Battle Flags, Jacks & Ensigns

~ The Battle Flags Of The Armed Forces Of The Confederacy During The War Of 1861 - 1865 ~


~ Battle Flags Of The Confederacy ~


Battle Flag Of The Provisional Army Of The Confederate States

(1861 - 1865)

The "official" Confederate Army's battle flag is square and has various sizes to properly identify the different branches of the service:

Confederate Infantry Commands
52in x 52in (130cm x 130cm)
Confederate Artillery Commands
38in x 38in (97cm x 97cm)
Confederate Cavalry Commands
32in x 32in (81cm x 81cm)

Its design was derived from the previous Naval Jack of the Confederacy, which was rectangular. The Army Battle Flag appears in battle for the first time beginning in December 1861 and remains the official battle standard until the fall of the Confederacy. The blue on the Saltire in the battle flag was navy blue, as opposed to the much lighter blue of the Naval Jack.

This original Army Battle Flag used by the soldiers of the Army during the First Battle of Manassas as the official flag is too similar to the Union's flag.  At the First Battle of Manassas, near Manassas, Virginia, the similarity between the "Stars and Bars" and the "Stars and Stripes" caused confusion and military problems. Regiments carried flags to help commanders observe and assess battles in the warfare of the era. At a distance, the two national flags were hard to tell apart. In addition, Confederate Regiments carried many other flags, which added to the possibility of confusion.  To avoid confusion on the battlefield, the official Battle Flag is used consistently by almost the entire army.

The flag's stars represented the number of states in the Confederacy. The distance between the stars decreased as the number of states increased, reaching thirteen when the secessionist factions of Kentucky and Missouri joined in late 1861.


After the battle, General Beauregard wrote that he was"


"... resolved then to have our flag changed if possible, or to adopt for my command a 'Battle flag', which would be entirely different from any state or Federal flag."
~ General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Beauregard turns to his aide William Porcher Miles, the Former Chairman of the Confederate Congress's Committee on the Flag and Seal. Miles described his rejected national flag design to Beauregard. Miles also told the Committee on the Flag and Seal about the General's complaints and request for the national flag to be changed. The committee rejected the idea by a four to one vote, after which Beauregard proposed the idea of having two flags. He described the idea in a letter to his Commanding General Joseph E. Johnston:


"I wrote to Miles that we should have "two" flags - a "peace" or parade flag, and a "war" flag to be used only on the field of battle - but Congress having adjourned no action will be taken on the matter - How would it do us to address the War Dept. on the subject of Regimental or badge flags made of red with two blue bars crossing each other diagonally on which shall be introduced the stars ...

We would then on the field of battle know our friends from our enemies."

~ General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

The flag that Miles had favored when he was chairman of the "Committee on the Flag and Seal" eventually became the battle flag and, ultimately, the most popular flag of the Confederacy. According to Museum of the Confederacy Director John Coski, Miles' design was inspired by one of the many "secessionist flags" flown at the South Carolina Secession Convention in Charleston of December 1860. That flag was a blue Saint George's Cross (an upright or Latin cross) on a red field, with 15 white stars on the cross, representing the seceding states, and, on the red field, palmetto and crescent symbols.

Miles received a variety of feedback on this design, including a critique from Charles Moise, a self-described "Southerner of Jewish persuasion." Moise liked the design but asked that:


"...the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation."

~ Charles Moise

Taking this into account, Miles changed his flag, removing the palmetto and crescent, and substituting a heraldic Saltire ("X") for the upright cross. The number of stars was changed several times as well. He described these changes and his reasons for making them in early 1861. The diagonal cross was preferable, he wrote, because:


"... it avoided the religious objection about the cross (from the Jews and many Protestant sects), because it did not stand out so conspicuously as if the cross had been placed upright thus."
~ William Porcher Miles

He also argued that the diagonal cross was:


"... more Heraldric [sic
] than Ecclesiastical, it being the 'Saltire' of Heraldry, and significant of strength and progress."

~ William Porcher Miles

According to Coski, the Saint Andrew's Cross (also used on the flag of Scotland as a white Saltire on a blue field) had no special place in Southern iconography at the time, and if Miles had not been eager to conciliate the Southern Jews, his flag would have used the traditional upright "Saint George's Cross" (as used on the flag of England, a red cross on a white field). Colonel James B. Walton submitted a battle flag design essentially identical to Miles' except with an upright Saint George's cross, but Beauregard chose the diagonal cross design.

