Battle Flags

The Army of Northern Virginia

As indicated above, the first major battle of the war, Hull Kun or First Manassas, brought to light problems in using the First National Flag on the field of combat. For example, then-brigade commander Jubal Early was advised at one point during the battle that his regiments were firing on friends. Although he thought it was not so, he halted his men and rode out to where he could see a regiment drawn in battle line several hundred yards away. 'The dress of the volunteers on both sides at that time was very similar,' he later wrote, 'and the flag of the regiment I saw was drooping around the staff, so that I could not see whether it was the United States or Confederate Hag/ It was not until the regiment in question fell back that he 'saw the United States flag unf urled and discovered the mistake'. In the meantime, precious time had been lost.

After this problem became evident the commander ofthearmy in northern Virginia, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, ordered that his regiments carry their state

William Orange Battle Flags

flaps. Only Virginia regiments were able to obtain enough state flags for this purpose. Moreover, some state flags were too similar to colours carried by Union forces. The dark hluc field of the Virginia state flag, for example, when lying limp, would look exactly like that of the US Army infantry regimental colour, which also featured a dark blue field.

To solve this problem. Congressman William Porcher Miles suggested to Gen. Beauregard that the army adopt as a battle flag the pattern which he had designed for the First National Flag—a pattern which Congress had rejected twice. On 27 August tfif>] Miles sent Beauregard a drawing of his suggested flag, adding that his design called for, *,.. the ground Red, the Cross Blue (edged with white), Stars, White. This was my favorite. The three colours of Red, White, and Blue were preserved in it. It avoided the religous objection about the cross ...

This first pattern Army of Northern Virginia battle Hug was carried by the 6th South Carolina Infantry The large block buttle honours were the first style produced and were issued to Longstreet's troops, (South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Museum)

it being the "Saltire11 of Heraldry and significant of strength and progress ... The Stars ought always to he White or Argent because they are then blazoned "Proper" (or natural colour). Stars too show better on an Azure field than any other. Blue Stars on a White field would not be handsome or appropriate. The "White edge" (as I term it) to the Blue is partly a necessity to prevent what is called "false blazonry".,. It would not do to put a blue cross therefore on a red field ... The introduction of the white between the Blue and Red adds also much to the brilliancy of the colours and brings them out in strong relief.1

Beauregard liked the design, writing to Miles on 4 September 1861: 'I regret to hear of the failure about the change of flag; but w hat can now he done is, to authorize commanding generals in the field to furnish their troops with a "field, or battle flag," which shall be according to your design, leaving out.

The Army of Northern I irginia battle flag carried hy the 16th Regiment, North Carolina State Troops. (North Carolina Depa rtment of A rch i ves und History)

North Carolina Battle Flags

The Army of Northern I irginia battle flag carried hy the 16th Regiment, North Carolina State Troops. (North Carolina Depa rtment of A rch i ves und History)

War Regulation North Carolina

fCmanucI Rudisiii, Co. .V/, löth Sörth Carolina, was the regimental ensign. He wears the regulation state uniform in this post-war photograph which also shows the regimental ha ttle Ihig reproduced in the accompany ing photograph. Note the axehead linial on the staff. (North Carolina Department of Archives and History)

however, the white border, or rim separating the blue from the red. ! would have it simply a red ground with two blue bars crossing each other diagonally, on which shall be the white stars; a white or golden fringe might go all around the sides of the flag," Beauregard took the idea to Johnston, who also liked the basie design but changed its shape to square on the recommendation of the army's future quartermaster, who said that a square flag would save cloth. Me also restored the white ftmbration. Examples of the new battle Hag were made in September iSfii by ia three Richmond belles, Hettic, Jennie, and Constance Cary. According to Constance, 'They were jaunty squares of scarlet crossed with dark blue edged with white, the cross bearing stars to indicate the number of the seceded States. We set our best stitches upon them, edged them with golden fringes, and, when they were finished, dispatched one to Johnston, another to Beauregard, and the third to Earl Van Dorn, then commanding infantry at Manassas. The banners were received with all possible enthusiasm; were toasted, feted, and cheered abundantly."

The original flag sent to Van Dorn survives in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. It has a red field with a blue St. Andrew's cross with white ftmbration and hoist edge, with three white ties to bold it to the staff. Three gold stars arc set on each arm of the cross, clustered close to the centre; there is no star where the arms of the cross meet. It has 3-inch-long yellow fringing, and is actually 31 inches by 30 inches in size rather than perfectly square. The name 'Constance' has been embroidered on the lower arm of the cross near the hoist.

Three sizes were established for the battle flags made to this design and finally issued throughout the Army of Northern Virginia. Infantry versions were to be 48 inches on each side; artillery versions, 36 inches square; and cavalry versions, 30 inches square.

The first pattern Army of Northern Virginia battle flags were made as the samples were, sewn of dress silk by Richmond ladies under contract. Their blue crosses were eight inches wide, edged with 5-inch-wide white silk. The 12 white stars were \\ inches in diameter, set 8 inches apart from the centre of the cross. All the edges but the hoist were bound in yellow silk; the hoist had a blue silk sleeve. Finally, the fields tended to be pinkish rather than scarlet.

Not all of these flags were made by official contractors from the start. The 4th Texas Infantry, for example, received in November 1861 a variant of this flag which was made by Miss Lula Wigfall, daughter of one of Texas' senators. This 47-inch-square silk flag was very similar to the first pattern except that it featured a single star at the point where the arms of the cross met which was larger than the other stars—symbolic of the Lone Star of Texas. The other stars were placed rather towards the outer part of the arms of the cross, rather than being clustered towards the centre as on the first silk pattern flags. It was edged in yellow, with the edge on the hoist side folded around to make a sleeve for the staff. This battle-worn flag was retired to Texas for storage on 7 October 18(12,

By that time, most of these colours had been worn out by much use in the field. I lowcver, in early 1862 the Richmond Clothing Depot had acquired sufficient stocks of bunting, both by purchase from Kngland and by the capture of the US Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia. The Depot began manufacturing and issuing its own machine-sewn First Bunting Pattern, Army of Northern Virginia battle flags. These were very similar to the First Silk Pattern flags hut made of bunting, with true scarlet fields. Instead of yellow silk edging they were made with orange flannel inches w ide; the orange rapidly bccamc a somewhat dirty tan in colour after some time in the field. The thirteenth star was added at the centre of the cross, and the cotton stars were smaller, only 3 inches in diameter. They were set (> inches apart from the centre of the cross. The fimbration was made of j- inch wide cotton. The stall'side was made w ith a 2-inch-wide white canvas or linen heading w ith three whipped eyelets for ties.

These flags, often lacking any sort of designation such as battle honours or unit designation, quickly became the standard Army of Northern Virginia battle flag first issued to Longstreet's Right Wing in May 1862. One of these unmarked flags, for example, was carried by the 3rd Georgia Infantry throughout the war.

In the spring of 1862 the Depot slightly changed the colours it had been issuing. The blue cross was now made only inches wide. The stars were also reduced in size, to 3^ inchcs in diameter. The S(h callcd Third Bunting Pattern flag appeared in late 1862, when the orange horders were replaced with white 2-inch-w ide bunting.

The 16th North Carolina also carried this hunting put tern Army of Sort hern Virginia ha tile flag with the unit designation marked in yellow around the centre star. The flag carries US li ar Department capture number '57'on the lower hoist side, (North Carolina Museum nl History)

United States Flag North Carolina
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