"The" Confederate Battle Flag Does Not Exist.

REBVojak

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The US Army does/did not have "battle" flags. At the time of the War of Rebellion, each Regular Army regiment had a stand of two colors. One was the National Colors and the other was a regimental color. Both of these were to be taken into battle, as they had been in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Trivial point, cavalry regiments had standards, infantry and artillery regiments would have colors. This is another of the military traditions we inherited from the British.

The Army specified the design of the regimental colors and standardized the design of the National Colors issued. The US Volunteers were to follow the Regular Army's guidelines for their colors.

WRT the Provisional Army of the CSA and to the individual state's units raised, standardization in that area was lacking. Regiments might carry a local representation of the saltire cross banner, a state flag or a banner with appropriate patriotic content lovingly embroidered or painted by the ladies of the area and presented to the gallants upon their departure for active service.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The end of June 2020 is a though provoking time to return to this subject. There were six Confederate battle flags at the Battle of Stones River & the Tullahoma Campaign here in Middle Tennessee, Chickamauga & Chattanooga.

There were “almost twenty” hospitals in Murfreesboro & just as many in Nashville. Casualties were evacuated via the Nashville & Chattanooga RR. As a result, the National Cemetery at Stones River has men from units that never came near Murfreesboro. The flag that flies over them is the one they followed.

At Evergreen Cemetery, a few blocks from my house, is The Confederate Circle where 2,000 remains of soldiers recovered from the Murfreesboro battlefields were reinterred. The flag carved into the monument & flys from the flag pole is one that none of them ever followed marks their collective grave. It makes me shake my head every time I drive past.

Hardee’s Corps Full Moon battle flag is symbolic of historically correct emblems that do not carry modern day baggage. Since we know that there is no such thing as “The” battle flag, isn’t it time for us to rethink our iconography?
 

John S. Carter

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Joined
Mar 15, 2017
The end of June 2020 is a though provoking time to return to this subject. There were six Confederate battle flags at the Battle of Stones River & the Tullahoma Campaign here in Middle Tennessee, Chickamauga & Chattanooga.

There were “almost twenty” hospitals in Murfreesboro & just as many in Nashville. Casualties were evacuated via the Nashville & Chattanooga RR. As a result, the National Cemetery at Stones River has men from units that never came near Murfreesboro. The flag that flies over them is the one they followed.

At Evergreen Cemetery, a few blocks from my house, is The Confederate Circle where 2,000 remains of soldiers recovered from the Murfreesboro battlefields were reinterred. The flag carved into the monument & flys from the flag pole is one that none of them ever followed marks their collective grave. It makes me shake my head every time I drive past.

Hardee’s Corps Full Moon battle flag is symbolic of historically correct emblems that do not carry modern day baggage. Since we know that there is no such thing as “The” battle flag, isn’t it time for us to rethink our iconography?
After Ms. there will no longer be any Repel flag attached to state flags.What will be on the flag instead.? A bale of cotton?
 

19thGeorgia

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After Ms. there will no longer be any Repel flag attached to state flags.What will be on the flag instead.? A bale of cotton?

carpetbagger-AB.jpg
 

Ole Miss

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The state legislature of Mississippi will appoint a 9 person committee to design a proposed state flag for a referendum this November. There are 2 requirements for the new flag proposal; 1) the Confederate Flag must be removed; 2) the words "In God We Trust" must be on the new flag.
Regards
David
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
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The state legislature of Mississippi will appoint a 9 person committee to design a proposed state flag for a referendum this November. There are 2 requirements for the new flag proposal; 1) the Confederate Flag must be removed; 2) the words "In God We Trust" must be on the new flag.
Regards
David
This will have to be approved by special committee of citizens ?
 

