The Stars, the Bars and the Southern Cross

The Stainless Banner and hundreds of flags hand-sewn by women to represent their local Civil War battalions: Fascinating history of the many Confederate flags that came before the Southern Cross

Capturing a Confederate battle flag during the Civil War was considered an act of valor with Union soldiers being granted furloughs and awarded Medals of Honor. To qualify, Union soldiers sent the captured flags to the War Department and later on to officials in Washington, D.C. where they were kept in storage until Congress passed an act in 1905 – decades after the war ended – to have them returned to the states of the units that carried them.

So many different variations of Confederate battle flags were created before the Southern Cross became widely accepted as the symbol in 1862, that 279 of them went unidentified and were sent to what was then the Confederate Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Today, it’s known as The American Civil War Museum and has more than 820 variations of Confederate and Union national, state, presentation, company and regimental battle flags, making it the largest collection in the United States.

‘There’s a huge variety of flags that were used in the South during the war and most people don’t know that,’ Robert Hancock, the Senior Curator & Director of Collections at The American Civil War Museum, told ‘There was everything from Confederate state flags, the battle flags we’re familiar with, and hundreds of flags that most people are not familiar with and have never seen those patterns.’

The museum has what’s believed to be one of the original First National Flags created in 1861. The red, white and blue colored flag, which is known as the ‘Stars and Bars’, features nine, five-pointed white stars and has remnants of a painted silk inscription of ‘Florida’ on it. This version was made by women in Newport, Florida from a mixture of wool, cotton and silk and was owned by John Livingston Inglis as part of the 3rd Florida Infantry, Co. D, ‘Wakullla Guards’ regiment. ‘The presence of 9 stars on this flag may indicate that it was made around May 1861,’ according to the museum’s website. ‘Presented to the unit by the Ladies of Newport, it was possibly presented when the unit formed on May 17, 1861 or when it left the state in 1862.’ Inglis was the captain of the unit from 1863 to 1864, and would have used the flag in Bragg, Hood and Johnson during the Campaign of the West. The flag was also used in two battles.

The flag of the Marion Light Artillery, Florida Battery was made by the Ladies of Orange Lake Soldiers Association from a shawl which was part of Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. J.J.) Dickison’s bridal clothes. It was presented to the unit at Camp Lankford, Florida, April 1862. The staff which originally held the flag had a silver spear head which was made from a silver comb that Mrs. Dickison wore on her wedding night, the rings attaching staff and the ferrule were made from jewelry given by the ladies of Orange Lake, Marion County. When Sherman’s army was approaching Atlanta in 1864, Lt. A. J. Neal, noting that the flag would not be safe in the rear, sent the retired flag to his father and family in Zebulon, Georgia, 50 miles south of Atlanta. It was not until April of 1865, as Union troops approached Zebulon, Georgia, that the family separated the shawl, staff, and spear final and hid each in different locations: the staff was hidden in the garden, the flag under Neal’s daughter’s over skirt, and the finial and jewelry hidden in secret pockets in Mrs. Neal’s dress. The latter were discovered and taken, but the flag remained hidden. A published article regarding the red shawl flag of the Marion Light Artillery describes the reputed circumstances of how the silver and gold flag staff attachments, ferule, and lance where seized by Federal soldiers from the daughter of a Col. Neale, erroneously noting that this occurred during the siege of Atlanta.

Mary Elizabeth Dickison is pictured above left and her husband, General John Jackson Dickison is pictured above right in a portrait taken in 1892. He was the defender of Florida’s coast during the Civil War and is the person who led the attack which resulted in the capture of the Union warship USS Columbine in the ‘Battle of Horse Landing’

Union soldiers fought on behalf of the United States during what was also called ‘The War Between the States’ from April 12, 1861 to May 13, 1865. The battle stemmed from 11 southern states leaving the Union in 1860 to form their own country, the Confederate States of America, in order to continue and protect slavery as an institution.

Confederate soldiers’ battle flags each had a different design so they would be able to distinguish the specific unit they were a part of and follow the signal to retreat or advance on the enemy.

Women created the flags from silk, wool or cotton materials provided by commanding officers.

‘The vast majority of the flags were sewed by hand by the women,’ Hancock said. ‘They would be given the materials, the pattern desired and they would put them together. Some women were paid for making flags and uniforms for soldiers.’

Early on during the war, each flag made included specific symbols, colors and patterns since each regiment had 10 companies and sometimes each company had their own flag, Hancock noted.

‘It got very confusing very fast with the variations of flags being used during the war early on,’ he said. ‘In 1862, that’s when the battle flag, the St. Andrew’s Cross or Southern Cross, came out and the Confederate government said each regiment will carry this one flag.

