Historians seek Stillwater Civil War unit’s flag

Company’s colors last mentioned in 1928 news story

By Mary Divine
mdivine@pioneerpress.com

Horace Voligny was one of 94 young men who joined Company C of the 8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry and left Stillwater on Oct. 17, 1862.

Some, including William Wilson, William H. Morgan and John A. Harris, didn’t come back.

Those who returned began meeting annually in 1905 at the Keystone House in Stillwater, a hotel that Voligny owned and operated. They bought a bottle of wine and formed the “Last Two Men’s Club,” because “when the last two men were left, they would share the bottle of wine,” said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

In 1927, Voligny and John Blake cracked open the bottle of wine, and “while standing beneath their company’s historic flag … drank a toast for their departed comrades,” according to Blake’s obituary, published in the Stillwater Gazette on Oct. 17, 1928.

Now, 84 years later, Peterson is searching for that flag.

Peterson believes the flag ended up with Voligny, the last survivor of the group. Voligny was 93 when he died in 1931 at his house in Oak Park, now Oak Park Heights. “Under a ruling of the club, the flag was to go to the last survivor — Mr. Voligny,” Peterson said. “It was to be passed down to his children as a memento of the war.”

With the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the publication of a new book, “In Their Own Words: Washington County in the Civil War,” published by the historical society, Peterson is hoping to bring attention to his quest. He has contacted some of Voligny’s descendants, including several great-grandchildren, but so far no one knows anything about the flag.

“I wish I did,” said Mike Voligny, Horace Voligny’s great-grandson. Voligny, a retired chiropractor who lives in Linwood Township in Anoka County, grew up in Bayport and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1959.

“I had never heard the flag story until Brent called,” he said. “I checked with a few of the relatives that I knew, and none of them had heard of it. It would be fun for it to turn up, and the historical society is the right place for it.”

Peterson said the flag would be a key addition to the society’s Civil War collection, which includes a canteen, sword and sash that belonged to Sam Bloomer, the color sergeant for the 1st Minnesota regiment; a cartridge case that belonged to Linda Culbertson, an Afton man who served in Company B, 3rd Minnesota regiment; and a dog tag of Layette Snow, a lumberman from Taylors Falls, Minn., who came to Stillwater when he enlisted in Company B, 1st Minnesota.

But no flag.

“Just think what a great donation it would be to our organization,” Peterson said. “It would be a wonderful way to honor those 94 men who fought in Company C to preserve the Union. Most of those 94 men were from Stillwater, Oak Park and Baytown.”

The 8th Minnesota traveled to Montana, Tennessee and the East Coast before ending up in Washington, D.C. It was by far the most traveled regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War, he said.

“The regiment was known as the ‘Indian Regiment’ because they helped quell the Dakota Uprising down around New Ulm, then chased the Dakota all the way into Montana,” Peterson said. “Then they were sent south, fought at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina.”

According to newspaper accounts, “the ladies of Oak Park presented (the flag) to the company in 1862 when the boys went marching off to war.”

Here’s how a writer for the Stillwater Messenger de-scribed the flag presentation in a Sept. 30, 1862, account: “The ladies of Baytown and Oak Park presented Capt. Folsom’s Company with a splendid silk flag, the cost of which was some seventy dollars. So fine a present to so fine a company and on the part of so generous and patriotic ladies as those of Baytown and Oak Park, ought not to have passed by without some acknowledgment.”

The Last Two Men’s Club met at the Keystone House until 1909, when “Mr. Voligny sold the property and moved to a residence in Oak Park,” according to “In Their Own Words: Washington County in the Civil War,” written by Robert Goodman and Peter DeCarlo. “The club continued to meet at Voligny’s residence in Oak Park until the last two men.”

Mary Divine can be reached at 651-228-5443.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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