Last modified: 23 January 2001 by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.
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The Flag of the Confederate States of America
1 May 1863 to 4 March 1865.
By Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr. 27 January 2000
CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE:
The second flag of the Confederate States of America, commonly known as the"STAINLESS BANNER",
was created by an Act of the Congress of the Confederate States (Statutes at Large, First Congress, Session III, Chapter 88),
approved by the President on the 1st day of May, 1863.
The Flag Act of 1863 describes the flag in the following language:
Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.
Shortly after the adoption of the Confederate 2nd national flag on 1 May 1863, the Richmond Examiner (of 15 May 1863) reported on one that was then nearing completion for the capitol:
"The new design of a National Flag, adopted by the Confederate Congress, was again displayed from the Capitol yesterday, and met the approving gaze of thousands. We have received from Mr. D. S. Morrison, the superintendent of the manufacture of Flags for the government, the following dimensions of the Flag, which dimensions have been approved by the Committee on the National Ensign. They may be regarded as the standard measurement for all similar Flags hereafter: Length - twenty four feet, width - sixteen feet, or two thirds of the length, union - ten feet eight inches square, or two thirds the width, saltier - eighteen inches wide, white edging - two and a quarter inches in width, stars - fifteen inches from point to point, placed twenty inches apart from centre to centre, binding [sic - heading] six inches in width, rope - two inches in diameter and sixteen feet six inches long."
This detailed descriptive report not only accurately provides the external and internal dimensions of the flag that was flying over the Confederate capitol but it equally important indicates that the flag department at the Richmond Clothing Depot had already decided to ignore the Congressional adopting resolution (which defined the flag's proportions as 1:2) in favor of proportions of 2:3. The military flags produced by the Richmond Clothing Depot for the rest of the War would follow those 2:3 proportions.
The large (18 feet by 24 feet) flag that Daniel S. Morrison prepared and the Jackson funeral brier flag must have exhausted the bunting supply at the Richmond Depot. No further Confederate 2nd national flags would be made there until the receipt of a new shipment of bunting from England. That shipment, consisting of 2 bales and a box of bunting, left Bermuda aboard the Lady Davis (a.k.a. Cornubia) on 9 July 1863 and arrived at Wilmington ten days later, less one of the bales. On 31 July 1863 the single bale and box of bunting was shipped to Richmond, to the attention of the Ordnance Department. With this bunting, the Ordnance Department had the Clothing Depot make a new Confederate 2nd national garrison and storm flag for each of its major arsenals and armories. The flags themselves would be sent to the Ordnance Department facilities in September and October of 1863. This would be the only nation wide distribution of the Confederate 2nd national flags. Thereafter 2nd national flags would be secured through regional sources, either Clothing Depots or by contract.
The new 2nd national flags made at the Richmond Clothing Depot were made four different sizes. The garrison flag was the largest, measuring 10 feet hoist by 15 feet fly. The storm flag was slightly smaller, measring 8 feet hoist by 12 feet fly. For smaller posts and depots a third size flag was also made. This flag measured 5.25 feet hoist by 8 feet fly. Lastly a field size flag was made that was four feet hoist by 6 feet fly. The field and the major elements of the canton (the red field and the dark blue St. Andrew's cross) were made of bunting; both the stars and the white edging to the crosses were made of white cotton. Distinctive of the Richmond Depot flags, this cotton edging not only bordered the sides of the St. Andrew's crosses but it also bound the ends as well.
The Charleston Clothing Depot would also produce large size 2nd national flags during the last two years of the War. A 10 feet hoist by 15 feet fly garrison flag size has been identified from the captured flags taken in 1865 at Charleston Harbor. The complimenting "storm flag" from the Charleston Depot is thought to measure 8.5 feet hoist by 13.5 feet fly, but only a single example survives. A "post flag" also may have been made at the Charleston Depot that measured 5.25 feet hoist by 9.5 feet fly. No 2nd national field flags are known to have been made at the Charleston Depot. Unlike the Richmond Depot 2nd national flags, those made at Charleston had their crosses trimmed in white bunting that only bordered the sides of the St. Andrew's crosses.
