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[HELP PLEASE] Civil War Flag from 32nd Arkansas

Discussion in 'Civil War Uniforms & Relics' started by davebleedsblue, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Hey folks!

    Trying to determine anything I can about this flag I picked up in a trade. Here’s some photos (I played around with lighting to make some things easier to see): https://imgur.com/a/BYp9PGg

    Here’s what I know:

    - it’s approximately 68.5” x 45”
    - St Andrews Cross design (used by some Arkansas units)
    - has the unit listed like this:

    32d
    ARK. REG.
    INF.

    - JENKINS FERRY is the battle listed at the bottom of the flag
    - text on the header:

    Col. L. C. Gause
    White River
    Wm Steel
    M (front and back)

    I know L.C. Gause commanded the 32nd Arkansas and they did indeed fight at Jenkins Ferry. He was also a Congressman after the war. The 32nd disbanded in March 1865 at White River but later officially surrendered as part of the Trans-Mississippi Army. I do NOT know who William Steel was, but here’s some thoughts... Frederick Steele opposed the Confederates at Jenkin’s Ferry and his full name didn’t include a William anywhere. The only other significant “Steel” was the Confederate General William Steele (with an “e”). He was also in the Trans-Mississippi CSA Army, as was the 32nd.

    Anyone have any thoughts on any of this?

    Thank you so much!!
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018

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  3. zburkett

    zburkett First Sergeant

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    I don't know a lot about flags, but that looks to me like a signal flag. I don't know how to judge provenance or age but signal flags were used extensively during the war.
     
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  4. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com Captain Forum Host

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    I believe its a post CW reunion flag or parade flag.
     
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  5. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Thanks for your reply! Do you mind sharing why you think it’s post CW? I’m trying to learn as much as I can and just want to know what kinds of clues I should be looking for. And as a disclaimer - not at all saying I don’t believe you - I’m just not an expert on flags and want to absorb as much knowledge as I can. Thank you!
     
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  6. Taylin

    Taylin Corporal

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    The flag looks very very thin, in comparison to other civil war flags that I've seen so I can't imagine it would be very durable. I can't see it being anything else than a post war flag the blue is too dark for the black letters to have been seen in the field properly. It's also an odd style, you would expect either a CSA 1st National flag, Hardee flag, Vann Dorn flag or the more familiar southern cross. If I had to take a wild shot as to what this flag is, maybe a Scottish immigrant who served in the rebel army? That might be the William Steel in question. I did a Find a Grave search for "William Steel" and browsing for a minute seen plenty of them in Scotland so there's a chance.

    Edit - Maybe it isn't that thin - on examining it again that might be thread that's whiting, can't really tell if I'm looking at the flag or through it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
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  7. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Yeah, it’s thinner than I anticipated, but not as thin as it looks in these photos. Honesty it’s so large I had to get on a ladder to photograph some of it properly, and also I used a flash to pull out more details + played with it a bit in photoshop to make it more readable. So that’s probably contributing to it.

    I know some Arkansas regiments used this design for flags (like the 25th:
    ), although that one is more of a square.

    I’m not saying it’s a battle flag - just trying to figure out what it could be.
     
  8. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Thanks everyone for the replies so far. To clarify again - I have no idea what this flag was used for - I'm just trying to find out any info I can. Here's my thought process so far:

    I feel like it's either one of two things: a battle-used/unit-used flag or a reunion/parade flag. I lean more towards it being a battle-used/unit-used flag, for a few reasons. First, there's no "William Steel" on the muster roll for the 32nd Arkansas (http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/32index.htm). There's not any names that are close, actually. If it's a Union soldier/officer, I can't see any way it would've been added unless it was captured by that person. I doubt they'd add a Union solider/officer's name onto a flag at their own reunion. If it's a Confederate soldier/officer, then they weren't in the 32nd, as mentioned above. Which, if it's a reunion/parade flag would be odd to me. That would be like going to a high school reunion and everyone in your class signs a big yearbook, then someone randomly decides to add a person's name from another school. I feel like if it's a Confederate it would have to be an officer that unit reported to, since there's no William Steel in the 32nd. The only one I can find that's close is "William Steele":
    . He WAS in the Trans-Mississippi Army along with the 32nd, but was in a different section of the army, fighting way out in the southwest. Now, he did come back in early 1865 to lead a cavalry division, but the 32nd disbanded in early 1865 (and was an infantry regiment), so it's unlikely they had much interaction with him. He was present at the surrender on May 26th, as was the 32nd. However, given he was never in the 32nd itself, the only way I could see him being added would be if he was a ranking officer at the surrender, and due to General Kirby Smith's absence - was noted as a commander in charge of a division that included the 32nd... If a Union officer was documenting flags and units, along with commanders - I can see it maybe playing out that way. The handwriting of both L.C. Gause and Wm Steel is the same. And furthermore, if I'm a Union officer writing down names on a captured flag - for "L.C. Gause" I'd ask for the spelling of it. For "William Steele", I'd likely assume that "Steele" didn't have an "e", since it's silent.