Miles' flag and all the flag designs up to that point were rectangular ("oblong") in shape. General Johnston suggested making it square to conserve material. Johnston also specified the various sizes to be used by different types of military units. Generals Beauregard and Johnston and Quartermaster General Cabell approved the design of the 12-star Confederate Battle Flag at the Ratcliffe home, which served briefly as Beauregard's headquarters, near Fairfax Court House in September 1861. The 12th star represented Missouri. President Jefferson Davis arrived by train at Fairfax Station soon after and was shown the design for the new battle flag at the Ratcliffe House. Hetty Cary and her sister and cousin made prototypes. One such 12-star flag resides in the collection of Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy and the other is in Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans.

On November 28, 1861, Confederate soldiers in General Robert E. Lee's newly reorganized Army of Northern Virginia received the new battle flags in ceremonies at Centreville and Manassas, Virginia, and carried them throughout the Civil War. Beauregard gave a speech encouraging the soldiers to treat the new flag with honor and that it must never be surrendered. Many soldiers wrote home about the ceremony and the impression the flag had upon them, the "fighting colors" boosting morale after the confusion at the Battle of First Manassas. From then on, the battle flag grew in its identification with the Confederacy and the South in general. Later, a 13th star was added for Kentucky.

The Army of Northern Virginia battle flag assumed a prominent place post-war when it was adopted as the copyrighted emblem of the United Confederate Veterans. Its continued use by the Southern Army's post-war veterans groups, the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) and the later Sons of Confederate Veterans, (SCV), and elements of the design by related similar female descendants organizations of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, (UDC), led to the assumption that it was, as it has been termed, The Soldier's Flag or The Confederate Battle Flag.

The square "battle flag" is also properly known as The Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. It was sometimes called Beauregard's Flag or the Virginia Battle Flag. A Virginia Department of Historic Resources marker declaring Fairfax, Virginia as the birthplace of the Confederate battle flag was dedicated on April 12, 2008, near the intersection of Main and Oak Streets, in Fairfax, Virginia.


Battle Flag Of The Confederate States Marine Corps

(1861 - 1865)

From the outset, the Confederate States Marine Corps utilizes the Confederate First National Flag (7-stars) to create its only battle flag.  The letters "MC" are added to the center of the 7-star field.

It remains the battle flag of the Confederate Marine Corps throughout the War of 1861-1865.

    
~ Battle Ensigns And Jacks Of The Confederate States Navy ~
(1861 - 1865)

~ The Confederate Navy's Battle Jacks ~

The fledgling Confederate States Navy adopted and used several types of flags, banners, and pennants aboard all Confederate States Navy ships: jacks, battle ensigns, and small boat ensigns, as well as commissioning pennants, designating flags, and signal flags.
 

The First Confederate Navy Jacks, in use from 1861 to 1863, consisted of a circle of seven to fifteen five-pointed white stars against a field of "medium blue." It was flown forward aboard all Confederate warships while they were anchored in port. One seven-star jack still exists today (found aboard the captured ironclad CSS Atlanta) that is actually "dark blue" in color.

The First Confederate States Navy Battle Jack
(1861 - 1863)
Confederate States Ship Atlanta
(CSS Atlanta)

(July 1862 - 17 June 1863)

The Second Confederate Navy Jack was a rectangular cousin of the Confederate Army's battle flag and was in use from 1863 until 1865 ...
 


The Second Confederate States Navy Battle Jack

(1863 - 1865)

It existed in a variety of dimensions and sizes, despite the CSN's detailed naval regulations. The blue color of the diagonal Saltire's "Southern Cross" was much lighter than the dark blue of the battle flag.

~ The Confederate Navy's Battle Ensigns ~

The Confederate First National Flag, also known as the Stars and Bars served from 1861 to 1863 as the Confederate Navy's First Battle Ensign. It was generally made with an aspect ratio of 2:3, but a few very wide 1:2 ratio ensigns still survive today in museums and private collections.


The First Confederate States Navy Battle Ensign

(1861 - 1863)

As the Confederacy grew, so did the numbers of white stars seen on the ensign's dark blue canton: seven-, nine-, eleven-, and thirteen-star groupings were typical. Even a few fourteen- and fifteen-starred ensigns were made to include states that were expected to secede but never completely joined the Confederacy.

 

The Second Confederate States Navy Battle Ensign
(1863 - 07 November 1865)
Confederate States Ship Shenandoah
(CSS Shenandoah)

(1863 - 07 November 1865)

The Confederate Second National Flag was later adapted as a Naval Ensign, using a shorter 2:3 ratio than the 1:2 ratio adopted by the Confederate Congress for the National Flag. This particular battle ensign was the only example taken around the world, finally becoming the last Confederate flag struck in the War of 1861-1865.

This happened aboard CSS Shenandoah in Liverpool, England on November 7, 1865.

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The National Flags Of The Confederacy

 

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