Civil War Manuscript and Rare Signal Books Donated to University of Texas Library

university of texas at austinFHF

The Flag Heritage Foundation has donated a Civil War manuscript with unique flag documentation, and three rare and valuable early signal books, to the Whitney Smith Flag Research Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The most important of these items is the 1864 Memorandum Book of Matthew M. Yorston, gunnery officer of the Union warship U.S.S. Kenwood.

Kenwood was a sternwheel steamer launched in April 1863. She joined the Mississippi Squadron in June and operated on the Arkansas River in the vicinity of Fort Pillow, participating in the capture of Yazoo City that July. She was then sent to the Port Hudson Division and served as a patrol gunboat at Baton Rouge until 1865. After the war she was sold into the merchant service as the Cumberland; she exploded and sank in 1869.

The Memorandum Book records watch, quarter and station bills, fire bills, signal calls, division rosters, daily routine, weekly and daily rations, and internal regulations of U.S.S. Kenwood. There is also a daily log or journal of about 50 pages, now legible only under black light. Most important for flag research purposes are 14 pages of hand-drawn signal flags and pennants, in color, including general signal flags and their meanings, individual pennants of each of 94 individual vessels, and Coston signals (flare and light signals for use at night).

The manuscript is about 100 pages long and measures about 5 x 7 ½ inches, bound in full calf with a paper label on the front board. It is valued at $8700.

Also included in this gift are Kendall’s General Signal Book (value $11,000), a British Orders and Signals (value $2700), and a copy of Robert Liddel’s Seaman’s New Vade-Mecum (London, 1794) (value $1000)

The Whitney Smith Flag Research Collection has as its nucleus the matchless library of Dr. Whitney Smith’s legendary Flag Research Center in Winchester, Massachusetts, which with the Foundation’s help was transferred to the University on Dr. Smith’s retirement and is now publicly available to scholars. It is developing into a world center for research into flags, symbolic expression, and state and political symbolism.