Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 70" x 70"
Flag Size (H x L): 57" x 57"

Union Army, Civil War infantry battle flags are rare in the antiques marketplace. Most that have survived the subsequent passing of 150 years following Lee's surrender are institutionalized. This is because, following the war, most were turned into the governmental bodies from whence they were issued, primarily the respective states. Even those acquired for units raised with private funds were often, at some point, presented to state museums or local historical societies.

Army regulations dictated that military-issue battle flags were to be made of silk with embroidered stars and devices. During the outfitting that followed Lincoln's call to arms, however, it was quickly discovered that there were simply not enough persons skilled in embroidery work to meet the onslaught of demand. For this reason, flag-makers turned to paints and gold gilt for stars and other imagery. Nearly square in shape, these flags were to measure 6 x 6.5 feet. Ground-use flags, hand-carried into battle were generally square. This is because they needed to be as large as possible, in order to properly serve their function as signals, yet not drag on the ground. This also made them lighter in weight, so that they could be more easily handled, which also explains one reason behind the choice of silk construction. Flags provided a rallying point on fields choked with the smoke of black powder and riddled with the challenges of limited visibility over uneven ground. It was important that the unit's colors be as large as practical to be easily seen, readily mobile, and, in terms of design, instantly recognizable.

Because this was a time of both shortages and practical decision-making, and perhaps because this was the mid-19th century and the logistics of acquiring silk in every corner of the Union and in every instance wasn't possible, some wool battle flags are documented. They are extremely unusual, however, and when encountered are generally rectangular, common-use flags intended for display on buildings or ships, but conscripted, by necessity--or perhaps ignorance--for use on the field.

This particular flags, with 34 stars in a lineal arrangement, is a very uncommon example among surviving Civil War Battle flags. At approximately 4 3/4' square, the flag is significantly smaller than the typical national colors. Made of wool bunting, the flag may have been scaled down slightly in design to reduce its weight, given its wool construction. Wool sheds water and was the fabric of choice for flags produced for long-term outdoor use on a pole or mast. Gauze-like with an open weave to encourage the pass through of moisture and quick drying, but was heavier than silk a required a lot more air to unfurl.

Wool bunting was specifically produced for flag making and was not employed outside the manufacture of flags and banners. Because it was not readily available in dry goods stores, except perhaps ones that catered to persons in the maritime trade in a port town, it was generally not employed in the manufacture of homemade flags. Whatever the case may be, this particular flag was probably ordered by a private individual, or group of individuals, from a professional flag-maker to outfit a unit with private funds, or else made by a private party in a town such as Philadelphia, New York, or Boston, where the materials may have been more accessible, to be presented to a unit as a gift.

The stars are arranged in crude, staggered rows of 7-7-6-7-7, the alignment of which I don't recall having ever encountered on another example. Note the wonderful folk quality of the overall appearance, which contributes a lot to the flag's visual attributes. The stripes of the flag are treadle sewn, which is typical of the period. Singer mass-marketed the sewing machine in 1855.

Unlike most traditional wool flags, this one does not have a separate, white binding along the hoist. Instead it is constructed as battle flags often are, with the blue fabric of the canton and the red and white of the stripe field rolled over to create an open sleeve, lined with cotton twill for reinforcement. Through this a wooden staff could be passed and tacked into place. This is typical of military, ground-use military colors of the period.

Although the flag has no specific history, it was definitely carried extensively, as evidenced by the patterning of loss, which contributes substantially to its presentation. Although flags are expected to have been used outdoors, damage can be detrimental to appearance if unsightly, which can affect price. Sometimes, there is little to no influence, but in some instances the wear and tear of obvious use can actually add to both the emotional and artistic value of the textile. That is especially true in this case and especially fitting for a wartime military example.

Made during the opening two years of the Civil War (1861-63), the tears and losses along the fly end, general oxidation, and the minor bleeding of the red into the white stripes all contribute to this flag's endearing graphic presence.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about two-and-a-half months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star previously, with the addition of Kansas in January. 34 is the most common star count found on Civil War flags, as flag production was heaviest during the war’s opening two years. 34 remained the official count until July 4th, 1863 and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

When the Civil War date and military use are combined with the wonderful presentation of the hand-sewn stars, square format--unusual to the eye of the modern day beholder--and beautiful wear, the result is a tremendous example of Civil War period.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples; more than anyone worldwide.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There are significant tears and associated losses along the hoist end, along the top of the canton, and within the striped field in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th red stripes and in the 2nd white stripe. There are minor to modest losses elsewhere throughout and modest bleeding of the red into the white stripes. The losses are expected give the flag's function and obvious, extended use, and actually contribute to the presentation as oppose to distract from it.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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