|Description and Photograph||
The flag of the Confederacy rose and fell in only four years. It arose over a prosperous, peaceful nation whose mothers sent their husbands and sons to die, if need be, under its folds. And die they did, from the plains of Manassas to the fields of Pennsylvania, from Shiloh to Nashville, from the Wilderness to Appomattox and from Southern seaports to the shores of distant lands.
The flag the Confederacy adopted as its National Standard on March 4, 1861 was first raised on Capitol Hill in Montgomery, Alabama. The honorable Jefferson Davis, ex-U.S. Secretary of War and new president of the Confederacy, invited Letitia Christian Tyler to raise the first official flag of the new Confederacy. Miss Tyler had been born in the White House, the capitol of the United States. She was the granddaughter of ex-U.S. President John Tyler. The seven star flag Miss Tyler raised that day has come to be known as the First National Confederate flag, or the Stars and Bars. The circle of seven stars in the canton represented the seven Southern States that had seceded up until that time: South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
As disunion became a reality and war fever swept the nation in the late winter and spring of 1861, countless towns, communities, and counties formed local military units, or companies, in hopes of participating in the coming conflict. Lincoln’s illegal demand that the Southern States aid in subjugating her sister states had forced another six states to secede. Virginia on April 17th, Arkansas, May 6th, Tennessee, May 7th, North Carolina, May 20th, Missouri, August 5th, and Kentucky on November 5th. A star was added to the Confederate National flag for each new state that joined the Southern Confederacy.
During the Battle of Manassas, it became obvious that the Confederate First National “Stars & Bars” would not do on the battlefield; it was too hard to tell it from the old “Stars and Stripes”. It had intentionally been similar to the flag their forefathers fought under, but a distinct, soldier’s flag was needed and what we now know as the Battle flag was the result.
After two years of war, there was only hate for the old Stars and Stripes, so by an act of congress, signed into law by the president on May 1, 1863 a new flag was selected. After some last minute alterations the final design was the “Stainless Banner”. It was part soldier’s flag and part national flag. The canton consisted of the battle flag, and the field a pure white, symbolizing the purity of the Confederate cause and her people.
The Second National Flag was used as a National, and also as a Regimental, Battle flag, by both the Eastern and Western Armies. Much more is known about the military issued flag shown here than the vast majority of Confederate flags. Brigadier Randal Gibson ordered new flags for his brigade in November of 1863. He sent a Lieutenant to Mobile, Alabama to acquire the flags, and he gave some very specific instructions: Each flag was to be specifically detailed for each regiment. The regimental designation was to be applied to the flag, and for the regiments that had fought honorably at a given battle, they were to have the names of those battles emblazoned on their colors. Also, any regiment that had assaulted and took an enemy artillery battery was to have this gallant deed acknowledged by applying crossed cannon to the field. These flags were made by Jackson Belknap of Mobile.
There can be no doubt that having the record of each regiment waving in the storm of battle for all to see, inspired pride and competition between the regiments. It was a wise decision by General Gibson.
The flag shown here is that of the 32nd Alabama Infantry. Interestingly, a regiment made up in Mobile, so it is fitting that their flag should emanate from there. It was organized in April 1862 and they were first under fire at the Battle of Bridgeport, Alabama on April 29th. Things did not go well for the Confederates at Bridgeport, located on the Memphis to Charleston Rail Road, ergo, no Bridgeport battle honor on the flag.
Three months later they marched into Tennessee and fought at Battle Creek, again on the Memphis and Charleston Road. Here the regiment earned its first battle honor and was authorized to place “Battle Creek” upon its colors.
Continuing into the heart of Tennessee, they captured Stevenson, Tennessee and the important depot stores located there. The regiment was placed under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest sent the 32nd Alabama to Lavergne where a larger force under Gen. S. R. Anderson was holding . Even though Lavergne was a failure, Forrest must have been pleased with the service rendered by the 32nd Alabama, to have “Lavergne” placed upon the colors.
The 32nd was then placed in General Wirt Adams' Brigade, under whom they fought the battle of Murfreesboro. The 32nd lost 105 men in the fight at Murfreesboro, paying the highest price yet for another honor on their standard. After wintering at Tullahoma, the 32nd was part of the force sent to Mississippi to the relief of Vicksburg. It was in the trenches at Jackson, where it repulsed an enemy assault without loss, costing 260 Union casualties. In November of 1863, the 32nd rejoined the Army of Tennessee and participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, where again they were authorized to add honors to their flag: “Chickamauga”. A few weeks later the 32nd was consolidated with the 58th Alabama and the consolidated regiment used the 58th’s battle flag with a 32 added before the 58th Regt ALA VOLS.
This is the same flag shown in Echoes of Glory, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy. It is very difficult to get good pictures of a framed flag, so the picture shown here is a copy of the image in Echoes of Glory. The picture does not do the flag justice. It is bright and beautiful with vivid color.
The flag measures 41.5” on the hoist and 63.25” on the fly. It has been conserved and archivally framed by Textile Preservation Association, Inc. and is ready to hang in your home, museum or office.
In more than thirty years of collecting and dealing in Confederate memorabilia, this is only the third flag with honors I have known to be in private hands and in the collectors market. One of the others brought over 300k and the other 250k on the open market.