Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 58.75" x 80.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 42.5" x 66.25"
During the Civil War, U.S. Army regulations set forth that an infantry unit would carry two flags. These included a national colors, meaning the Stars & Stripes, and a regimental colors, also referred to as a federal standard. This second flag, when issued by the federal government, displayed a federal eagle with a shield upon its breast, bearing the typical arrows and olive branches gripped in its talons, set upon a dark blue ground, with an arch of stars above. The eagle had a red streamer in its beak bearing the "E Pluribus Unum" slogan (out of many, one). Another streamer below the entire device was left blank so that a unit designation could be added (if time, materials, and the will of the presiding officer allowed,) after the flag was issued.

When the war broke out in 1861, the federal government did expand the regular army, but mostly it relied upon local volunteer units that were organized on state level. These were equipped by the states themselves, or else by wealthy persons or organizations wishing to donate to the Union cause. States supplied both types of colors. A great deal of variation followed as both government and independent flag-makers interpreted the regulations and formats differently, and states provided input that sometimes altered the imagery to include state-associated symbols. Pennsylvania, for example, generally followed the federal format, while Connecticut merged the Federal eagle with state symbolism. In some instances the federal eagle was painted on one side and the state crest on the other. And in some cases the regimental flag had the state device only. Interpretations of devices of all kinds varied by maker and artist.

In early 1862, the federal government retook the responsibility for the provision of regimental colors. But private groups or individuals that raised units often had their own flags made and presented them in formal ceremonies. These usually did not follow the form of federal standards at all, but rather put forth their own designs, including localized references in form of slogans, figures, landscapes, etc., plus eagles in various forms and a myriad of patriotic and military symbols. State and local militia groups that existed pre-war had their own flags that could either be carried as-is, or retired so that new flags could be produced for Civil War service. In either case these would often bear devices, dates and references specific to the history of the unit itself. Many of these local militias were comprised of veterans of other wars. Many were immigrants and the nationalities of their membership were conveyed through words and/or symbols on either their regimental flags, their national colors (Stars and Stripes), or both.

As a result of the above, the breadth of designs carried by units varied extensively and the inconsistency of it even within a state, let alone across states, was rampant. The same was true of uniforms.

This flag is the regimental battle flag of a Civil War volunteer unit. This is their own, personalized version of the federal standard and would have been carried alongside their Stars & Stripes. Made entirely of silk, the cornflower blue color so stunning that it is easy to understand why this is the most desired shade in flag collecting. Sometimes encountered in the cantons of cotton flags, especially homemade examples, it is seldom ever seen in silk flags, especially those with an expansive solid field, such as regimental colors. In fact, I have never seen a silk Civil war flag in this color in the antiques marketplace.

Regimental colors were typically 6 x 6.5 feet (72 x 78 inches) for battle flags produced with infantry and artillery specs, produced by the Philadelphia, New York, and Cincinnati Depos, employed under contract with the federal and state governments. Measurements of locally sourced flags varied from one commercial maker to the next, and some were homemade, but all were universally smaller with but scarce exception.

This particular flag was at some time re-bound around the perimeter and could have perhaps been slightly larger, but probably not by much. The present size is characteristic of most of its kind and precisely what one should expect, rectangular as opposed to square, like most of its locally-sourced counterparts.

Several things are especially desirable and interesting about the central device, that consists of a bold eagle, perched on a horizontal shield. This aggressive wartime stance can be seen on numerous patriotic objects during the 1860's and 70's. The pose is appealing because it is different from the norm throughout American history and because it is visually pleasing.

The eagle and its surrounding elements were gilded onto the silk ground, then painted with a bronze colored wash to distinguish the various features and render shading. The result is an almost monochromatic image that is both very unusual and very beautiful. Only the lettering is executed differently, painted in black.

Many of the stars on silk, Civil War battle flags were gilt-painted, as were numerous elements within state and federal emblems. Never before, however, have I seen a flag on which the entire device was gilded, then embellished in this manner. The flag is constructed of two separate panels of silk, front and back, each of which were pieced in multiple segments with treadle stitching. The same device appears on both sides.

The slogan that appears on the streamer above reads "United We Stand, Divided We Fall." This is a common enough phrase on the tongues of modern Americans to be universally known and uttered in all manner of circumstances. The words today, on many fronts, are almost as relevant as they were 150 years ago during the Civil war and 225 years ago during the Revolution.

The earliest attribution in print is attributed to Greek storyteller Aesop, where it appears in his fable "Four Oxen and a Lion." In early America, it first appears in "The Liberty Song", penned by Founding Father John Dickinson, written and published in the Boston Gazette in July of 1768. In his lyrics, Dickinson wrote: "Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!" It's fair to assume that Dickinson, an academic, was well-acquainted with the fable, and that the image it painted of the strong, stubborn patriots versus the Lion of the British monarchy, was a fitting metaphor.

Another American patriot, Patrick Henry, used the phrase in his last public address, in March of 1799, during which he denounced The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that proposed measures expanding states' rights. Clasping his hands and swaying unsteadily, Henry declared, "Let us trust God and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs." Henry collapsed at the end of the speech into the hands of bystanders and was carried almost lifeless into a nearby tavern. He died just two months later.

It is of interest to note that the phrase had actually been the unofficial motto of Kentucky since it gained statehood in 1792 (adopted as official in 1942) and has always appeared on the state seal either metaphorically or literally. The state's first governor, Isaac Shelby, was particularly fond of the stanza from Dickinson's verse.

Curiously enough, while we tend to equate the words with American patriotism, I have never actually seen it painted or embroidered on a flag in its entirety, or any other patriotic American textile, for that matter, that dates to the 18th or 19th century. Because of this fact, and because it has such poignant meaning, it is a terrific feature to be included here.

The flag actually has verbal history to the 35th regiment in nearby Ohio, which borders Kentucky on the northern edge. In fact, the 35th mustered in on September 20th, 1861, in Butler County, at the town of Hamilton, which is part of the modern-day Cincinnati metropolitan area. Located in the most extreme Southwest Corner, many say Cincinnati has more in common with Kentucky than it does with its own state, Southern-leaning and caught in the middle both physically and politically between North and South.

The 35th spent the majority of its first year-and-a-half of service in Kentucky. While 750 of the 921 men who mustered into service under its leading officer, Brigadier General Ferdinand Van Derveer, were recruited from Butler County, numerous Kentucky residents who sided with the Union would have crossed the border to enlist and anyone among the entire group may have had roots there and been fond of the "United We Stand, Divided We Fall" slogan.

Whatever the case may be, the verbal history seems to be supported in part by the slogan itself and I have seen few Civil War flags in the marketplace that match this one in outright beauty as piece of 19th century art.

As a colorful side note, the 35th were nicknamed the Persimmon Regiment, after 15 of its members were captured by the Confederate Army during a skirmish, just three months into its term of service. Instead of fighting the Confederacy, these particular men instead chose to find and eat persimmons. It turns out they were not alone in their admiration for the southern fruit, as by the end of the war they shared the title with the 73rd Illinois and the 100th Indiana.

Mounting: This is a partial stitch mount and partial pressure mount between 100% hemp fabric and U.V. protective Plexiglas. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding with a wide ogee profile.

Condition: The flag has been re-bound along the perimeter with matching silk, probably during the late 19th or early 20th century. There is only very little loss in the gilded and painted elements, which are entirely original. There is minor soiling throughout, accompanied by a moderate area of staining in the upper, fly-end quadrant. This was professionally cleaned. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: Ohio
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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