Freeman's rallies for a flag

Posted: June 23, 2012

Freeman's, which last spring sold a dozen banners from the Richard Dietrich collection for a total of $784,000, is rallying around the flag again. At its fall Pennsylvania sale on Nov. 14 at the Center City gallery, it will offer a rare Revolutionary War battle flag that has been in the same family for more than 200 years.

Given that it is expected to sell for $400,000 to $600,000, Freeman's was eager to announce the sale early — on June 14, Flag Day.

The flag was that of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, commanded during the war by Col. Peter Muhlenberg (1746-1807), who came to be known as "the fighting parson." It has descended in the Muhlenberg family line ever since, according to a Freeman's news release.

The regiment was formed by Muhlenberg, who was born in the Montgomery County community of Trappe and was part of a prominent Pennsylvania German family that later gave its name to Muhlenberg College in Allentown. He studied at what now is the University of Pennsylvania and then from 1763 to 1766 at the University of Halle in Germany, serving for a while in a regiment of German dragoons.

Returning to Philadelphia in 1766, Muhlenberg studied theology and in 1768 was ordained a pastor of two Lutheran churches in New Jersey, one in Bedminster and the other in New Germantown (now known as Oldwick) before moving to Woodstock, Va. On a visit to England in 1772, he was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church. In 1774 he became a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.

On Jan. 1, 1776, however, he doffed his clerical robe to reveal his military officer's uniform, according to Freeman's account of his career, prepared with the help of Col. Craig J. Nannos, Freeman's consulting specialist, and read aloud from the Book of Ecclesiastes (presumably Chapter 3, including the line "a time of war and a time of peace").

Under Muhlenberg's command, the Eighth — known as "the German Regiment," because of the German American settlers from southwest Virginia and West Virginia in its ranks — fought at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Later known as the Stonewall Regiment in the Civil War, it also fought in the D-Day invasion and is now part of the Virginia Army National Guard.

Muhlenberg himself, commissioned a major general in 1783, returned to Pennsylvania, settled in Montgomery County and went on to a distinguished political career until his death at Gray's Ferry on Oct. 1, 1807.

Although the silk flag's original salmon-red color has faded through the years to a golden hue, it is otherwise remarkably intact. "Revolutionary battle flags are rare and those in private hands are almost unknown or only fragments have survived," Samuel M. "Beau" Freeman 2d, chairman of the auction house and a specialist in Americana, said in announcing the sale.

Marking the Fourth at Morphy's.

Previews: 9 a.m. to sale time both days at the gallery at 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver. For further information, call 717-335-3435.

Decorative arts at Pook and Pook." /> Pook and Pook Inc. will offer more than 1,400 lots of decorative arts, including porcelains, glassware, paintings, furniture, jewelry, toys, American Indian art and folk art, from a dozen estates and collections at a two-day sale Thursday and next Friday at its gallery in Downingtown. Most lots are expected to bring low three-figure prices.

The relative few with four-figure presale estimates, according to the auction catalog (also accessible online at www.pookandpook.com), include two toys that will be among the 720 lots in the first session, beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday. Both are painted cast-iron rowing crews with their boats on wheels, each expected to bring $1,000 to $2,000. Glassware in the session includes a Lalique opalescent vase with a presale estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.

Five pieces of furniture in the second session, beginning at 10 a.m. next Friday, are also expected to bring four-figure prices: a New Hampshire Queen Anne maple chest on frame circa 1770 ($2,000 to $3,000); a Maryland Chippendale cherry tall case clock, circa 1790 ($1,000 to $2,000); a New England 19th-century painted pine cupboard ($1,500 to $2,500); a Pennsylvania painted pie cupboard ($1,000 to $1,200); and a Pennsylvania Chippendale open-top pewter cupboard circa 1790 ($1,000 to $1,500).

They are among the nearly 200 lots from the collection of Joseph and Eleanora Bazata of Swoope, Va. Writing in the auction catalog, their son Jeremy recalls making childhood trips with them in search of antiques and some of their finds.

"I always had fun in school when it was time for show and tell," he wrote. "I will never forget Mrs. Sutfin's gasp as I unwrapped the Civil War bleeder and she asked what it was!"

Previews: noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday ; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to sale time Thursday and next Friday at the gallery at 463 E. Lancaster Ave. For further information call 610-269-4040.

Contact David Iams at daiams@comcast.net.

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