‘Most people are familiar with the St. Andrew’s Cross, whether that’s rectangular or square, that’s the one that everyone knows as The Confederate Flag. When in fact, it’s not really. It was a flag designed specifically for the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee, which were two Army’s in the Confederate states at the time.

The flag of the 3rd Florida Infantry, Co. B, ‘Florida Independent Blues’ was presented to the unit by the Ladies of St. Augustine, Florida in 1861. This company fought with the Army of Tennessee and the flag was carried by Captain John Lott Phillips. It was made by Miss Emma Westcott who was assisted by Miss Anna Dummett, Miss Mary Louise Dunham, Mrs. M. D. (Dunham) Taylor, Mrs. M. L. Abbott, Miss Lucy Abbott, Mrs. Judge Smith (mother of Kirby Smith), Mrs. Cooper Gibbs, and Mrs. Laura C. Gibbs. The first seven seceding states, and their dates of secession are written on this flag in the stars: South Carolina, December 20, 1860; Mississippi, January 9, 1861; Florida, January 10, 1861; Alabama, January 11, 1861; Georgia, January 19, 1861; Louisiana, January 26, 1861; and Texas, February 1, 1861.

The above flag pattern was made using the First National Flag as a design with the three bars. Silk was used as the material with white applique unit designation, motto, and date of ‘Liberty or Death 1861’ being painted on it. The silver metallic cord was sewed on hoist edge. It was owned by James Jacquelin Daniel [J. J. Daniel] of the Regiment 2nd Florida Infantry, Co. G, ‘St. John’s Greys’. It was made and presented to the unit in 1861 by the sisters of unit commander, Captain James Jacquelin Daniel

The flag of the 1st & 3rd Florida Infantry, combined was given to the unit in 1864, or early 1865, if it replaced the unit flag destroyed at the Battle of Nashville. It was carried by the unit sometime after September 1864 based upon battle honors. There is some question as to whether this presentation-style flag was carried in battle or used only for ceremonial purposes late in the war. The unit’s color bearer reported tearing up the regimental flag to prevent it being captured at the Battle of Nashville, December 16, 1864. If so, then this later flag was not carried on the field as a battle flag in 1864. Alternatively, this may have been pressed into service in the closing weeks of the war. An account noted that on April 9, 1865, when all Florida regiments in the Army of Tennessee were consolidated into a single 1st Florida Regiment, that the men voted to serve under the flag of the 1st & 3rd Florida, which is likely the one pictured above. In the closing weeks of the Army of Tennessee’s existence the troops assembled for several corps reviews and this flag may have been carried at these ceremonies

‘When you’re talking about the Confederate flag, you’re talking about the equivalent to the Stars and Stripes, which is the National flag. But there were three national flags during the war in the Confederacy – the First National Flag, the Second National Flag and the Third National Flag.

‘And as far as battle flags are concerned, like the St. Andrew’s Cross Flag that everyone is familiar with, there were seven or eight different patterns that were used. Not including those that were specifically designed by specific locations, not based on any other pattern or state flag.’

The museum has what’s believed to be one of the original First National Flags created in 1861. The red, white and blue colored flag , which is known as the ‘Stars and Bars’, features nine, five-pointed white stars and has remnants of a painted silk inscription of ‘Florida’ on it.

This particular flag version was made by women in Newport, Florida from a mixture of wool, cotton and silk and was owned by John Livingston Inglis as part of the 3rd Florida Infantry, Co. D, ‘Wakullla Guards’ regiment.

‘The presence of 9 stars on this flag may indicate that it was made around May 1861,’ according to the museum’s website.

The flag of the 1st Arkansas Infantry, Co. G, ‘Jackson Guards’ was presented to the unit by the ladies of Jacksonport, Arkansas. The presentation was made by Mary Thomas Caldwell, on May 5, 1861, and was received by Mr. Samuel Sydney Gause Jr., on behalf of the company. It afterwards became the flag of the First Arkansas Regiment, whose Colonel was James F. Fagan, later one of the four Major-Generals from Arkansas. It is believed to have been carried at the battles of First Manassas and Shiloh. When the regiment was reorganized as part of the Army of Mississippi and received new flags in the spring of 1862, this flag was sent home to Colonel Fagan’s wife. It’s made out of silk with gold paint for the lettering

Confederate Colonel James F. Fagan is pictured above left in a military Confederate coat and right in civilian clothing. Fagan was one of the four Major-Generals from Arkansas during the Civil War

