Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix
at a public ceremony on the evening of April 23, 1864, at the close of the NY Metropolitan Fair in Aid of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Framed. 78 ¼ in. x 68 ¼ in.
This unique presentation flag celebrates one of the most famous orders of the Civil War, issued by Dix on January 29, 1861: "If Captain Breshwood, after arrest, undertakes to interfere with the command of the cutter, tell Lieutenant Caldwell to consider him as a mutineer... If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."
On July 17, 1863, Dix had been appointed by President Lincoln to relieve General Wool as commander of the Department of the East, including New York, responding to draft riots that took 1,000 lives or more, and cost over one million dollars in property damage. Dix arrived on the 18th, immediately after the July 13-16 riots. His successful management of a still explosive situation is credited with preventing the riots from resuming when the draft was reinstated in mid-August.
The day after Thanksgiving, 1864, with the help of Maj. Thomas T. Eckert, and a Confederate double-agent working in Canada, Dix and his men thwarted a massive terrorist plot to simultaneously burn at least a dozen NYC hotels, just as the blazes were lit. (Bates, 300)
The artist, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868), a German-born painter of Jewish heritage, who specialized in American patriotic images, donated his time for the design of this flag. (Morgan Dix) Immigrating to America as an infant with his parents, Leutze lived in Philadelphia, where he received his initial art training, and Fredericksburg, Virginia. From 1840-1859, he studied and worked in Germany and Italy. In 1843, Columbus in Chains won him the Brussels Art Exhibition's gold medal, and was subsequently purchased by New York's Art Union. In 1848, a year of revolutions in Europe, Leutze decided to create a body of work that would encourage Europe's liberal reformers with the example of the American Revolution. Using American tourists and art students as models and assistants, Leutze completed his iconic and monumental Washington Crossing the Delaware in 1851. This series included: Washington at Monmouth, News from Lexington, Sergeant Jasper, and Washington at Princeton.
Leutze returned to the U.S. in 1859, opening a studio in New York City, and in 1860 was elected a member of the National Academy. Commissioned to decorate a stairway in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., he traveled to the Rocky Mountains to paint in fresco. In 1861 he finished this project, with what is now another iconic work, Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (or Westward Ho!). Additionalcommissions from the government, cut short by untimely death, were Civilization, intended for the Senate Chamber, and a painting of the largest size, The Emancipation. His eldest son, Eugene H. C. Leutze, served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War and after.
The manufacturer, Tiffany & Co., was established in 1837, by Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902) and John B. Young, as Tiffany & Young, a stationery and fancy goods retail store in lower Manhattan. In 1841, the store expanded as Tiffany, Ellis & Young, gaining a reputation for selling the finest goods, Bohemian glass and porcelain being a specialty. During this time they began manufacturing their own styles of jewelry. By the early 1850s, they were also known for their silver designs, and in 1851 were the first American company to use the British 925/1000 silver standard, later adopted as the U.S. Sterling Standard. Tiffany assumed control of the company in 1853, renaming it Tiffany & Co. In 1861, Tiffany was commissioned to design a presentation pitcher for Lincoln's inauguration; that same year, Mary Todd Lincoln received a Tiffany seed-pearl jewelry suite from her husband. The company supplied the Union Army with swords, flags and surgical implements throughout the war, and was known for its gemstone-laden presentation swords, including those made for Generals Grant and Sherman, and Admiral Farragut.
