Minnesota native Paul Wolbeck really enjoyed history as a kid.
“I guess I was always an odd kid for up there,” Wolbeck said. “Growing up, I was fascinated by the Civil War stuff and World War II. As a young kid I chose, for whatever reason, to really study the Civil War.”
Following a career in the U.S. Air Force, Wolbeck, now a Wetumpka resident and dental hygienist, found himself in Alabama.
“I didn’t know about Civil War reenacting until I moved down here,” he said. “There is a patient of mine who harassed me for several years to give it a try. I was a single dad and didn’t have the time to take him up on the offer.”
Eventually, Wolbeck decided to give Civil War reenacting with the 33rd Regiment Alabama Infantry a try. That was 15 years ago.
About 10 years ago he had the idea to recreate battle flags.
“I was just sitting one day at camp and noticed most battle flags are simple patterns,” Wolbeck said. “The flag for our unit flies at the Confederate Memorial Park. I went down there and took a bunch of pictures. I brought my measuring tape. Then I sat down and put together the pattern and eventually came up with a flag.”
As they say, the rest is history.
“The guy who got me interested in Civil War reenacting has an ancestor who was in the Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment,” Wolbeck said. “They has just found his grave. He asked if I could do a flag. It was the typical battle flag design, the confederate flag. He asked if I thought I could make that.”
Now, Wolbeck estimates he’s made close to 50 flags.
In most cases, battle flags are well documented, he said.
“Everything about the flag — the size, material, construction — it is all documented,” he said. “So usually I have information to make a pattern.”
That was the first flag he’d made for someone other than people in his reenacting unit.
One particular project he is especially proud of was flags he made for units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This has been more of an honor that I could ever put into words,” he said. “To know that my flags will be part of a tradition and hopefully unit pride by the men and women serving is just awesome.”
Wolbeck estimates most flags take around 150 hours to make, which he does in a studio in his home.“The research and sewing can consume you if you’re not careful,” he said.
“So far I have done only Confederate style flags with my focus on the Hardee pattern, but am expanding all the time. I always try to use the most correct material that I can find and do my best to replicate the font used for battle honors or reproduce any pictures painted on the original flag.”
Wolbeck’s work can be found at http://buck-hill-flags.webstarts.com/index.html.