Rhea Cole

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Joined
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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This will have to be approved by special committee of citizens ?
There is a committee that will design a flag that will get an up or down public vote... up or down... get it?
A stalk of cotton in full bloom.We are just being cynical ,right?
I made my living as a commercial artist, at this stage absolutely anything can be proposed. At that point the hard work begins... from personal experience the words committee & design in the same sentence makes me cringe. Lets hope they keep it simple. They have already made a mistake by requiring "In God we trust" which will look like a caterpillar at any distance. The Tennessee state flag is an excellent design that is a combination of symbolism & graphic clarity.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Who called it the "trouser suspender" flag? I've never heard that before. I'd love know your source? I ran several detailed searches of period newspapers for all states from 1861 to 1925 at the Library of Congress Chronicling America site and a separate one of Georgia newspapers from 1861 to 1925 using a variety of combinations, with and without hyphenation. There were zero results indicating anyone - North or South - used the words trouser and suspender or "trouser-suspender" or those words in any other proximity to reference any flag. Then I ran a google search - thinking maybe it was mentioned in a book somewhere, but the only results were yours - here and at other civil war message boards.
Here is a long delayed response. A member of the congressional committee that rejected that design when Beauregard & Johnston submitted it called it that. They went ahead & ordered its adoption anyway. Other derisive names for the battle flag Johnston saddled them with are in AoT personal accounts. As you might imagine Cleburne’s men were particularly colorful in their language.
 

CowCavalry

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Here is a long delayed response. A member of the congressional committee that rejected that design when Beauregard & Johnston submitted it called it that. They went ahead & ordered its adoption anyway. Other derisive names for the battle flag Johnston saddled them with are in AoT personal accounts. As you might imagine Cleburne’s men were particularly colorful in their language.
So you still don't have the source she asked for.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
So you still don't have the source she asked for.
I have been reminded that I started reading about the Civil War during a South Dakota blizzard in 1966. I have since read hundreds of books, attended a similar number of lectures, spent long evening ‘round the campfire with deeply knowledge historians & dived deeply into CE flags & the creation of the Signal Corps. The answer to your question, my source is the little gray cells. I have a prodigious memory. For what it is worth, if lelliott19 wants to follow up, all he or she has to do is discuss it with me like always.
 

limberbox

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Apr 25, 2020
I do understand what you are saying; that there was no "official" act of the Confederate Congress to "declare" it as "the" Confederate Battle Flag. But it was the first Confederate Flag specifically designed to be flown during battle and every other Confederate Battle Flag that you mentioned came after it, many of which were patterned after it or influenced by it. On 28 Nov 1861 when the first three Confederate Battle Flags made by the Cary women and were presented to Beauregard, Johnston and Van Dorn at Centreville, Virginia during their winter quarters, the only other flag that was being flown by the Confederate Army during battle was the First National Flag. This was the case regarding the first two major battles of the Civil War, that being the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) in July 1861 and then the Battle of Leesburg, Va. (Ball`s Bluff) in October 1861, after which the Confederate Army went into winter camp.

Isn't this all a bit Virginia-centric? Most would say Wilson's Creek/Oak Hills in August 1861 was the second major battle of the war. Certainly more significant, and with 17,000 engaged likely considerably larger than the affair at Ball's Bluff.

The 7,000 members of the Missouri State Guard, which comprised more than half of the 12,000-strong Confederate forces in the battle, fought under "a blue banner, measuring four by five feet, bearing the Missouri coat of arms in gold". One of Maj. General Sterling Price's first acts as their commander had been to order that such flags be manufactured and carried by the Guard divisions. These were apparently their battle flags as some reportedly also carried U.S. flags at Wilson's Creek (since Missouri had not seceded and they were state troops, not Confederate national troops), adding to the confusion.

The large (and famous) Third Louisiana in McCullooch's Confederate Brigade (Confederate national troops) carried "a blue silk flag bearing the state seal on one side and the words 'Southern Rights Inviolate' on the other." The South Kansas-Texas Cavalry in the brigade carried a variation based on the "Stars and Bars" (First National).

Several regiments of Arkansas state troops also carried the Stars and Bars, and benefitted from being mistaken for Union troops.
 

Rhea Cole

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Joined
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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Isn't this all a bit Virginia-centric? Most would say Wilson's Creek/Oak Hills in August 1861 was the second major battle of the war. Certainly more significant, and with 17,000 engaged likely considerably larger than the affair at Ball's Bluff.

The 7,000 members of the Missouri State Guard, which comprised more than half of the 12,000-strong Confederate forces in the battle, fought under "a blue banner, measuring four by five feet, bearing the Missouri coat of arms in gold". One of Maj. General Sterling Price's first acts as their commander had been to order that such flags be manufactured and carried by the Guard divisions. These were apparently their battle flags as some reportedly also carried U.S. flags at Wilson's Creek (since Missouri had not seceded and they were state troops, not Confederate national troops), adding to the confusion.