Dix's Historic 1861 Order:
In his last month as President, January, 1861, according to Dix, James Buchanan, under pressure from Wall Street, appointed John Dix Secretary of the Treasury. In a letter to Mrs. William T. Blodgett (the benefactor of this flag) of March 31, 1865, Dix gave a fascinating history of the incident, with the stipulation that it not be published during his or Buchanan's lifetime:
I was requested by Mr. Buchanan to go to Washington early in January, 1861. He said he wished me to take a place in his Cabinet, and offered me the War Department, which I declined…But I said to him that if he thought I could be of any use to him in the Treasury Department, I would not refuse it. He replied that he thought he could make the arrangement, and I left Washington for New York. Before I reached home I saw my appointment in the newspapers. Howell Cobb had resigned as Secretary of the Treasury a few weeks before and returned to Georgia, for the purpose of co-operating with that State in the attempt to break up the Union…
I entered on my duties on the 15th day of January, 1861, and at Mr. Buchanan's urgent request stayed with him at the President's house. Forts, arsenals, and revenue-cutters in the Southern States had been seized by the local authorities. No effort had been made by the government to secure its property; and there was an apparent indifference in the public mind to these outrages which was incomprehensible to me.
On the 18th of January, three days after I entered on my duties, I sent a special messenger, W. Hemphill Jones…to New Orleans, for the purpose of saving the revenue-cutters in that city. He was then to proceed to Mobile and Galveston and try to save the revenue-cutters there. My orders were to provision them and send them to New York. I knew if they remained there that the State authorities would take possession of them.
I received from Mr. Jones, on the 29th of January, the dispatch…advising me that Captain Breshwood, of the revenue-cutter McClelland, refused to obey my order. It was about seven o'clock in the evening. I had dined, and was at the department as usual, transacting business. The moment I read it I wrote the following order:
'Treasury Department, January 29, 1861.
Tell Lieutenant Caldwell to arrest Captain Breshwood, assume command of the cutter, and obey the order I gave through 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 any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot. John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury.'
Not a word was altered; but the original was handed to the clerk charged with the custody of my telegraphic despatches, copied by him, and the copy signed by me and sent to its destination. Before I sent it, however, a question of military etiquette arose in my mind in regard to the arrest of Captain Breshwood, and I took a carriage and drove to the lodgings of Lieutenant-general [Winfield] Scott, to consult him in regard to it. Mr. [Edwin M.] Stanton was then Attorney-general. My relations with him were of the most intimate character; and as he resided near General Scott's lodgings I drove to his house first, and showed the despatch to him. He approved of it, and made some remark expressing his gratification at the tone of the order. General Scott said I was right on the question of etiquette, and I think expressed his gratification that I had taken a decided stand against Southern invasions of the authority of the government. I immediately returned to the department and sent the despatch. General Scott, Mr. Stanton, and the clerk who copied it were the only persons who saw it.
It was on Tuesday evening, the weekly drawing-room evening of Miss Lane, and before nine o'clock I was with her visitors.
I decided when I wrote the order to say nothing to the President about it. I was satisfied that, if he was consulted, he would not permit it to be sent. Though indignant at the course of the Southern States, and the men about him who had betrayed his confidence—Cobb, Floyd, and others—one leading idea had taken possession of his mind, that in the civil contest which threatened to break out the North must not shed the first drop of blood. This idea is the key to his submission to much which should have been met with prompt and vigorous resistance. During the seven weeks I was with him he rarely failed to come to my room about ten o'clock, and converse with me for about an hour on the great questions of the day before going to his own room. I was strongly impressed with his conscientiousness. But he was timid and credulous. His confidence was easily gained, and it was not difficult for an artful man to deceive him. But I remember no instance in my unreserved intercourse with him in which I had reason to doubt his uprightness.
Tuesdays and Fridays were Cabinet days. The members met, without notice, at the President's house in the morning. My order was given, as has been stated, on Tuesday evening. I said nothing to the President in regard to it, though he was with me every evening, until Friday, when the members of the Cabinet were all assembled, and the President was about to call our attention to the business of the day. I said to him, 'Mr. President, I fear we have lost some more of our revenue-cutters.' 'Ah!' said he, 'how is that?' I then told him what had occurred down to the receipt of the despatch from Mr. Jones, informing me that Captain Breshwood refused to obey my order. 'Well,' said he, 'what did you do?' I then repeated to him, slowly and distinctly, the order I had sent. When I came to the words, 'Shoot him on the spot,' he started suddenly, and said, with a good deal of emotion, 'Did you write that?' 'No, sir,' I said, 'I did not write it, but I telegraphed it.' He made no answer; nor do I remember that he ever referred to it afterward. It was manifest, as I had presupposed, that the order would never have been given if I had consulted him.
