Rarely does a textile arrive at Museum Textile Services with as much history and legend as the Solon Perkins flag. Discovered in the basement of the Lowell Memorial Arena, the key to unlocking its story was found right on its elaborate wood frame. Painted on the green inner frame is an inscription reading, "Under this flag at Clinton, La., on June 3, 1863, Solon A. Perkins was killed." Perkins is one of nearly 500 men from Lowell who died in the Civil War.
of the 19th Corps. Mark Hudziak of Iron Brigader, tells us that on the day of his death, Perkins was part of an expedition under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson that was sent to engage Confederate cavalry near Clinton, LA, during the Port Hudson Campaign.
There are no fewer than three detailed accounts of Solon Perkins' heroic, but ultimately fatal, final charge. Testimony delivered by Rev. Owen Street of the Lowell High School Chapel, in late June, 1963, was based on details from letters written to Perkins' mother. They read, in part:
By far the most passionate and detailed account of the life and death of Solon Perkins can be read on his grave marker in Lowell Cemetery:
He was killed in battle near Port Hudson. Performed his duty in life, and died bravely in the defense of his country and of liberty. He helped recruit a company of cavalry in the fall of 1861 and receiving the commission of a Lieut. went out with Gen. Butlers expedition to the Gulf. His Captain being lost overboard near Fort Jackson April 62, he commanded the company from that time till he fell. He was a true type of the cavalry officer, dashing, brilliant, brave and highly strategic and for these qualities was often complimented by his superior officers. In a letter urging his promotion to the rank of Major. Gen. Weitzel spoke of him as, “The man who to-day has the finest and most serviceable cavalry company to whom is due the honor of making it what it is. Who is the bravest and ablest of officers, and has accomplished more than any officer in this department. He has deserved promotion (he said) by his ability, his industry, his efficiency, his bravery and his success.” This recommendation was approved by Gen. Banks, and the Majors commission made out but never reached him. During the last year of his service he was constantly skirmishing with the enemy. He led Gen. Banks advance to Red River and Port Hudson was four times wounded and had seven horses killed under him. Very few could bear hardship to the same extent or with less injury. Yet in a letter closed the day before he fell, he said, "I would rather lose an arm than endure what I have aside from my wounds, the last eight months." The changes of war he counted from the start and in that last letter he said, "I often think it more blessed to die on the battlefield for ones country, than to live long years in civil life."
Solon Perkins never married. He was survived by his father, Apollos Perkins (1799–1877,) his mother Wealthy Porter Perkins (1813–1896), and a brother Henry Porter Perkins (1844–1908.)
Get the Blog