Flag question

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Not sure where I should post this, but I have a question on flags units carried into battle. I realize many/most of the unit flags were made in the towns where the regiments were formed, but what about situations where a flag needed to replaced, or a new flag created (new unit formed from a larger unit maybe?)? Did the soldiers sew them themselves?

Also, was all decoration done by sewing/embroidery, or were there circumstances where the fabric was perhaps painted?
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
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May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
Not sure where I should post this, but I have a question on flags units carried into battle. I realize many/most of the unit flags were made in the towns where the regiments were formed, but what about situations where a flag needed to replaced, or a new flag created (new unit formed from a larger unit maybe?)? Did the soldiers sew them themselves?

Also, was all decoration done by sewing/embroidery, or were there circumstances where the fabric was perhaps painted?
I know that in many cases of New York regiments, the battered flags were sent home and replaced by the same people that made the original. The 16th New York did this once as did the 22nd.

R
 

prroh

Captain
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Oct 1, 2009
Location
Maryland
I know that in many cases of New York regiments, the battered flags were sent home and replaced by the same people that made the original. The 16th New York did this once as did the 22nd.

R
As did the regiments in the Irish Brigade before Fredericksburg except for the 28th MA.
The 20th ME was given a very expensive flag by former ME ladies living in San Francisco. Because of the gold thread and expensive silk, I doubt if it was made in Maine.
 
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CWDF

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Jan 16, 2009
Location
Pennsylvania
The local homemade flag is one of the greatest myths of the Civil War. Yes, it did happen, especially at the beginning of the war but most flags were issued by the US and CS Quartermaster Departments or by state governments. Replacement flags were supplied by the same sources.

Some units did receive special presentation flags. Usually, money was raised by a local committee and the flag was made by a military supply company. This was the case of the Irish Brigade flags.

The typical US National Color was sewn silk, with gold painted stars. By regulation, the stars were supposed to be embroidered but so many flags were needed that painting was authorized. The three quartermaster depots (Philadelphia, New York and Cincinnati) that contracted for flags each had a slightly different design. Infantry and Artillery Regimental Colors and Cavalry Regimental Standards were also painted. Some states issued infantry regimental flags with the state coat of arms rather than the US eagle. Pennsylvania issued a unique flag - it was a stars and stripes design but with the state coat of arms in among the stars.

Confederate units usually did not carry a National Color but rather one of the various Battle Flag designs. Most of these were made of sewn wool bunting. Almost all Confederate flags in the Army of Northern Virginia were one of the seven variations of the square Battle Flag from the Richmond Depot.

For information on any given unit’s flag, you would have to do specific research to learn about its procurement and design.

For some general information, see

US Regimental Flags
http://www.campcurtin.org/pdfs/2009_3.pdf

US Headquarters Flags
http://www.campcurtin.org/pdfs/Flags2.pdf

USCT Flags
http://www.campcurtin.org/pdfs/2010_3.pdf

Confederate Flags
http://www.campcurtin.org/pdfs/2009_4.pdf

Larry Keener-Farley
Camp Curtin Historical Society
 

Poor Private

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 6, 2009
Thats fine for national flags, but what about regimental flags? There were too many for the government on either side to supply or even design. I have read too many accounts of regimental flags being presented by local seamstresses to believe that the government(s) got involved in regimental flags.
 
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Appreciate the replies, and the links. Love the pic. I was thinking of making a 1st Maryland Cavalry flag, but it's got a fairly intricate version of the state seal in the blue field; now I know that painting that on won't be out of bounds...it's for my son's room, he'll be happy with anything I suppose- but I like to be accurate where possible.
 

CWDF

Private
Joined
Jan 16, 2009
Location
Pennsylvania
Poor Private wrote:
“Thats fine for national flags, but what about regimental flags? There were too many for the government on either side to supply or even design. I have read too many accounts of regimental flags being presented by local seamstresses to believe that the government(s) got involved in regimental flags.”