It only remains for me to say that 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 seized the nearest pen… and wrote the order in as little time as it would take to read it, that I was doing anything specially worthy of remembrance. It touched the public mind and heart strongly, no doubt, because the blood of all patriotic men was boiling with indignation at the humiliation which we were enduring; and I claim no other merit than that of having thought rightly, and of having expressed strongly what I felt in common with the great body of my countrymen.
In Dix's report to Congress he wrote:
[T]he flag of the Union, since 1777, when it was devised and adopted by the founders of the Republic, had never until a recent day been hauled down, except by honorable hands in manly conflict, no hesitation was felt in attempting to uphold it at any cost against an act of treachery, as the ensign of the public authority and the emblem of unnumbered victories by land and sea.
Presenting the Flag to General Dix:
Extracted from Morgan Dix's Memoirs of John Adams Dix:
Another of the events of the year  was the opening of the great Fair
in aid of the Sanitary Commission for the relief and care of our wounded soldiers. This occurred on the 4th of April. It was marked by unusual proceedings. General Dix ordered a review of the troops that afternoon; there were three thousand regulars and some seven thousand men of the First Division of the New York State National Guard. In the evening the General presided at the opening ceremonies in the Armory of the Twenty-second Regiment, in Fourteenth Street, and made an address. The Fair was completely successful as regards taste, beauty, and splendor, including a fine exhibition of paintings, and a large collection of arms and trophies. There was also an 'Annex,' in Union Square…with the best people in New York."
During the evening of Saturday, April 23, the closing day of the Fair, the beautiful flag which had been exhibited in the Art Gallery was presented to Major-general John A. Dix, President of the Metropolitan Fair Association. The Committee of Arrangements Messrs. Acton, Lang, Kensett, and Cannon took possession of the Art Gallery for the occasion. An open space in the centre was appropriated for the Ladies' Executive Committee and the Gentlemen's Executive Committee, around which gathered a large and brilliant audience, including General Anderson, General de Trobriand, Mr. [George] Bancroft, and other distinguished persons. When everything was in readiness the Gentlemen's Executive Committee, headed by its chairman, Mr. George Griswold Gray, escorted General Dix to the gallery, the band playing 'Hail to the Chief.'
Charles Tracy, on behalf of the Joint Executive Committee, spoke, describing the circumstances of Dix's famous order of January 29, 1861. He continued, saying that the copy of the manuscript "now exhibited to you is a photographed fac-simile of the original draft, which you see was written freely, and has no mark of correction or change in word or letter." Tracy here read the order, then continued:
'This was nearly three months before the firing upon Fort Sumter; and these strong, patriotic words not only went through the electric wires to the Treasury agent, but produced an electrical excitement in the heart of the whole country. The office of the Secretary of the Treasury usually has been deemed peculiarly a civic one; but on this occasion, fortunately, it was in the hands of a veteran soldier, prompt to do the right thing at the right time.
The effect of this noble, brave, and timely utterance, at the very beginning of our troubles, in awakening the popular mind and giving it a right direction, cannot be over-estimated.
The message, unfortunately, reached the agent too late: the American flag was hauled down, and the man who did it was not shot. The cutter was taken into the rebel service as a vessel of war; and on the capture of New Orleans her rebel commander set her on fire and abandoned her. While she was in flames an officer of our revenue service, now an officer in the navy – Lieutenant Ritchie – rushed on board and brought away the rebel flag which was flying on the cutter, and also the identical American flag which had been hauled down. Both these flags are now before you. This [producing the latter] is the American flag. You see it here fastened to the staff, union down. That was the work of the rebels, who have tried so hard to bring into reproach our sacred colors, and generally to turn the world upside down, but are signally failing in both attempts. Let us turn it right side up [reversing it]. You see it thus, the Union flag of the revenue service; like the flags of the army and navy, except that its stripes are vertical, and it bears a dark eagle on a white field.'
