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CONFEDERATE FIRST NATIONAL PATTERN BIBLE FLAG WITH 13 EMBROIDERD STARS, CAPTURED IN NEW ORLEANS AT SOMETHING CALLED THE "BATTLE OF THE HANDKERCHIEFS," BY MAJOR FREDERICK GREEN STILES OF THE 42nd MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY, FEB. 20th, 1863

Web ID: fcj-871
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 12.5" x 13"
Flag Size (H x L): 3.75" x 7.5"
 
Description:
Confederate First national format Bible flag, made of silk and entirely hand-sewn. The flag was accompanied by a note, hand-written with a dip pen in a 19th century hand, that reads: "Secesh" Emblem taken from a Confederate Officer at New Orleans. Feb. 20th 1863 --Mrs. L.G. Stiles [perhaps F.G. Stiles] Contributor No. 3 Harrington Ave. Worcester Mass. The flag, which was handed down through the Stiles family, was brought home by Union Army Major Frederick Green Stiles of the 42nd Massachusetts, a 37-year-old carriage painter from Worcester, Massachusetts. Stiles evidently acquired the flag on a day that coincides with a very interesting encounter between Union troops and the citizens of New Orleans, called "The Battle of the Handkerchiefs" or "The Battle of the Fair."

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, dated March 7th, 1863: "Friday, Feb. 20, will be a day to be long remembered in New Orleans, and from it must date an era in this city. The departure of the second installment of rebels, under General Banks' orders, took place on that day". The conflict arose when it was announced that captured Confederate troops would be led aboard ships at New Orleans Levee, in order that they may be taken to Baton Rouge and exchanged for captured Union soldiers. As the 1:00 pm hour of departure approached, a crowd of some 20,000 women and children flocked down Canal Street to the levee, waving handkerchiefs, flowers, and voices to their departing husbands, sons, brothers, nephews and friends. About 500 of these pressed aboard the Union ship “Laurel Hill.” In attempt to subside some of the commotion, the Laurel Hill was cut loose by an officer and the women and children were drifted on a short voyage, before returning to the port and being held overnight with no feed except leftover tack and black coffee. At the same time, back on the shore, the escalation of tempers grew and cannon was brought forth and trained on them, while the 26th Massachusetts advanced in attempt to move the host back. None of this worked especially well and the flurry of handkerchief waving continued. In the end, the crowd dispersed and the 500 who had wandered aboard the Laurel Hill were returned. Remarkably, only one casualty was reported – that of a woman wounded in the hand by the thrust of a bayonet. After the fray the ground was reportedly covered with handkerchiefs and broken parasols. Major Stiles evidently took the flag at some point during the fray. By any account, it's a simply terrific tale of the more personal aspects of the war.

Bible flags are tiny flags made for a soldier by a loved one, to be presented as a token of pride and affection when he went away to war. They received this name because they were typically carried in a Bible, both because this was the safest place that a soldier might keep a flat, treasured object on his person with limited places to do so, and because it sometimes doubled as a bookmark.

Bible flags were most often made of ladies’ dress silk or dress ribbon. A woman might use new fabric, but if the maker was a girlfriend of fiancée, as opposed to a mother or sister, then she might use fabric clipped from her own dress a way to further personalize the flag. Bible flags are found in all shapes and sizes, and with every star configuration imaginable, but most are small enough to fit in a small Bible. Many were small enough to fit in a Civil War cover (a small 19th century envelope used for correspondence in that period) and were mailed to a loved one in the field. There was no standard size, however, so they were sometimes larger. This small flag is slightly larger than a cover.

The colors of a First national pattern flag included a blue canton and white stars (sometimes gilded or gold), set in the upper hoist end corner, and a field of three bars, red-white-red. Due to the lack of red silk in the average household, and the likelihood of some pink silk among a woman’s effects, pink was often substituted. That was not the case here, where lengths of red silk ribbon were clipped and hemmed on the inner seams and pieced to a length of white ribbon.

The blue silk canton contains 13 gold needlepoint stars, arranged in a wreath of 12 with a star in the very center. Their number reflects the 11 states that officially seceded from the Union, plus the two key Border States that are typically represented on Southern Cross style "Confederate Battle Flags". Kentucky and Missouri each had factions that voted for secession and each ended up with split governments, one Union and one Confederate, which created a key distinction between these and the other Southern-leaning Border States of Delaware, Maryland, and (following its admission to the Union is 1863) West Virginia. Unlike these latter 3, Kentucky and Missouri were officially adopted into the Confederacy by President Jefferson Davis.

In summary, this is a great example with known history to Massachusetts and New Orleans, with beautiful construction.

Further information on Major Francis Green Stiles:

Francis Stiles was commissioned as a Captain in the 42nd Massachusetts on September 11th, 1862. He traveled to Louisiana with Company E on the Steamer Charles Osgood. The unit stayed at Carrollton, LA until Jan. 26th, 1863, when it moved to Bayou Gentilly (part of New Orleans) on the Ponchartrain Railroad. The unit remained there until July of that year. Before the end of his military service, Stiles was promoted to the rank of Major.

Prior to the war, on June 14th (Flag Day), 1848, Stiles married a woman by the name of Ann L. Croome. Together they had 3 children, including Tristan, who died around age 3, Frederick W., born 1854, and Herbert, born 1858. Sadly, Ann died in the year of Herbert’s birth, on November 27, yet by 1860 he had married his second wife, Melinda.

Stiles survived the war and later lived in Worcester at No. 7 Harrington Ave.. He and and Melinda seem to have had at least one child, Herbert Augustus, born Nov. 17th, 1879.

According to the note that accompanies the flag, “Mrs. Stiles”, lived just 4 doors down at “No. 3 Harrington,” at the time the note was penned. She was either a daughter, granddaughter, or perhaps his second wife, Melinda. What appears to be an "L." may simply be an "F.", for "Mrs. Francis Green Stiles". Further research is hoped to shed more light on this fact. Perhaps the street number was also incorrect. Francis G. Stiles passed away in 1908. He was very active in the local historical society--records show his participation as late as 1906--so it makes sense that someone in his family afterwards lent the flag to an exhibit of some nature, with provenance written on the attached note.

A photo of Francis was located on page 7 of Volume 6, No. 1, of the Worcester Magazine, dated July, 1903. A copy of that image is included with the flag.

Mounting: The gilded molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1870. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% hemp fabric. The note was hinged to a piece of 100% cotton rag mat. Spacers keep the objects away from the glass, which is U.V. protective.

Condition: There is some splitting in the blue canton, accompanied by loose binding stitches on the outer perimeter. There is minor to moderate foxing and staining in the red and white bars. The flag presents wonderfully. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
   
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Louisiana
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com