The Color Bearer Tradition The War Between the States was the heyday of American battleflags and their bearers. With unusualhistorical accuracy, many stirring battle paintings show the colors and their intrepid bearers in the forefront of the fray or as a rallying point in a retreat. The colors of a Civil War regiment embodied its honor, and the men chosen to bear them made up an elite. Tall, muscular men were preferred, because holding aloft a large, heavy banner, to keep it visible through battle smoke and at a distance, demanded physical strength. Courage was likewise required to carry a flag into combat, as the colors "drew lead like a magnet." South Carolina's Palmetto Sharpshooters, for example, lost 10 out of 11 of its bearers and color guard at the Battle of Seven Pines, the flag passing through four hands without touching the ground. Birth and Early Life in Charleston Born in Charleston in 1824, Charles Edmiston and his twin sister, Ellen Ann, were the third son and second daughter, respectively, of newspaper editor Joseph Whilden and his wife, Elizabeth Gilbert Whilden. The births of two more sons, Richard Furman in 1826 and William Gilbert in 1828, would complete the family, making seven children in all. Young Charles' roots ran deep into the soil of the lowcountry. His Whilden ancestors had settled in the Charleston area in the 1690's, and an ancestor on his mother's side, the Rev. William Screven, had arrived in South Carolina even earlier, establishing the First Baptist Church of Charleston in 1683, today the oldest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. Like many Southerners who came of age in the late antebellum period, Charles Whilden took pride in his ancestors' role in the American Revolution, especially his grandfather, Joseph Whilden, who, at 18, had run away from his family's plantation in Christ Church Parish to join the forces under Brigadier General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion fighting the British. At the time of Charles' birth, the family of Joseph and Elizabeth Whilden lived comfortably in their home on Magazine Street, attended by their devoted slave, Juno Waller Seymour, a diminutive, energetic black woman known as "Maumer Juno" to four generations of the Whilden family. Raised by Maumer Juno from the cradle, Charles soon developed a strong attachment to the woman - an attachment that would endure to the end of his life. The prosperity of Joseph Whilden and his family would prove less enduring, however, and business reversals, beginning in the late 1820's, combined with Joseph's stroke a few years later and his eventual death in 1838, would reduce his family to genteel poverty. To help make ends meet, Maumer Juno took in ironing. Despite a lack of money for college, young Charles managed to obtain a good education. Details about Charles' schooling are sketchy, but the polished prose of his surviving letters reflects a practiced hand and a cultivated intellect. Charles' admission to the South Carolina bar at Columbia in 1845 is further evidence of a triumph of intellect and effort over financial adversity. In the closing decades of the antebellum period, when Charles Whilden was growing up in Charleston, the city was the commercial and cultural center of the lowcountry as well as South Carolina's manufacturing center and most cosmopolitan city. By the time Charles Whilden reached adulthood, however, the Charleston economy was in decline, and the city's population would actually diminish during the decade of the 1850's. Not surprisingly, after a brief attempt to establish a law practice in Charleston, Attorney Whilden chose to seek his fortune outside his home town. But the practice of law in the upcountry town of Pendleton also failed to pan out for Whilden. Confronted with a major career decision, Whilden elected not only to leave the law but also to leave the Palmetto State for the north. The 1850 federal censustakers found Charles Whilden living in a boarding house in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a clerk, probably in a newspaper office. Speculation in copper stocks and land on Lake Superior soon left Charles deeply in debt to his youngest brother, William, who had built up a successful merchandising business back home in Charleston. Desperate to get out of debt, and perhaps