"The rebel flag was then produced; and, after several attempts of the Committee of Arrangements, it was found to be so caught and entangled that it could not be well unfolded; and the speaker [Tracy] dismissed it, saying that, 'like all other inventions of the rebellion, it was impossible to make them work right or appear respectable.'"
'As a memorial of this order, a superb flag has been given to the Metropolitan Fair Association, for the purpose of being presented to General Dix, as President of that Association. It was eminently proper that the closing scene of the Fair should be chosen for the presentation; for, while the zeal, energy, and liberality of so many humane ladies and gentlemen have been devoted to this enterprise, General Dix has been at all times their head, as President of the Metropolitan Fair Association. The design was by a patriotic artist, Mr. [Emanuel] Leutze; and a patriotic lady, Mrs. [William T.] Blodgett, was at the expense of having it made and embroidered. The flag is, therefore, the gift of Mr. Leutze and Mrs. Blodgett to the Association for the purpose of being thus presented. Many citizens desiring to join in the testimonial to General Dix, a signature book was provided, in which they inscribed their names, declaring that they "gladly enrolled themselves among the friends and admirers of a brave heart and a ready hand in the day of oppression and danger." This beautiful book, which now accompanies the flag, was presented first to the President of the United States, and [producing the book] you see the first signature is "A. Lincoln,"
Speaking of this distinguished personage, a little anecdote will not be out of order. After the President had thus written his name, without title, a gentleman present hinted, might it not be well to add, "President of the United States?" Mr. Lincoln, resting his head on his right hand, meditated a moment, and then replied, "No, I think I'll not write under it, 'This is a horse.'"
The next signature is that of the Vice-President. Then follow General Scott, Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, members of the Cabinet, Senators, Representatives in Congress, and a great number of patriotic citizens. The three flags have been in this gallery during the Fair, and the book has been kept open for signatures under the care of Madame de Trobriand, until, as it now goes to General Dix, it has become a remarkable and valuable collection of autographs.'
The Leutze-Tiffany presentation flag was then displayed, and Mr. Tracy added: "You perceive the design. It is the figure of Liberty, rising from her seat, grasping the American flag with one hand and holding the thunder-bolts with the other, and the motto is in the immortal words of General Dix himself, 'If Any One Attempts To Haul Down The American Flag, Shoot Him On The Spot.'"
He continued: "The flag itself is of the richest materials, elaborately wrought, and is in all respects in the highest style of the decorative art," and then addressed General Dix as follows:
'General Dix,—On behalf of the Metropolitan Fair Association, I present this flag to you, as its President. Receive it as a memorial of the noble act it was designed to commemorate; and also as a token of the profound regard and lively attachment of all the members of the Metropolitan Fair Association for yourself, as their leader and head—pre-eminently earnest, efficient, and wise in all labors of sympathy and aid for our suffering soldiers, and a bright example of loyalty, patriotism, and usefulness on all occasions, from the commencement of the war to the present day.'
Dix received the flag from Mr. Tracy, and responded:
'Mr. Tracy—I am very much at a loss for words to express to you my thanks for your courtesy, to the Managers of the Metropolitan Fair for the honor they have done me, to the accomplished lady to whom this presentation is primarily due, for her kindness and liberality, and to the distinguished artist by whom this flag was designed. I fear, sir, that you have attributed to me far greater merit than I deserve. When I gave the order which this flag is designed to commemorate, I only considered myself as performing a duty which I could not have left undone without infidelity to the country. It was a season of severe trial, without doubt; but I felt every day and every hour that we were dishonored by permitting the public property to be seized, the authority of the Government to be set at defiance, and the flag of the Union—the emblem of unnumbered victories, and of the dominion of law and social order to be trampled underfoot, while scarcely a voice was raised to denounce the treason. The sentiment itself was in every patriotic heart. That truth is sufficiently attested by the general response it received. I merely gave it utterance, and thus appealed to the country from the submission to insult and wrong which was degrading and destroying us.
