now known as The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall & Military Museum. Charles R. Gates of Yorkville is Post Commander. Commander Gates was asked if Company F's flag was in the Museum's collection of military artifacts and it was determined it was not. The largest collection of Civil War flags of Illinois is housed in the Hall of Flags on the first floor of the Centennial Building (Howlett Building) in Springfield. Inquiry was made to determine if the flag was housed there but it was not.
Company F's flag may still be in existence somewhere. The flag's dimensions are approximately four feet by six feet. Each red and white stripe, each white star in the field of blue are sewn on separately. Under the flag a screaming American eagle grasping steamers in its claws inscribed with the national motto "E Pluribus Unum" was painted in oil colors. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts or disposition of the flag please pass it along to the compiler.
Previous page: Older Veterans of the Civil War From Kendall County
Next page: Kendall County Men Who Served During the War With Spain