    Given all that, it seems more likely to me that it was some kind of battle/unit-used flag and was captured and documented. If it's indeed a reunion/parade flag, I have no idea who "Wm Steel" is or why they'd have been added at a reunion, given they were never part of that unit. Additionally, the only battle listed on the flag is Jenkins Ferry. If I'm at a reunion with my brothers in arms, and we fought from 1862-1865, I can't imagine listing only one battle. There were a number of other engagements, most of which were larger than Jenkins Ferry. Also, for the record, Jenkins Ferry was a Union victory - from a tactical standpoint. Seems more likely the Jenkins Ferry part was added shortly after the battle, and since they had basically no further engagements from that battle until disbanding - it was the only one that made it on there. If you're reflecting on 3 years of service a decade after the war ended, why only list a single battle - especially one that was a loss?

    In the absence of provable facts I try and think about what's the most likely scenario. This is what I came up with so far, but I'm sure some of it is wrong, if not all of it. I'm very eager to here everyone's thoughts/rationale. I'm not a flag expert!
     
  9. tullock

    tullock Private

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    It didn’t belong to a Scottish immigrant, nor is it a signal flag; it is in fact a typical early war battle flag of the type that was issued to Arkansas units in the Fall of 1862. The 30th Arkansas Infantry carried such a flag at Murfreesboro in December 1862 and an identical flag was captured from the 39th Arkansas Infantry at Helena on July 4th 1863. I can’t tell if it’s genuine or a copy, I will leave that to the experts.
     
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  10. zburkett

    zburkett First Sergeant

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    Thanks tullock, I stand corrected.
     
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  11. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Ah, very cool! Is that from a website or book somewhere? I'd love any resources so I can dive into this deeper!
     
  12. AUG

    AUG Captain Forum Host

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    Agree that this flag looks postwar, maybe a modern reproduction. I'm no expert, but material and construction appears modern compared to originals.

    Checked Flags of Civil War Arkansas by Glenn Dedmondt, but it isn't listed in there.

    It does look like it might be based off of a McCown pattern, like the surviving flag of the 30th/25th Arkansas Infantry. Although I'm not aware of that pattern ever being used in the Trans-Mississippi, only by the regiments in Gen. John P. McCown's division east of the Mississippi in 1862.

    Some more info on the McCown pattern here:
    http://www.confederate-flags.org/confederate army of mississippi.html
     
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  13. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    I'll let others chime in, but I'm pretty certain it's not a modern reproduction. It's extremely old, faded in places, has moth (or bullet?) holes, and is not an exact shape or dimension on any angle. I'm not an expert, and there's a lot I don't know about it yet, but I feel very confident saying it's not a modern reproduction. There's also the fact that I traded with a good friend of mine to get it, and he bought it from a family 17 years ago, who had it passed down to them for the prior 100+ years.
     
  14. AUG

    AUG Captain Forum Host

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    Maybe not a modern repro, but as @ucvrelics.com said, I can also see it being a postwar reunion flag or commemorative flag, which were common. Material and construction just doesn't look like most original battle flags I've seen, though.

    If you haven't yet you might want to try asking at Civil War Flags Message Board:
    http://www.history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs62x/cwflags/webbbs_config.pl?md=index;page=1
     
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  15. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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  16. Legion Para

    Legion Para Captain Retired Moderator

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    Postwar flag.

    This book might me helpful.

