"The" Confederate Battle Flag Does Not Exist.

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Flags .jpeg

Official Atlas of the Civil War
General Dan Butterfield, who wrote Taps, was ordered by General Hooker to create a system of flags for the Army of the Potomac. His remarkably rational system was adopted army wide. It is considered the genesis of modern day shoulder patches.


This is a display that I use to explain how signal flags & others were used as a volunteer at Stones River N.B.
The 4th Corps symbol was a triangle. The corps commander was designated by a burgee (swallow tail).
Red, white & blue square flags indicated divisional commanders.
Brigadiers had triangular pinents.
Individual U.S. Regiments had blue regimental & national flags.


This is the type of flag that Brig. Gen. John Sprague would have had at Macon GA
when he defended Sherman's ammunition reserve from an attack by Wheeler's cavalry.
His successful defense resulted in the award of a Metal of Honor.
He is my wife's multi-great uncle.
The fridge indicates that it is his headquarters flag during the March to the Sea.
How does this answer your question? Flags were everywhere in Civil War armies: hospitals, quartermasters, artillery reserve, guidons, Sanitary Commission on & on. Soldiers looked to flags in order to find their way for everyday tasks. The regimental flag was what they followed at drill every morning, noon & afternoon in camp. On the march they followed that flag. That flag was how you knew where you were. The passionate nature of the soldier's attachment to regimental flags sprang from that.

Regarding the retreat from the Emmitsburg Road, it was not an organized military maneuver. The loss of battle flags was, in the midst of the horror, dust & smoke, of no consequence. The entire color party & officers of the regiments were either dead, wounded or captured. The men who could still walk were, for all practical purposes, running for their lives back across the fields they had just traversed. The niceties of guiding left, right & center, rallying to the flag or any of the rest of it were forgotten. Their only goal was to return to the safety of their own lines. Once there, they sorted themselves out & restored what order they could under the circumstances. The lost of their battle flags was just one more source of grief.

The battle flag of my. g-g-great cousins still exists because the 23rd NC suffered 82 percent casualties & it was captured at Gettysburg. I have never seen it in person, but find even the photos saddening. They lost their entire cohort of friends & extended family following that thing.