The flag of the 41st Georgia Infantry was requisitioned in December 1863 and issued to the unit in 1864. It was believed to be carried until its surrender at Greensboro, North Carolina, April 1865. Missing portions were likely removed by Union soldiers at that time. Although it is also possible they were removed by members of the 41st Georgia prior to surrendering it. This flag was later found in Yonkers, New York, and returned to Virginia. Jacob Platt of Augusta was the contractor who supplied these Augusta Depot battle flags in early 1864 based upon surviving requisitions and telegrams. Nothing is known of its history except the names of battles written on its face. It was bought by the United Daughters of the Confederacy through its President-General, Mrs. William E. Massey. The flag, which was made of wool and cotton, has the battle honors stenciled in black ink: ‘NEW HOPE’, ‘VICKSBURG’, ‘PERRYVILLE’, ‘JONESBORO’ and ‘BAKERS CREEK’

The flag of 29th Missouri Infantry was captured at Ringgold Gap, Georgia in November 1863 by a Texas cavalry regiment. The flag was made from silk and has an oil-painted eagle insignia and inscription, ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ in gold paint on both sides. There are 34 gold painted five-pointed stars on it

This flag apron was made and worn during the war by Martha L. Booton, daughter of Captain John K. Booton of the ‘Dixie Artillery.’ This apron was made from remnants of material used to make Confederate flags for the Page County boys aged eight to 12 years old around July 1861 to 1865. ‘The flag apron was made from remnants left after making the flags for the Page Co. boys, and worn during the war by my Ma, especially when the Yankees were in town,’ according to documents received by the museum when this flag apron was donated the museum. ‘She lived in Luray during the war as a little girl born in 1853. Her father was a soldier and then in the Legislature, and when the Yankees came to town her home was pretty well torn up. She used to wave her little rebel flag apron at the Yankees, several times at Phil Sheridan and Banks. Blinkers Dutch know her. She helped a wounded Rebel soldier to escape through the Yankee lines once dressed as a woman. She witnessed the shooting of some of the town’s citizens captured by the Yankees after they were imprisoned in a hog shed for days…. She went with her mother blockade running for drugs several times…. She remembered as a baby the excitement of John Brown’s raid….. She often spoke of a boy called ‘Dixie’ during the war. He was a spy and scout and often stopped at her home. She rode with him several times, helping him to escape and bringing back the horse….’

‘Presented to the unit by the Ladies of Newport, it was possibly presented when the unit formed on May 17, 1861 or when it left the state in 1862.’

Inglis was the captain of the unit from 1863 to 1864, and would have used the flag in Bragg, Hood and Johnson during the Campaign of the West. The flag, which was also thought to have been used in two battles, was donated to the museum by an elderly donor.

Hancock added most people in today’s society don’t realize the important role flags played during the Civil War.

‘The flag was an important symbol for a regiment, whether it was Union or Confederate it didn’t make a difference,’ he said.

‘It was a rallying point to the troops. If you got lost, you were looking for that flag to figure out where you’re supposed to be. It was also a way for a commanding officer to tell where anybody is or looking for those flags.

‘So capturing the flag was a thing, it was point of honor really because the regiments pride was all tide up symbolically in that flag. And this is true for the US and the Confederates, it didn’t make any difference.’

Captain John K. Booton, who organized and equipped the Dixie Artillery from Page County, Virginia, is pictured above in his Confederate uniform. He was also a member of Virginia Legislature. His daughter, Martha, made the apron and other items for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War

This child size blue and white cotton apron has white stars on the upper portion and is attached to a white skirt that gathers into a blue bodice. The secession apron was worn by Harriet Eliza Pugh of Bertie, North Carolina. She married Dr. Benj. Maitland Walker, who was Brigade Surgeon, 3rd NC Cavalry, with rank of major. It’ s unclear what year this apron was made

This badge was worn by a delegate to the Sixth Annual Confederate Veterans Reunion held in Richmond, Virginia, June 30 – July 2, 1896. It is a rectangular length made from white silk ribbon backed by paper with red and blue markings. An Army of Northern Virginia pattern flag is printed with blue stars and red background, staff, tassels, and ribbon is printed slightly above center of the ribbon

Hancock, who has worked at the museum for 27 years and oversees the flag collection, explained the majority of flags were donated by Confederate veterans or their families.

‘The collection started back in the 1890s, we’ve been around for over 100 years so we’ve been collecting a long time,’ Hancock said.

Of the 820 flags, some have decayed and are just fragments, but others are in great condition.

The museum also has a large collection of war-related photos and offers educational tours exploring the history of the Civil War from multiple perspectives: Union and Confederate, enslaved and free African Americans, soldiers and civilians.

As the debate continues around the country regarding the display of Confederate monuments, flags or symbols, the museum aims to be a resource for the history of the war and the monuments related to it.

‘The Civil War Museum is history, you either like it or you don’t,’ Hancock said.

Researched and written by Regina F. Graham for The Daily Mail ~ March 13, 2018

Confederate Battle Flag of the 37th Mississippi Infantry

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