The large (and famous) Third Louisiana in McCullooch's Confederate Brigade (Confederate national troops) carried "a blue silk flag bearing the state seal on one side and the words 'Southern Rights Inviolate' on the other." The South Kansas-Texas Cavalry in the brigade carried a variation based on the "Stars and Bars" (First National).

Several regiments of Arkansas state troops also carried the Stars and Bars, and benefitted from being mistaken for Union troops.
Where in Virginia was this, exactly... : )
 

Claude Bauer

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View attachment 338629
"The" Confederate Battle Flag Does Not Exist.

Despite the bazillion times you have heard or seen the phrase, 'The Confederate Battle Flag', no such thing ever existed. The reason for that is that there never was a single official Confederate battle flag. In the U.S. Army, there was a blue battle flag assigned to every regiment. It had a standard pattern dictated by regulation. In the Confederate service, each army commander had the option to order a battle flag design for his army or not. The square headquarters/commanding officer's flag above with its gold stars & fringe, is the type Gen Joseph Johnston ordered the soon to be designated Army of Northern Virginia to adopt. He also commanded the Army of Tennessee to adopt the rectangular naval jack design. The reason he went to the rectangular jack design is because it flows out into the wind better than the square A.o.V. design.

The Confederate Congressional Committee on the Flag & Seal rejected the William Miles flag design the first time it was submitted. The committee complained that it looked "like a pair of suspenders. It was rejected a second time, but Beauregard & Johnston decided to use it despite official denial. It was Johnston who ordered the square design that the Army of Northern Virginia made famous.

What is a battle flag? A battle flag is a marker. Imagine ten thousand people dressed alike all lined up. How can you make out who is who & where they are? The battle flag not only gives a visual indicator to a brigade commander, e.g., as to where his regiments are in the line, it is a rally point for the men. In the advance or retreat or when forming up, the battle flag indicated to the men where they should go. Battle flags are carried & apart for headquarters, are never supposed to be flown on flag poles.

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This is General Bragg's design that was used by his division at Shiloh. The six pointed stars are the correct heraldic shape. They should be gold & represent the golden spurs of a knight. The wide pink border was the result of the material available when the flags were sewn. Some of the Army of Northern Virginia's flags were pink, not red because there wasn't enough red material. Red was a popular trim material, but was not available in large bolts.

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General Bishop Leonidas Polk's Corps, Army of Tennessee carried this design at Stones River.



Also at Stones River, was General McCowen's simple white X on a blue field design. The red triangles indicates individual regiments of the corps. As you might imagine, the narrow white X was almost impossible to see at any distance.

View attachment 338630

Hardee's corps of the Army of Tennessee carried its iconic full moon battle flags right up until the end of the war. When General Johnston ordered the A.o.T. to hand in their battle flags of many colors & replace them with the "trouser suspender" flag from Virginia, there was a great deal of discontent. In General Patric Cleburne's division, the resistance to the change reached almost to the level of open mutiny. Upon sober consideration, Cleburne's division was allowed to keep their battle flag. The simple circle on a blue field was only one version of the flag. Depending on the whim of the contractor, I guess, the center ball was oblong, a square with the corners rounded off & at least one a sort of eccentric hand dipped chocolate candy form.

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This McCowan Pattern battle flag belonged to Turnbull's 30th Arkansas Regiment. The McCowan flag was at Stones River.

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This actually is THE Confederate flag, at least for a while. Referred to as the First National, this flag was the national flag of the Confederacy. Several regiments & headquarters had this flag at Stones River. Individual regiments may or may not have been issued a national flag. Union regiments had both a national & regimental flag. For a variety of reasons, national flags were relatively uncommon on Civil War battlefields. This design was later replaced by a white flag with an Army of Northern Virginia battle flag as the canton. Known as the Stainless Banner, the committee who approved it hadn't noticed that the white flag, at any distance or in a light wind looked.... well... like a white flag, i.e., indicating surrender. In one of those rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic affairs that marked the waining days of the Confederate Government, a broad vertical red stripe was added to the fly end of the flag. What records that still exist indicate that the Third National was issued only to a limited degree during the final days of the Confederacy.

