The Flags of the Confederacy
Salute to the Confederate Flag
(Stand erect, remove your hat and stretch out
your right hand, palm up)
"I salute the Confederate Flag with
affection, reverence and undying devotion to the Cause for
which it stands."
First through Third National Flags, and
the Battle Flag
The very heart of the Confederate fighting
unit was its flag, which came in a variety of designs and colors.
The flag was the rallying point on the field of battle; it marked
the unit headquarters in camp. In the South in 1861, at the outbreak
of the Civil War, Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry
Regiment recalled: "Flags made by the ladies were presented to
companies, and to hear the young orators tell of how they would
protect the flag, and that they would come back with the flag or
come not at all, and if they fell they would fall with their backs
to the field and their feet to the foe, would fairly make our hair
stand on end with intense patriotism, and we wanted to march right
off and whip twenty Yankees." And in 1865, at the war's end, it was
the furling of the defeated Confederate banners that marked the
final closing of that episode in history. "For want of strength,"
sang Confederate veterans in their song Wearing of the Gray,
"we yield them up the day, and lower the flag so proudly borne,
while wearing of the gray."
The generally accepted jargon for the elements of flags and
their components is used throughout this writing. The canton
is the square or rectangle placed on the top of the flag next
to the pole or staff. A border is the flag's edging when
rendered in a different color than the field, the main part of the
flag. Fimbration is the narrow edging used to separate
different colors on a flag; it is often white. The hoist is
the side of the flag next to the staff, while the fly is the
opposite side. When, as is normal, the flag is shown with the hoist
on the left and the fly on the right, this is the obverse
or front of the flag; the side seen when the hoist is on the right
and the fly on the left is the reverse, or rear. The staff
itself is the stave; the metal top of the stave, usually a
spearhead, an axehead or an eagle, is the finial; the metal
cap at the bottom of the stave is the ferrule. Many flags
have cords and tassels hanging from the finial, although this was
rare among Confederate flags; collectively, these are simply
referred to as cords. Finally, ensigns are
national flags used on a ship, as well as the rank of a Confederate
commissioned color bearer after 17 February 1864; jacks are
small flags flown at the bow of a ship in port; a color is
carried by an infantry or foot artillery regiment; a standard
is carried by a mounted unit; a camp color was a small
flag used to indicate the location in camp of the unit (these seen
to have seen little use among Confederates); and a flag is,
strictly, that flown from a building or over a post and is not
actually carried-although "flag" is a generally accepted generic
term for all flown cloth insignia that represent some nation or
The 'Stars & Bars'
When Jefferson Davis was sworn into office as
the President of the provisional government of the new Confederate
States of America on 18 February 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama, the
flag that floated over the scene was that of the state of Alabama.
The states which had so recently left the almost hundred-year old
United States to form their own government had no flag to represent
their new nation.
The first flag used to represent the seceding southern states
as a whole had a blue field with a single white five-pointed star in
its center. This flag was first displayed during the Convention of
the People in Mississippi, 9 January 1861, as the flag of the
Republic of Mississippi, which had been in existence for only one
month. The flag was described in a widely popular song, The
Bonnie Blue Flag, which was written by Harry Macarthy and first
sung in New Orleans a short time later. Texans en route to join the
Army of Northern Virginia sang the song in that city in September
1861. Although this design was used by several southern states and
became a southern symbol, it was never officially adopted by the
Confederacy as a whole. Some military units also carried this
flag; one was carried by the 8th Texas Cavalry with its unit
designation "Terry's Texas Rangers" in yellow above the star.
On 9 February the new country's Provisional Congress
appointed six of their members to a committee to select a new flag
from among the dozens of proposals which had been submitted to the
Congress. In less than a month, in early March, the committee had
four proposed sample flags hung on the walls of Congress.
According to the final report of the committee to Congress,
the search was a difficult one. The committee, they wrote, had
'given this subject due consideration, and carefully inspected all
the designs and models submitted to them. The number of these has
been immense, but they all may be divided into two great classes.
FIRST: Those which copy and preserve the principal features
of the United States flag, with slight and unimportant
SECOND: Those which are very elaborate, complicated, or
fantastical. The objection to the first class is, that none of them
at any considerable distance could readily be distinguished from the
one which-they imitate. Whatever attachment may be felt from
association for the "Stars and Stripes" (an attachment which your
committee may be permitted to say they do not all share), it is
manifest that in inaugurating a new government we can not with any
propriety, or without encountering very obvious practical
difficulties, retain the flag of the Government from which we have
withdrawn. There is no propriety in retaining the ensign of a
government which, in the opinion of the States comprising this
Confederacy, had become so oppressive and injurious to their
interests as to require their separation from it. It is idle to talk
of "keeping" the flag of the United States when we have voluntarily
seceded from them. It is superfluous to dwell upon the practical
difficulties which would flow from the fact of two distinct and
probably hostile governments, both employing the same or very
similar flags. It would be a political and military solecism. It
would lead to perpetual disputes. As to "the glories of the old
flag," we must bear in mind that the battles of the Revolution,
about which our fondest and proudest memories cluster, were not
fought beneath its folds. And although in more recent times-in the
war of 1812 and in the war with Mexico-the South did win her fair
share of glory, and shed her full measure of blood under its
guidance and in its defense, we think the impartial page of history
will preserve and commemorate the fact more imperishably than a mere
piece of stripped bunting.
