Back of the "Cotton Bale" Flag: Company G, 4th Alabama "Marion Light Infantry"


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Mar 15, 2013

Most people have probably seen pictures of "the Cotton Bale flag" of the Marion Light Infantry which became Company G of the 4th Alabama Infantry. It's pretty unique even among Confederate battle flags. It was painted by Nicola Marschall and, I mean really, how many civil war battle flags have a cotton bale painted on them? But did you know there is something on the back?

Curator's Object Files, Civil War Flags, Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Nicola Marschall painted the flag and it was donated by the ladies of Marion, AL, who sent it by way of John Conch to the company, after their arrival in Virginia. In the July 17, 1861 issue of the Weekly Marion American, the flag was described as bearing a "beautiful device which illustrates so aptly the product of our lovely country" -- no doubt, a reference to the bale of cotton and cotton plant painted on the obverse side of the flag. In the image above, see the cotton bale painted on the center stripe? And the cotton plant, in full bloom, on the canton?

When they marched on dress parade at Harper's Ferry in July 1861, each of the ten companies of the 4th Alabama had its own company flag. When the regiment was brigaded under Bernard Bee, the others were sent home, and this cotton bale flag was adopted for use as the regimental colors. In a letter dated July 23, 1913, Pvt. William H. Fiquet (G/4th AL) noted that the regiment carried the "flag with the cotton bale on it at First Manassas."

But what about the other side? The website of the Alabama Department of Archives and History says only this: "The reverse of the flag is an 11 star first national Confederate flag." Ok, good enough, I suppose. Until you get a look at the actual flag! I visited the Voices of Alabama exhibit at the ADAH a while back and was lucky enough to catch the flag out on display.

On the reverse, painted in gold shadowed in black, is the unit designation: MARION / LIGHT INFANTRY / ALABAMA I had no idea there was anything on the back! and never would have had I not visited the exhibit that day. So get out to your local museum and let us know what discoveries you make!
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