For this flag, so exquisite in workmanship, and conveying a compliment so graceful–so worthy to be prized and cherished and for this autograph book, bearing on its pages so many illustrious names—coming as they do from a lady who does everything gracefully and well—I never can be sufficiently thankful. I beg you, sir, to assure her that they will be preserved by me and my family as a possession of inestimable value; as significant memorials of the greatest crisis in our history, and as a grateful memento of those with whom I have had the happiness of being associated in this noble enterprise for the relief of the gallant soldiers who have become disabled in their country's cause.'
Dix later wrote to Mrs. Blodgett, that "[I am] so much your debtor. 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."
Morgan Dix closes this section of the Memoirs, by describing the two battle flags in detail:
The three flags are now in my possession. The Confederate bunting which, for a little while, replaced the flag of the revenue-cutter is a huge affair, nearly five times the size of the other. The old flag of the McClelland
has been carried, on several public occasions, through the streets of New Fork, with our permission. It is ultimately to be preserved in some public institution, where it may remain, a perpetual witness to the truth of its strange and quite dramatic history.
John Adams Dix
(1798-1879) joined the Artillery as a cadet at the age of 14, just in time to serve in the War of 1812. Later moving to New York with his wife to manage some of her family's land holdings, he entered the practice of law. He served in various state offices, and as a Democratic U.S. Senator from 1845-1849. He lost a bid in 1848 to become governor of New York. Appointed by James Buchanan, he served half a year as Secretary of the Treasury. In 1861, in the midst of the secession crisis, he secured $5 million in loans to the government from Eastern bankers.
Dix was then appointed by Lincoln to command the Department of Maryland and the Department of Pennsylvania. Part of his duty was to review cases of those held without charge after the suspension of habeas corpus in Maryland.
A few days after the Battle of Gettysburg, just as the first draft in American history was scheduled to begin, riots erupted in New York City. Between July 13-16, 1863, up to 1,000 people were killed, hundreds more were injured, and more than a million dollars of damage was done to property. The City was controlled by the Tammany machine and the Democratic Party; it was feared that both groups, loathe to alienate their Irish immigrant supporters who were responsible for much of the unrest, would do nothing to contain the violence. Some in New York appealed to Lincoln to impose martial law in the area, and federal troops were called in to help quell the riots.
Lincoln was politically savvy in appointing Dix, "a conservative War Democrat with a national reputation for integrity, nonpartisan leadership, and toughness as a military commander." (Schecter) "Dix's wartime reputation as a relentless opponent of treason...won him the job..." (Bernstein) It did not hurt that he was friendly with New York's Democratic leaders, though not with Governor Horatio Seymour.
Dix came to New York on July 18, 1863, armed with wide-ranging powers from Lincoln. He negotiated with city and state political authorities to ensure a peaceful resumption of the draft. Governor Seymour, who argued against reinstating the draft, balked at using militia troops to enforce order and help carry it out. Dix appealed for federal troops, and on August 17th,, issued a proclamation to the citizens of New York giving a well-reasoned argument in support of the morality, necessity, and legality of the draft. He warned that should
"renewed attempts be made to disturb the public peace, to break down the barriers which have been set up for the security of property and life, and to defeat the execution of a law which it is my duty to enforce … ample preparation has been made to vindicate the authority of the Government, and that the first exhibitions of disorder or violence will be met by the most prompt and vigorous measures for their repression" (Dix, Memoirs, vol. 2, p.91).
Privately, Dix had already informed Secretary of War Edward Stanton that he was prepared to "promptly declare the martial law and suspend the civil authority" in the event of interference by state authorities. But nowhere in his own proclamation, in his Memoirs, or in any of his other published correspondence did Dix reveal that Lincoln had given him the power to do so when sending him to New York on July 17th. Dix was able to keep that powerful weapon in his holster. In fact, Dix handled that authority so discretely that Lincoln's proclamation to Dix was unknown until sold by Dix's descendants, and acquired by us in 2007.