The Committee, in examining the representation of the flags
of all countries, found that Liberia and the Sandwich Islands had
flags so similar to that of the United States that it seemed to them
an additional, if not itself a conclusive, reason why we should not
"keep," copy, or imitate it.... It must be admitted, however, that
something was conceded by the committee to what seemed so strong and
earnest a desire to retain at least a suggestion of the old "Stars
and Stripes." So much for the mass of models and designs more or
less copied from, or assimilated to, the United States flag.
With reference to the second class of designs those of an
elaborate and complicated character (but many of them showing
considerable artistic skill and taste)-the committee will merely
remark, that however pretty they may be, when made by the cunning
skill of a fair lady's fingers in silk, satin, and embroidery, they
are not appropriate as flags. A flag should be simple, readily made,
and above all, capable of being made of bunting. It should be
different from the flag of any other country, place or people. It
should be significant. It should be readily distinguishable at a
distance. The colors should be well contrasted and durable, and,
lastly and not the least important point, it should be effective and
The committee humbly think that the flag which they submit
combines these requisites. It is very easy to make. It is entirely
different from any national flag. The three colors of which it is
composed - red, white, and blue-are the true republican colors. In
heraldry they are emblematic of the three great virtues-of valor,
purity, and truth. Naval men assure us that it can be recognized and
distinguished at a great distance. The colors contrast admirably and
are lasting. In effect and appearance it must speak for itself.
The first hung on the chamber's walls, although not the
committee's final choice, eventually became the symbol of the
Confederacy as the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia as
well as other Confederate military organizations. It featured a blue
St. Andrew's Cross, or 'saltire' (or "saltive" - the former is the
older spelling), edged or "fimbrated" in white, on a red field, with
a white star representing each state on the saltire. It had been
designed by Congressman W. Porcher Miles of South Carolina, the
The second flag was a close copy of the US "stars and
stripes" national flag, save that the stripes were made of red and
blue, while the canton or 'union' remained blue with a white star
for each state.
The third rectangular flag was described as "a red field with
a blue ring or circle in the center."
The fourth flag was that which was finally chosen and is now
known as the "First National Flag" of the Confederacy. On 4 March,
after giving members a chance to examine the four leading
candidates, the committee recommended in its final report 'that the
flag of the Confederate States of America shall consist of a red
field with a white space extending horizontally through the center
and equal in width to one third of the width of the flag, and red
spaces above and below to the same width as the white, the union
blue extending down through the white space and stopping at the
lower red space, in the center of the union a circle of white stars
corresponding in number with the States of the Confederacy.
Two men claimed to have designed this flag. The first was
Nicola Marschall, a Prussian artist living in Montgomery, Alabama,
who also claimed credit for the Confederate Army uniform design. He
said that he took the basic form from the Austrian flag which had
three horizontal stripes, the top and bottom one of red and the
middle one of white. The letter suggesting this design was dated 2
March 1861 and would seem to back his claim. Marschall offered
several variations of the canton placement, having it in the center
of the white stripe or against the hoist on the white stripe as well
as in the traditional union location.
The other person who claimed to have designed the flag was
Orren R. Smith, a North Carolinian. His design, he said, came from
the Trinity, with the three bars standing for the state with its
judiciary, legislative, and executive branches; the church; and the
press. They were bound by the blue canton, with the stars in a
circle signifying mutual defense.
In 1915 the United Confederate Veterans accepted Smith's
claim, although in 1931 the Alabama Department of Archives and
History produced a study done by the state legislature which
accepted Marschall's claim. In fact, both men probably offered
similar designs virtually simultaneously, since the fairly plain
design was quite similar to that of the United States. Indeed, as
seen, the committee noted in its final report that "the mass of
models and designs" for flags it received were "more or less copied
from or assimilated to, the United States flag".
At any rate, in a hurry to get a flag approved in time for a
scheduled flag raising on 4 March, the date United States President
Abraham Lincoln was to be sworn into office, Congress approved the
committee's findings, taking its report into the Congressional
journal with language unchanged. The result was that the so-called
First National Flag was never officially adopted as the flag of the
Confederacy by a full Congressional vote in a formal 'flag act' or
bill. Nevertheless, for fully two years this flag was the one flown
over official buildings and by many military units in the field.
Indeed, since generally each Confederate regiment or independent
battalion or squadron carried only one color, although it was
usually referred to as 'colors', the First National Flag was the
only color carried by such organizations as e.g. Georgia's Cobb's
In one respect the committee's language was rather vague: it
included no proportions of the height on the hoist, or staff, to the
length of the fly. Each maker was free to produce a flag of this
design that best matched his or her aesthetic tastes. A study of
Confederate flags produced by H. Michael Madaus and Robert D.
