|CONFEDERATE ARMY OF TENNESSEE, SOUTHERN CROSS BATTLE FLAG, AN ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, WAR-PERIOD EXAMPLE, ATTRIBUTABLE TO AN IDENTIFIED GROUP ISSUED UNDER THE COMMAND OF GENERAL JOE JOHNSTON IN THE SPRING OF 1864
|Frame Size (H x L):||48" x 65"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||35.75 x 52.25"|
|Of all the types of early American flags, Civil War period Confederate battle flags in the Southern Cross design have long been counted among the most desirable artifacts. In fact, among the collective group of flags to assume six-figure price tags, they are easily the most populous to achieve that level. Their collective value is driven by a combination of their limited window of production, age, design, an interest in Civil War-period relics, and/or fascination with one's personal Southern heritage.
Across surviving examples there are many varieties. Those in a square format, typically with a white border, are often generically termed "ANV" battle flags, referencing the Army of Northern Virginia (Lee's Army), that carried that particular style. Made in Richmond, the most notable group of these were produced from wool bunting, within certain specified parameters. It is important to note, however, that across all Confederate States there were units that carried square flags. They are in no way unique to the Army of Northern Virginia and there are many variations.
Rectangular format flags, by contrast, are more often associated with the Army of Tennessee (AOT). This was the principal force operating in what is known as the war's Western Theater, an area that spanned between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Formed in late 1862, under the command of General Bragg, The AOT replaced the Army of Mississippi, dividing it into two sections. Over the balance of the war, AOT leadership included such notable Confederate Generals as Joe Johnston, John Bell Hood, Alexander Stewart, Leonidas Polk, William Hardee, and Joseph Wheeler.
The flag that is the subject of this narrative falls into what is known as the AOT design. More specifically, it can be identified to the most notable group of such flags, issued under the command of Joe Johnston, beginning in the Spring of 1864.
Interestingly enough, Johnston had been the precise individual who had first approved use of Southern Cross flags. This followed the suggestion of General P.G.T. Beauregard, who complained to Confederate government that the First Confederate National Flag, (a.k.a., the Stars & Bars,) looked too much like the Stars & Stripes, which led to confusion on the battlefield. Beauregard's request was denied, but after conferring with Johnston and General G.W. Smith, Johnston approved use of the Southern Cross as the Confederate battle flag at the field level. It was Johnston's own orders that led to the manufacture of the first silk examples, in 1861, sewn by ladies in Richmond, for use by the Army of the Potomac, and then to the actual Army of Northern Virginia flags, issued in 1862. Today many people are unaware that the most beloved and publicized flag of the Confederacy was never actually its national flag, though it did become part of the Second and Third National designs, approved in 1863 and 1865, respectively.
According to leading flag historian Howard Madaus, flags in the most traditional AOT style flags appeared in two rather distinct sizes in 1864. The first of these, primarily issued to artillery units, measured approximately 31 inches on the hoist by 39 to 41 inches on the fly. The second, issued primarily to infantry units, varied between 34 to 37 inches on the hoist by 51 to 54 inches on the fly.
At 35.75 x 52.25 inches, this flag falls squarely within the infantry scale parameters. Entirely hand-sewn throughout, the flag's blue saltire and red field are made of wool bunting. The blue is a traditional dark Navy and the red is what could best be described as true red or scarlet. The white portion of the saltire is made of plain weave cotton. The stars are of the same cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). There is no formal header. Instead there is a cotton reinforcement, over which the fabric of the body of the flag is rolled and bound. Four pairs of twill tape ties were once sewn along the hoist at regular intervals, some of which are now absent (or partly so).
The above manner of construction, as well as the size and scale of the layout, are fairly consistent across the known examples. While their source remains unknown, this sort of regularity is the exception, rather than the rule, across known Army of Tennessee carried flags, which were extremely diverse. In 1976, Madaus and fellow author Robert D. Needham, in a book entitled The Battle Flags of the Confederate Army of Tennessee (Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI), identified 28 flags across the two sizes. Among those specifically linked to units, surviving flags in the larger scale included those of the following infantry units: the 4th and 6th Florida, the 3rd, 11th and 41st Tennessee, the 6th Kentucky, the 20th, 24th and the 26th/50th Alabama, the 10th South Carolina, the 7th Mississippi, the 41st and 46th Georgia, the 4th Battalion Louisiana Infantry and the 13th Louisiana, and the 54th Virginia. Also identified in this scale are the flags of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry and Fenner's Louisiana Battery, an artillery unit. Use of infantry designs by Cavalry and artillery units happened in both Northern and Southern regiments, where decentralized decision-making and need were the rule of thumb.
The red wool bunting used in the above flags was from a bolt that was approximately 18 inches in width. This was normal for wool bunting in general, which required that any expanse larger than in both directions be pieced and joined. The red bunting in the flag in question here is all pieced from smaller portions, and done in a manner so that the seams in the left and right triangular quadrants are offset. This same, rather odd circumstance is recorded by Madaus & Needham in their illustrations of the flags of the 6th Kentucky Infantry and Fenner's Louisiana Battery.
Since the time of the publication of the Madaus & Needham text, 43 years ago, other examples in the same design have surfaced, including the flags of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, the 26th Tennessee, and the 9th Mississippi, plus one with painted and appliquéd designation from the 5th Georgia, another accompanied by a length of stenciled cloth (which or may not be correct), identifying it as having belonged to the 31st Tennessee, and an unmarked flag at the NC Museum of History, possibly belonging to the 3rd North Carolina (a.k.a., the 40th North Carolina Troops).
Most documented Southern Cross battle flags across all known examples contain 13 stars, recognizing the 11 states that officially seceded by way of popular vote, followed by ratification of the respective state legislatures, plus Missouri and Kentucky, which were accepted by Confederate President Jefferson Davis despite their being Border States with divided views and less formal achievement of secession. A less significant number of such flags contain 12 stars and some contain other counts. All of the known AOT battle flags in the style under examination here, in both infantry and artillery sizes, display the expected count of 13.
While the unit that carried the flag that is the subject of this narrative is unknown, there is a significant degree of satisfaction to be able to identify it within a known group, and to be further associated with 2 flags among that group in terms of the seam assembly of the red wool bunting. Also, while the fabric is largely intact, save for the ties, there is little question that the flag was field-carried.
One of the more interesting attributes is present in the dark stains, at least some of which I expect are blood. While not yet tested for proof of this theory, I can say that across the thousands of flags I have handled, I have only made this presumption twice before. While it may not be blood, the patterning and color are very unusual for staining on a wool flag. The color appears correct for blood, and, after all, this is an identified signal specifically made for the purpose of being hand-carried into war.
Based upon the extensive piecing of blue wool in the flag of the 4th Louisiana Battalion, Madaus & Needham state: "Apparently dark blue wool bunting was at a premium," which "…would hint that flags of this pattern were in barely sufficient numbers in April of 1864." If correct in that assumption, it would mean that all of the flags of this type had been actually issued, which increases the likelihood that actual use in ground-based conflicts was probable.
All-in-all, a wonderful example of an identified form of Confederate, Civil War battle flag, in a wonderful state of preservation, entirely hand-sewn and with beautiful presentation.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.
The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Condition: In addition to the obvious staining and the absence of some of the original ties along the hoist, described in the above narrative, there are minor to modest losses in limited areas. Blue fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag during the mounting process, in the extreme, upper, hoist-end corner, for masking purposes. The overall condition is excellent for a wool battle flag of the Civil War period that was almost certainly issued and carried.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1864|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1864|
|War Association:||1861-1865 Civil War|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|