8th Virginia Cavalry

Battle Flag


Description and Photograph




   This rare flag can be documented to have been carried in the battles of Dinwiddie Court House March 30th & 31st, the Battle of Five Forks April 1st, the Battle of High Bridge April 6th, and was carried in General Munfordís breakthrough at Appomattox Court House April 9, 1865.  Seldom can any Confederate flag be shown to have been fought through so many battles-and it was never surrendered!

     The body of the flag is devoid of unit abbreviation or battle honors but written large on the obverse side of the heading is an inscription in faded ink: ď8th Va. Cavalry, 2d Brigade, lst Division, C.S. Army" and the added note: "Lieut. Lewis, Ensign, Received  at Richmond, Va., March 25th  1865Ē.  Similarly inscribed on the reverse side of the heading is: "8th Regt. Va. Cavalry, J.W. Lewis, Ensign."  The rank of "ensign", whose sole duty was to carry the regiment's colors, was created in the Confederate Army by act of Confederate Congress on February 17, 1864.

     John William Lewis enlisted in Company I of the 8th Virginia Cavalry in May of 1862.  His subsequent service records find him on the muster rolls, but neither as an "ensign" nor a sergeant.  However, the roster appended to the Howard Virginia Regimental Series does note him as the regiment's "Color-Sergt."  Although we know he was not promoted until after August of 1864, when on the 7th of that month, the former bearer of the 8th's flag was engaged at the battle of Moorefield, Virginia where he was wounded and lost the Regimentís Second National Battle Flag.

     Though it was late coming into the War, the 8th's new flag was not long in wading into the fiery storm.  A week after the battle flag was issued, the 8th Virginia Cavalry and the fellow Virginia units of Payne's Brigade (the 5th, the 6th regiments of cavalry and the 36th Battalion Virginia Cavalry) were engaged at Dinwiddie Court House (on 30 and 31 March) where their General was wounded in the close fighting.  The flag waved over the battle hardened veterans of the 8th again the following day at Five Forks (on 1 April), Virginia.  After three days of battle the 8th skirmished along Leeís retreat route for the next four days before once again being brought to battle on 6 April 1865 near High Bridge, where Payne's replacement, Colonel Reuben B. Boston of the 5th Virginia Cavalry was killed.  On the following day, April 7, 1865, Munfordís Division (to which Payne's Brigade was attached) was engaged in protecting the army's supply trains.  Finally, on the morning of April 9, near Appomattox Court House the 8th Virginia Cavalry (as part of Munfordís Division) broke through the Union lines encircling the Army of Northern Virginia.  Although Munfordís division cut its way out of the Union entrapment at Appomattox Court House, by 25 April 1865, General Munford had officially dissolved his cavalry division, and most of his cavalrymen dispersed to their homes; paroles would be issued later.  Lewis took the battle flag of the 8th Virginia Cavalry with him when he returned home.

     The eleven days of combat and campaigning wrought havoc on the new battle flag of the 8th Virginia Cavalry.  Large tears through the center of the flag and extending in one long rip to the fly border of the smoke grimed flag are very evident.  Whether these holes were caused by hostile fire or snagging of the flag in the branches of a tree or low bush is indeterminate.

     A biographical sketch of John W. Lewis written for Clement Evans' Confederate Military History in the post-War decades tells that Lewis settled in and became a well-respected and successful businessman of Baltimore, Maryland.  As such (and as a former Confederate soldier), Lewis must have had some connection with the Maryland Confederate Soldier's Home in Pikesville, Maryland, especially since he evidently donated to the home the Confederate battle flag of the 8th Virginia Cavalry that he had carried at the end of the War.

     According to family oral history, this flag passed down to Franklin A. Berryman from the estate of his uncle, Arthur Henry Berryman.  The latter in turn had received the flag from the effects of his sister, Catherine Ann (Berryman) Foromoso.  The flag came into Mrs. Foromoso's (nee Berryman's) possession as a gift in the 1930s from the Maryland Confederate Soldiers' Home.  

     The flag has been archivally conserved, and pressure mounted behind UV protectant plexiglass.  It is ready to hang and display.

     Seldom does an Army of Northern Virginia battle flag with such impeccable battlefield credentials come to the collectorís market, nor one in such good condition and so reasonably priced. 




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