    51o3DFU9eGL._SX370_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    https://ranger95.com/civil_war/arkansas_csa/infantry/32ar_inf_rgt/32nd_ark_inf_rgt.html

    32nd Arkansas Infantry Regiment

    Roster (Surnames)


    A-B C-E F-H I-L M-O P-R S-V W-Z

    32nd Infantry Regiment [also called 4th Trans-Mississippi Regiment] was organized in the summer of 1862 with men from the Fayetteville area. It served in McRae's, Churchill's, L. C. Gause's, and Roane's Brigade and fought at Prairie Grove and Helena where it lost 17 killed, 46 wounded, and 26 missing. The unit went on to take part in the conflicts at Bayou Fourche and Jenkins' Ferry, then in March, 1865, disbanded near the White River. The field officers were Colonels Lucian C. Gause and C. H. Matlock, Lieutenant Colonels William Hicks and C. L. Young, and Major Arthur F. Stephenson.

    Also Known As: 4th Trans-Mississippi Infantry Regiment
     
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  17. Legion Para

    Legion Para Captain Retired Moderator

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  18. Legion Para

    Legion Para Captain Retired Moderator

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    This book might also be of help.

    51vWsID1B2L._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
     
  19. Lanyard Puller

    Lanyard Puller Corporal

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    David,
    Scroll down this forum to the "civil war flag" posting. You'll see some photos of the same material and construction, of these modern copies of actual ACW flags, which I posted and details of where they were made.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  20. davebleedsblue

    davebleedsblue Private

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    Thanks @Lanyard Puller.

    I've seen those types of flags before, but I tend to think this isn't one of those, for a few reasons. First, and most importantly - I can't imagine why anyone would want to make a reproduction of a random regiment from Arkansas. The western theater isn't nearly as well known as the east, and the 32nd was mainly involved in small-medium scale engagements. I can absolutely see someone wanting Texas flags, or units like the 20th Maine, 26th NC, any early Wisconsin units, 24th Michigan, any VA units, etc. I can't imagine though, that there would be someone who was just dying to have a random Arkansas regiment flag. Second, as we've all discovered - there are no photos, diagrams, or written accounts of the flag the 32nd used, so how would someone know what to reproduce? If I asked someone to reproduce a SC flag, for example, and they had never seen the flag, or read any descriptions of it - how would they design it? If there's no mention or visual of it anywhere, it makes it hard to believe someone just made one out of the blue. Especially given that other Arkansas units mostly used other types of flags. Third, this flag is old - and I can vouch for that. I picked it up from a well-known national dealer who is respected, and it's been in his private collection for 17 years. Prior to that, he purchased it from a family who had it passed down through the generations dating back to the 1800s. I have provenance for all of that - so I can assure you it's not a modern reproduction.

    Additionally, all of the Bristol Flags I've seen are well marked and easy to read, with lots of battles and clear, legible text. On this flag, there's no huge easy-to-read non-faded unit or battle lettering. Also, the unit's commander, an unknown name, and the place they disbanded are all hand-written on the edge, along with an "M" on the front and back. I haven't seen any CW flags where they chose to write the location they disbanded (other than Appomattox obviously). And it's pretty small handwriting - not anything that would be large enough to see unless you were within a foot or two. To me that doesn't sound like a reproduced flag for display. It sounds more like a cataloged flag that was captured or held onto as a keepsake.

    Now, I'm not saying I think it's a battle or wartime-used flag - I have no idea on that. That's the part I'm trying to figure out. If it were a reunion flag, it's strange that only one battle was added, and that the name of a person not in that unit (Wm Steel) was added. Additionally, if it was a reunion flag and not one used in the war - how did they know how to design it? Once again, there's no photos, diagrams, or written accounts anywhere. Now, you might say they asked the veterans themselves - definitely could be. But I tend to think they'd add ALL the large battles they fought in, and wouldn't include the name of someone who wasn't in the 32nd. And even if we accept it was a reunion flag with design notes given by the vets themselves, that would obviously clear any notion of it being a recent modern reproduction....
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
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  21. Package4

    Package4 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Cataloged flags were marked with a capture number, this flag does not show evidence of field use, this is an area of collecting that is fraught with fraud. Counterfeiters go to extremes to add all kinds of data, another explanation could also be a flag that was designed for a living history or reenacting group back in the early 70s.

    My group has reproduced multiple flags down to the last detail for use at various events. I can only imagine what will happen with them 50 years from now.

    I’ll see if I can find out who the go to ACW Vexillologist is and get their opinion. Do you have a right of return?
     

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