Saturday, March 6, 2010

Flags of Confederate Trans-Mississippi Units

The flags used during the American Civil War are fascinating to me. Several years ago I had the great pleasure of attending an exhibit of historic Texas flags at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The exhibit consisted of flags from the Texas Revolution through World War II, but the highlight for me was seeing the flags from the Civil War era. At the time, I had recently completed my books relating to the 28th Texas Cavalry, and so I was rendered nearly speechless when I viewed a large banner carried by an unidentified unit of Walker’s Texas Division during the Red River campaign. Likewise, I was thrilled to see a flag carried by the 6th Texas Cavalry Battalion (Gould’s Battalion) that served with the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) in the same brigade of Walker’s Texas Division. The flags included in this exhibit are illustrated in the book by Robert Maberry, Jr. titled Texas Flags (College Station: Texas A & M Press, 2001), and some are depicted on this website of the Texas Sons of Veterans. Seeing in person the actual flags that were used during the war was quite a moving experience; if only those pieces of cloth could speak!

Today, I received the latest issue of The Museum of the Confederacy Magazine, and it includes an article about their flag conservation project. The Museum of the Confederacy has a fabulous collection of flags, and for a number of years they have worked on conserving these treasures. While still researching the history of the Adams-Gibson Louisiana brigade, I visited the Museum of the Confederacy on a research trip. In advance of my visit I contacted the Museum and arranged to see Randall L. Gibson’s headquarters flag that Union soldiers captured at the battle of Nashville. Although a small banner, I enjoyed seeing an artifact that directly related to this hard fighting Louisiana brigade. On my visit, I also received a tour of the flag conservation area and was amazed at the incredibly time consuming and detailed work that must be done during the conservation process. The Museum of the Confederacy now has online a complete inventory of their flag collection along with color photographs. Follow this link to the inventory and then click on MOC Flag Collection when you get to the site. Although the bulk of their collection consists of flags of regiments from east of the Mississippi, there are some fine Trans-Mississippi flags included too such as the beautiful banner that the 4th Missouri carried at the battle of Pea Ridge.

Photographs of some of the flags carried by Arkansas troops are shown on the website of the Old State House Museum. And, the following are books that include helpful information about flags carried by Confederate Trans-Mississippi units:

Dedmondt, Glenn. The Flags of Civil War Arkansas. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Co., 2009.

Dedmondt, Glenn. The Flags of Civil War Missouri. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Co., 2009.

Madaus, Howard Michael and Robert D. Needham. The Battle Flags Of The Confederate Army Of Tennessee. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1976.

Sumrall, Alan K. Battle Flags Of Texans In The Confederacy. Austin: Eakin Press, 1995.


  1. I also attended the exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and seeing all of the Civil War flags together brought me to tears. For a number of years I've been a member of an email group dedicated to researching Civil War flags. Greg Biggs is and the late Howie Madaus was also a member, as well as curators at many of the state museums across the South, among others. The only reason I was invited was because of my research in often obscure Southern Civil War newspapers, which sometimes picked up flag presentations and descriptions. In fact, Robert Maberry told me he had to pull and rewrite a chapter of his book because of the accounts I found of the confusion about what a "lone star" flag should look like in Texas. Greg has also found many of the receipts for flags in the Citizens and Business File of microfilm, now digitized in Mark Jaeger at Purdue has access to many of the Northern sources and is another big newspaper fan. BTW, you might be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of post-war or even totally bogus flags that are being sold as Civil War flags these days. Buyer beware!

    Vicki Betts

  2. One time on Ebay I spotted a purported wartime banner of the 28th Texas Cavalry for sale; admittedly I was skeptical although it's possible it was created for a veterans group in the postwar period. Isn't Greg Biggs the scholar who is working on a book about Tennessee flags? Have you heard when the book will be published? It seems to me that most scholars have concentrated on Confederate flags. I have found comparatively few books or articles about flags carried by Union regiments. There are some websites, though, relating to Union flags some of which I'll feature in a future posting. Your flag research sounds quite interesting; admittedly I had never considered the fact that there might be flag receipts.