The Columns Museum - The Lincoln Flag

The flag believed to have been placed under President Abraham Lincoln's head as he was moved from Ford's Theater to the Petersen House across the street.

The Columns Museum - The Lincoln Flag

The Columns Museum - The Lincoln Flag

View this important American Civil War artifact at the Columns Museum in Milford, PA.

After President Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth, doctors ministering to him noted that Gourlay and his daughter were present with them in the presidential box.

Laura Keene, the star of the evening performance, was also in the box and cradled Lincoln's head in her lap as he lay on the floor, mortally wounded.

When the doctors requested that the President be moved to a nearby building so that he could rest more comfortably, Gourlay, according to Garrera, presumably pulled the large flag which had been draped over the balustrade, folded it, and placed it under Lincoln's head.

 

The Columns Museum - The Lincoln Flag

In 1996, Joseph E. Garrera, a member of the Lincoln Group of New York, an organization dedicated to studying the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, concluded an independent year-long study regarding the authenticity of a flag which supposedly played an important role in the events at Ford's Theatre on the night the President was assassinated in 1865.

His findings and conclusions, subsequently published in a 125 page research document: THE LINCOLN FLAG OF THE PIKE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, declare the flag "authentic."

Recognized and highly respected Lincoln scholars such as Dr. Wayne Temple, Deputy Director of the Illinois State Archives; Michael Maione, the Historian at Ford's Theatre; Dr. Edward Steers, Jr., the historian from West Virginia; and Justice Frank Williams, the Rhode Island Superior Court Associate Justice; and others; have since concurred and confirm Mr. Garrera's findings.

Mr. Garrera's research traces the events from that fateful night in 1865 to the present. On April 14, 1865, Thomas Gourlay was the part-time stage manager and an actor at Ford's Theatre in Washington. He was also the father of Jeannie Gourlay who had a lead part in the play, "Our American Cousin," which was presented on stage that night.

After Lincoln was moved to Petersen House across the street from the theater, Gourlay took the flag, hid it, and kept it until, before his death in the 1880's, he gave it to his daughter, Jeannie Gourlay Struthers.

She moved to Milford, in Pike County, Pennsylvania, in 1888. Jeannie Gourlay Struthers then passed on the flag to her son, V. Paul Struthers. In 1954, Struthers donated the flag to the Pike County Historical Society.

He also provided artifacts from the Civil War era, including clothing that belonged to his mother, and an oral history which provided details of an unbroken chain of family ownership of the flag dating back to April 14, 1865,

Subsequently, the Society has had the blood samples on the flag tested on two occasions. Both times, the tests confirmed that the stain on the flag is human blood. Garrera’s research into forensic issues documented the fact that the blood stains are "contact stains," consistent with a bleeding wound coming into direct contact with the flag. His research into other areas, such as the materials used in manufacture of the flag, the chain of custody of the flag, government policies on the use of American flags for ceremonial purposes, the disposition of all of the flags which were in Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, and so on, all help to confirm the fact that the "Lincoln flag" is authentic.

Dr. Edward Steers, Jr., the nationally recognized historian and Lincoln scholar, stated, "The Pike County flag is on its way to becoming the single most revered flag of our day, similar to Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, Betsy Ross’ first American flag, and the ensign raised on Iwo Jima island during World War II."

Today, Jeannie Gourlay Struthers rests peacefully in Milford Cemetery, her place in American history as an eyewitness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln indelibly etched on the Ford's Theatre playbill for April 14, 1865. The flag which she protected and preserved is on permanent display at The Columns, the museum of the Pike County Historical Society.

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