Flag-lover works at Lincoln’s summer home
Since 2008, Jamie Cooper, a member of the North American Vexillological Association, has worked as the museum store manager at Lincoln’s Cottage, where the 16th president lived for one-fourth of his term (see last week’s article).
“The greatest part of my job is talking with visitors about shared experiences and how they came across the cottage,” he said. “I love to educate others about American history and why it is so relevant today. Likewise, I love to learn something new that enhances my understanding of American history.”
One thing he’s learned about is flags. “I’ve always admired the various stories and meanings behind banners, flags, seals and logos,” Cooper explained. “A simple symbol or a selected color can have awesome power to tell a story without the need for words.”
His fascination reaches back to his youth. “I grew up around many flags and banners,” he said. “I’ve always noticed and taken pride in the symbols that represent me.”
Asked to name a banner he would love to own, Cooper selected “the flag of the 26th North Carolina Regiment used during the Battle of Gettysburg. The 26th advanced farther than any other Confederate regiment during the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. Throughout the war, [it] sustained more casualties than any other regiment, north or south. They were part of the surrender at Appomattox Court House. This regimental flag represents the high-water mark and climax of the Civil War. It represents the end of the antebellum way of life. It represents a people who sacrificed for their state and its causes.”
He then added: “More importantly, this flag, through its failure, represents the possibility for that ‘new birth of freedom’ to be realized throughout the nation.”
By quoting from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Cooper brought the interview back to his job at the Lincoln home. One aspect of it is designing an annual Christmas ornament that people can buy to help sustain the historic site. In his designs, Cooper makes sure to include – what else? – a flag.
“The ornaments I create represent President Lincoln’s time at the cottage,” he explained. “There are five ornaments that make up the Sesquicentennial [Civil War] Series. The third design focuses on 1863, the turning point of the Civil War, and the security detail at the Soldier Home. It also represents the sacrifices made by the soldiers during the Civil War.”
His inspiration for the shape of the ornament came “from the Corps badges created by General Hooker for the Army of the Potomac,” Cooper said. “Furthermore, I wanted the ornament to resemble a [Christmas] tree. Each ornament in the series has an eagle and shield as the topper of the design. Each corner of this design has the regimental flag or a flag that represents the state in which the units presided.”
As an example, he cited the 11th New York Calvary, which is represented by that unit’s “cross-sabers insignia at the bottom center of the ornament,” he noted. “I included a circular image in the center of the ornament to represent the regiments that protected President Lincoln during his time at the cottage.”
Cooper emphasized that “overall, the ornament is dedicated to the memory of the millions of soldiers, sailors and Marines that served during the ‘recent unpleasantness,’” as the War Between the States was sometimes characterized.