I have only displayed a token of the battle flags of the Confederacy. The Army of Tennessee had eight different battle flags. The commanders held events where divisions lined up & the battle flags were paraded back & forth so the men would recognize the flags of their army.

In the early days of the war, every platoon sized unit in the new Confederate army had its own battle flag. The flags bearing heroic names & fanciful designs of those naive days still exist in large numbers. As the hometown heroes were consolidated into official state regiments, their battle flags were sent home. You can find many of them on state historical society websites. The same is true of the various patterns of Confederate battle flags that were captured & then returned after the turn of the 20th Century.

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General Van Dorn's battle flag is one of my personal favorites. This is a reproduction of the 15th Arkansas Northwest Regiment.

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This is the only known example of an informal Army of the Cumberland artillery guidon to still exist, in this case The Chicago Board of Trade Battery. Both sides had small guidons used by the artillery or mounted on the bayonets of sergeants in the infantry. Very few of them survived the war. It is not a battle flag. Guidons were used, in the case of the artillery, to indicate where the casinos were to form a line after dropping the cannons of a battery.

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A yellow flag with a green H indicated the position of a hospital. Small yellow or red guidons were posted along the approaches to the hospital site to direct wounded & ambulances.

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U.S. Army flag chart in the back of the Official Military Atlas of the Civil War


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Flag of the 25th Corps made up of regiments of United States Colored Troops that captured Richmond.

Genral Hookder ordered General Dan Butterfield to create a marker flag system for the Army of the Potomac. The simple, easy to read from a distance system of flags Butterfield developed was adopted U.S. Army wide. Historians mark the corps symbols developed at Hooker's command as the beginning of the shoulder patch designs in used today.

The advantage of Butterfield's system was that it was possible to recognize the corps, division or battalion a unit belonged to very accurately, even with just a glance. Army commander's flag was a blue burgee (swallow tail) with the corps emblem. Red, white & blue indicated first, second & third division or brigade. Good design is simple design & General Butterfield achieved that goal.

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By way of comparison with General Butterfield's system, the one General Rosecran's approved for the Army of the Cumberland was a failure. This is the flag of the 20th Corps, 3rd Division, 3rd Brigade. As you. can see, at any distance or if it was windy, it would have been impossible to make out. As far as anyone knows, the pink corps flags ordered were never made, too bad. It would have been pretty cool to carry one at one of our National Park programs.

So, now, when someone writes or says "The Confederate Flag" or "The Confederate Battle Flag" you will squinch up your eye, purse your mouth & look heavenward just like I do. Aint knowledge wonderful?

Greg Biggs of Clarksville TN is without a doubt the premiere Civil War vexillologist. google his name for detailed information on this subject.

You mention that in the US Army, there was a blue battle flag for each regiment, but what was the practice in the Confederate army for the battle flag? I'm having difficulty determining if the battle flag was used at the regiment, division or army level, or all of them simultaneously. I'm asking because there are a couple of paintings of Gettysburg depicting Armistead's advance, with 3-4 battle flags very close together. Is this just artistic license? If they were even used at the regiment level, I find it unlikely that 3-4 would have made it that far and wound up that close together. Thoughts?

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Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
You mention that in the US Army, there was a blue battle flag for each regiment, but what was the practice in the Confederate army for the battle flag? I'm having difficulty determining if the battle flag was used at the regiment, division or army level, or all of them simultaneously. I'm asking because there are a couple of paintings of Gettysburg depicting Armistead's advance, with 3-4 battle flags very close together. Is this just artistic license? If they were even used at the regiment level, I find it unlikely that 3-4 would have made it that far and wound up that close together. Thoughts?

View attachment 373836

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A battle flag is a marker flag. Imagine 10,000 people all dressed alike. Where are your guys in the line? Are you guiding right, left, or center. During the smoke & confusion of an attack, how do you know where to go? In the chaos of success or retreat, where do you rally? That is the purpose of a regimental battle flag.

The battle flag gives the brigade commander a visual cue to ascertain where his regiments are. It allows him to direct messages because the colonel is with the flag.


Battle flags are not to be run up flagpoles. They were meant to be carried. It is a gross violation of flag etiquette to do otherwise.

Hope this is a start on answering your question.
 