U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC)
Established in the major cities and towns of the North by reformers – leading clergymen, businessmen, and civic leaders – the USSC aimed to improve society and brought men and women into close working relations. It organized thousands of relief groups and employed hundreds of paid agents. It combined charity with the desire to return the men to their units rapidly. It counseled control of individual attachments and each soldier's body. 'The Sanitary' also served as an army watchdog for camps, hospitals, even kitchens, and demanded sensible waste disposal, clean drinking water, and proper drainage. It held fairs and raised millions of dollar, mostly for medical supplies but, when needed, for food as well. (Boritt, 17)
On June 16, 1864, at the Philadelphia fair, Lincoln gave a passionate speech that caused such an outpouring of emotions among spectators that officials decided it would be dangerous for him to attend another:
War at its best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration is one of the most terrible… [I]t has carried mourning to almost every home, until it can almost be said that the 'heavens are hung in black.' Yet the war continues… The Sanitary Commission, with all its benevolent labors...[has] contributed to the comfort and relief of the soldiers… The Commission provides voluntary contributions, given zealously, and earnestly, on top of all the disturbances of business, of all the disorders, of all the taxation, and of all the burdens that the war has imposed upon us, giving proof that the national resources are not at all exhausted, and that the national spirit of patriotism is even firmer and stronger than at the commencement of the war. (Basler, 394-396)
Autographs of leading Americans were often sold at the fairs. For Chicago's Great Northwestern Fair, Lincoln himself donated his original signed draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, with an accompanying letter stating his "desire to retain the paper, but if it shall contribute to the relief or comfort of the soldiers, that will be better." Thomas Bryan purchased the manuscript for $3,000, and donated it to the Soldiers' Home, of which he was president. Bryan then put it on display in the Chicago Historical Society, where it was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. At the request of Edward Everett and Mrs. Hamilton Fish, Lincoln donated a revised autograph manuscript signed of the Gettysburg Address to New York's Metropolitan Fair. However, no evidence exists that it was sold there, despite being advertised. Two more copies [of five known in all] were created for the Baltimore Sanitary Fair. (Boritt, 289) The NY committee included: Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Albert Bierstadt, Matthew B. Brady, Mrs. Ambrose Burnside, Capt. John Ericsson, Mrs. Hamilton Fish, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Jr., Mrs. John Jay, Eastman Johnson, Leutze, Mrs. George B. McClellan, James A. Roosevelt, and Mr. & Mrs. George Templeton Strong.
Mrs. Abbie B. Blodgett
(1828-1904), the benefactor of this flag, was the wife of William Tilden Blodgett (1823-1875) who, arriving in New York in 1838, began his career as a clerk, before making his fortune in the varnish business and through real estate investments. He became a member of the Union League Club of New York, trustee of the Natural History Museum, a serious European and American art collector, and one of the principal founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mrs. Blodgett was an active philanthropist and socialite in her own right.
A letter of October 16, 1970 by Patricia S. Sullivan, the owner of Forge Antiques, Katonah, New York, states that the flag was purchased at an auction of items stored in outbuildings at the Dix estate on Orange Road, Mt. Kisco, New York.
The 38 x 43" double-sided central design – with the figure of Liberty, protecting an entryway, surrounded by rays of light, grasping the thunderbolts of war, while holding high the American flag, watched over by the American eagle, with Dix's embroidered order – is all original. The supporting background had deteriorated. According to Dix's memoirs, the flag was originally 72 x 78". Decades ago the original navy silk background was replaced by a smaller new background of turquoise polyester. In 2008, this was painstakingly removed by the Textile Conservation Laboratory, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Manhattan. The central design was cleaned, stabilized and mounted with a new navy cotton background, matching the original color. The flag has been archivally framed; outside dimensions are 68 x 75". The full condition and conservation report is available upon request. (Inventory #: 21240)