Howard Michael Madaus
During the Autumn of 1863, the Richmond Clothing Depot began the manufacture of Confederate 2nd national flags. One of the four sizes produced was intended for field use. This flag measured 4 feet on its hoist by 6 feet on its fly. The white field was made of bunting as was the 2.5 feet square red canton. A 3" to 3 1/2" wide dark blue St. Andrew's cross traversed the canton bearing thirteen white, 5-pointed stars, each 3" in diameter. A white cotton 3/8" edging bordered both the sides and ends of the cross. A 2" wide white canvas heading with three button hole eylets for ties finished the staff edge.
Flags of this type saw limited service in the Army of Northern Virginia from late 1863 through the end of the War. About half the surviving examples of this type of flag were carried as regimental colors; one-quarter are identified as brigade or division headquarters flags, and the rest lack specific identification.
The Staunton Clothing Depot made a variation of this flag for both a headquarters flag and a unit color. The size was basically the same but the width of the St. Andrew's crosses were 4" to 5" in width and the stars were accordingly larger. The edging of the cross only flanked the sides of the cross and did not extend around its ends. Finally, the white fields of the 2nd national field flags made at the Staunton Depot were made from a white cotton flannel rather than bunting.
Howard Michael Madaus
As a general rule, the Confederate 2nd national flag saw only limited service in the Confederate armies serving west of the Appalachian Mountains. Two noteable exceptions, however, bear witness.
In November of 1863, an officer of General Randall L. Gibson's Brigade of the Confederate Army of Tennessee was authorized to proceed to Mobile, Alabama to procure new flags for Gibson's Brigade. Gibson's instructions specified that the lieutenant sent was to procure "new Confederate flags" that were to be inscribed with battle honors and (as applicable) the "crossed cannon inverted" symbol that indicated the capture of enemy artillery in battle. The lieutenant was successful and returned with a flag for each regiment in the brigade as well as the 5th Company of Washington Artillery. These flags were made of cotton and measured between 36" and 41" on their staff by 58" to 64" on their fly. The red cantons were between 24" and 27" square and bore a 5 1/2" to 6" wide dark blue St. Andrew's cross with 5/8" wide white edging. The flags probably emanated from either Jackson O. Belknap or James Cameron, and in common with the battle flags made by both parties had only twelve stars on the arms of the St. Andrew's cross. The white fields were decorated with both unit designations, battle honors, and crossed cannons (muzzles up) formed from separately cut and appliqued cotton letters or symbols. A 2" wide white linen sleeve finished the staff edge of the flag.
After the battle of Baker's Creek in May of 1863, Major-General Loring's Division did not fall back into the defenses of Vicksburg and thereby escaped the surrender of that city on 4 July 1863. During the Winter of 1863-1864, while Loring's Division was in winter-quarters, the units of the division requisitioned new flags or caused them to be made by regimental tailors. The new flags thus obtained were variants of the 2nd national flag of the Confederate States. The flags varied in size but most were between 4 feet and 4.5 feet on the staff by between 6 feet and 7 feet on the fly. The fields were made of white bunting as were the slightly rectangular red cantons. The canton was traversed with a dark blue St. Andrew's cross 4" wide with thirteen white, 5-pointed stars, varying between 2 3/4" and 3 1/2" wide (with some having a larger center star). No white edging bordered the crosses, which sometimes extended to the corners of the canton but which were also made truncated or ending in points before the corners. If fringe was available, it was usually added to the three exterior edges. The depth and the color of the fringe varied with availability; the colors used included white, yellow, red, and dark blue. Both ties and sleeves finished the leading edge. None of the flags were marked with unit abbreviations or with battle honors.
In the Spring of 1864, Loring's Division (with the rest of General Polk's "Army of Mississippi") joined the Confederate Army of Tennessee, eventually becoming Polk's and later Stewart's Corps. Although some of the units of Loring's Division had or would receive battle flags made by the Mobile contractors in lieu or in addition to these 2nd national flags, most of Loring's Division carried their Confederate 2nd national flags until they lost them in battle during the Atlanta and Nashville campaigns or they furled them at Goldsboro, North Carolina in April of 1865.
Howard Michael Madaus