Claude Bauer

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A battle flag is a marker flag. Imagine 10,000 people all dressed alike. Where are your guys in the line? Are you guiding right, left, or center. During the smoke & confusion of an attack, how do you know where to go? In the chaos of success or retreat, where do you rally? That is the purpose of a regimental battle flag.

The battle flag gives the brigade commander a visual cue to ascertain where his regiments are. It allows him to direct messages because the colonel is with the flag.


Battle flags are not to be run up flagpoles. They were meant to be carried. It is a gross violation of flag etiquette to do otherwise.

Hope this is a start on answering your question.

So, you're saying they were used at the regimental level by the Confederates as well. That would make the most sense.
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
So, you're saying they were used at the regimental level by the Confederates as well. That would make the most sense.
Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. Regimental battle flags were used by both sides. The most well known Confederate battle flags are the square flags issued by Beauregard & Joseph Johnston to armies they commanded. When Johnston took over the Army of Tennessee he issued the rectangular naval jack because it took the wind better & was easier to see.

The CSA army had literally hundreds of battle flag designs. It was only the Virginia-centric nature of Jubal Early & the Souther Historical Society that made the Beauregard-Johnston pattern “The Battle Flag.”
 

Claude Bauer

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Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. Regimental battle flags were used by both sides. The most well known Confederate battle flags are the square flags issued by Beauregard & Joseph Johnston to armies they commanded. When Johnston took over the Army of Tennessee he issued the rectangular naval jack because it took the wind better & was easier to see.

The CSA army had literally hundreds of battle flag designs. It was only the Virginia-centric nature of Jubal Early & the Souther Historical Society that made the Beauregard-Johnston pattern “The Battle Flag.”

My apologies--I guess I'm not asking the question properly. I know what battle flags are, as well as how and why they were used. I'm also familiar with the history of the Confederate battle flag. What I'm trying to determine is the following:

Civil War armies were organized into Companies, Regiments, Brigades, Divisions, Corps, and Armies. When taking to the field and going into battle, which of these units actually carried the battle flag? If it's the Company, there would be a lot of battle flags on the field, since there were 8-10 Companies per regiment. If the battle flags were carried at the Regimental level, there would be one for each regiment, so there could be up to 5 battle flags on the field at one time for each Brigade. So, the question is, which unit carried the battle flag onto the field? For the US it was the Regiment, and the 8-10 Companies within the regiment would guide on the regimental battle flag. Which unit carried the battle flag into battle for the Confederates?

If the battle flag was carried by the Confederate Regiments, there would be no way that 4 battle flags were within 25 yards of Armisted when he advanced at Gettysburg, as portrayed in the paintings I posted above. I think having all those battle flags in the scene is more a case of artistic license to make it more dramatic than a historically accurate depiction.
 

James N.

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You mention that in the US Army, there was a blue battle flag for each regiment, but what was the practice in the Confederate army for the battle flag? I'm having difficulty determining if the battle flag was used at the regiment, division or army level, or all of them simultaneously. I'm asking because there are a couple of paintings of Gettysburg depicting Armistead's advance, with 3-4 battle flags very close together. Is this just artistic license? If they were even used at the regiment level, I find it unlikely that 3-4 would have made it that far and wound up that close together. Thoughts?
So, you're saying they were used at the regimental level by the Confederates as well. That would make the most sense.
Since nobody's addressed your reference to the highly romanticized prints by Mort Kunstler, Dale Gallon, and others depicting Armistead at the forefront of Pickett's Charge, I'd like to comment. As described, regimental colors were the focus of a unit's advance and to be rallied on by its members; as such, they weren't supposed to be left behind even if their bearers fell, and were usually immediately snatched up by members of the color guard, or failing that, by anyone foolhardy to carry the obvious targets. Many were maimed and killed keeping them aloft and moving forward; that being the case, even as the numbers of men fell, the flags kept on. By the time Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble's survivors reached the Stone Wall after crossing a mile of ground swept by shot, in many cases all that was left were these impromptu color guards. According to regulations, as gaps opened within a line, whether moving or stationary, members were to close them up by moving towards a common point, thereby bringing these assorted regiments closer together, hence this "clumping" of the flags at that point. Following their repulse, several of these regimental colors were left lying on the ground at the wall after most of their bearers had fallen. This would certainly have been an exception to an orderly assault under more or less "normal" circumstances.
 
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