Not quite sure what you mean by “regimental flags.”

US Army Regulations specified two 6X6½ foot flags for infantry and artillery regiments – a National Color (Stars and Stripes) and a Regimental Color (eagle on blue for infantry, crossed cannons on yellow for artillery). Cavalry regiments were authorized a Regimental Standard (small blue flag with eagle) but not a national flag. All of these are regimental flags. Regiments requisitioned these flags from the US Quartermaster Department if they were not issued flags by their state or if their state issued flags wore out or were captured.

The Confederate Army Regulations did not mention flags (one of the rare parts of the US Regulations they did not copy). The design and procurement was based on general orders from the various army commanders. Most Confederate units did not carry a national flag (Stars & Bars, Stainless Banner, or Last National designs). They carried one of the various “Battle Flag” designs, which was their regimental color. See the cited article for the various basic designs.

During the Civil War both sides provided soldiers with millions of arms, uniforms and other equipment. Supplying regimental flags was just another job for the Quartermaster Department. Both sides contracted with private manufacturers to make flags.

The three Northern QM Depot procurement figures are as follows:

US National Colors
500 Cincinnati Depot
890 Philadelphia Depot
917 New York Depot
2307 Total

US Regimental Colors
564 Cincinnati Depot
765 Philadelphia Depot
1021 New York Depot
2350 Total

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania procurement:
225 Colors for Infantry & Artillery
35 Standards for Cavalry
260 Total

That amounts to 4917 flags issued by the US Army and just one state.

Figures for the Confederate flags are sparse but a few invoices in the National Archives report the following production (each being less than a year’s worth of flags):

491 Richmond Depot
123 New Orleans Depot
67 Mobile Depot
681 Total

There are apparently no records for the Charleston and Atlanta Depot production but both are known to have supplied flags in large numbers to the western armies.

I hope this provides some insight into how involved the governments of the North and South were in providing regiments with flags. Clearly, they had the major role and did not have a problem supplying or designing regimental flags.

Larry Keener-Farley
Camp Curtin Historical Society
 
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Pvt.A.Wells

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 31, 2011
Location
Southern, Ohio
Plus there were the private contractor flags. Such as the ones done in Louisville Ky. CWDF information is spot on!

As for the home town flags. At the begining of the war, many companies were formed on both sides and had home town flags made for them. The flags for the most part were put away, as the companies formed regiments. Sometime one of those flags might be used as the regimental flag. But CWDF information is correct for the majority of flags.
 

John Hartwell

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Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
CWDF's post certainly applies to Federal Regular units. The regimental ensigns of Volunteer formations usually (but not always) consisted of the flag of the state where it was raised. They were, I believe, generally supplied by the state Adjutant General's Office.

The National and State colors were 'official'. Many battalions, companies, individual officers were presented flags by their local communities -- but these were rarely if carried in battle, certainly not after the first six months or so. I cannot speak to Confederate practice.

Cheers,

Jno.
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
I attended a presentation to a local SCV about Confederate flags made or used in Tennessee. He showed several newspaper ad's that offered to make flags. Most of the ad's were usually Sign Painting companies. The sign company would hire local seamstresses to sew the flag and they would do the painting as required. The first flags were very ornate and hand-painted. Later, they were sewn panels and stars and symbols with much less painting applied---usually battle credits.
 
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Pvt.A.Wells

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 31, 2011
Location
Southern, Ohio
CWDF's post certainly applies to Federal Regular units. The regimental ensigns of Volunteer formations usually (but not always) consisted of the flag of the state where it was raised. They were, I believe, generally supplied by the state Adjutant General's Office.

The National and State colors were 'official'. Many battalions, companies, individual officers were presented flags by their local communities -- but these were rarely if carried in battle, certainly not after the first six months or so. I cannot speak to Confederate practice.

Cheers,

Jno.
Again, other than early war. Flags for the most part were contracted. Records show that. Again CWDF has it right.
 
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