Needham shows that almost a third (30 per cent) of surviving First
National Flags are proportioned 2:3 (hoist:fly). However, 21 per
cent of these flags have proportions Of 3:5, 13 per cent have
proportions Of 5:9, and some ten per cent each have proportions Of
1:2 and 3:4. First National Flags produced west of the Mississippi
River appear slightly more than the average proportioned 1:2, a
proportion not at all common in English flags.
Equally, although officially the blue canton was to bear a
circle of equally sized stars, in fact First National Flags came
with a variety of designs, especially as additional states joined
the Confederacy. By the third week of May Virginia and Arkansas
added two more stars to the original seven. As Of 2 July the canton
had 11 stars, following the admission of North Carolina and
Tennessee to the Confederacy. Missouri's addition on 28 November
gave the flag 12 stars, while the final number Of 13 was reached on
10 December with Kentucky's joining the Southern states (even though
neither the Missouri nor Kentucky state legislatures formally voted
for secession, both were considered by the Confederate Government
considered them the 12th and 13th states to enter the Confederacy).
The style of star, i.e. the number of rays, was not spelled
out by Congress; however, the five-pointed star as used in the
United States flag was the most common style used.
In many cases a single star, often larger than the others,
was placed in the center of the circle to represent the local state.
This violated the original concept of having each star the same size
to indicate the equality of the states in the Confederacy.
Many flags, especially those used by Texas units from the
"Lone Star State", had but one star in the canton. Flags with one
star in the canton were carried by e.g. the 25th Virginia Infantry
(which also had the state name painted in gold Roman letters around
the white star); and Co. E, 6th North Carolina Infantry Regiment
State Troops, which had its gold star within a gold laurel wreath
and the gold Roman words "IN GOD WE TRUST/VICTORY OR DEATH" above
and below the star and wreath.
Some stars were placed in an apparently random design; some
in rows as in the United States flag; some stars were formed into
either a Greek or a St. Andrew's Cross; and some stars were placed
in an arch, the 'Arch of the Covenant' which was symbolic of the
Bread of Life, the symbol of spiritual nourishment. The latter
design was used on Robert E. Lee's personal headquarters flag.
State seals were often painted onto the canton instead of
sewn stars. Co. E, 1st Georgia Infantry Regiment, for example,
carried a First National Flag measuring 42 inches on the hoist and
66 inches on the fly with the Georgia state seal painted on the blue
canton on the obverse side, and on the reverse seven white stars in
a circle with a red scroll above and another below with the gold
block words 'WE YIELD NOT TO/OUR COUNTRY'S FOES' on the scrolls. Co.
E, 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment had the Maryland state seal painted
on the canton of their First National Flag, which is 27 inches on
the hoist and 46 inches on the fly.
Materials also varied according to maker. Silk was the
preferred material, and many First National Flags made by hometown
ladies were of this fabric. The standard carried by Co. K, 3rd Texas
Cavalry at Oak Hills, Missouri, and Pea Ridge, Arkansas, was made
entirely of silk by the ladies of the company's home town. However,
when the women of Tyler, Texas, made a First National Flag for Co.
D, I 5th Texas Infantry, they used cotton on the white bar and stars
as well as the canton, but a wool/cotton mixture for the red bars. A
First National Flag captured at Pea Ridge from an Arkansas brigade
was entirely made of wool flannel, with the words "JEFF.DAVIS"
worked in black velvet Roman uncial letters on its obverse.
One of the strangest First National Flags still in existence
is that used from time to time by the 43rd Battalion of Virginia
Cavalry, Mosby's Rangers. The unit carried out guerrilla warfare
behind Union lines in Northern Virginia, and therefore rarely
carried its standard into action. However, the flag, which measures
51 inches on the hoist by 114 inches on the fly, was used at Mosby's
headquarters. According to a veteran some years after the war:
"Bunting was a scarcity in those days, and the blue field of this
flag had been cut from the blouse [fatigue coat] of a Union soldier;
the red stripes are of a fair quality bunting, while the white
stripe is of unbleached cotton."
There was also no regulation finial, cords, or stave size or
color. In practice, most units used brass or gilt spear point or
halberd finials; eagles left over from before the war and captured
with US Army colors were also used. Staves were left their natural
wood color. Cords rarely appeared with Confederate colors.
Military versions of the First National Flag also often had
the unit designation painted or sewn on the white middle stripe.
Hardly had the seamstresses turned out their
first set of First National Flags when complaints about the emblems'
appearance began to be voiced.
From the military viewpoint, the similarity between the two
sides' flags led to confusion, especially at the first big battle of
the war, First Manassas. "The mistake of supposing Kirby Smith's and
Elzy's approaching troops to be Union reinforcements for McDowell's
right was caused by the resemblance, at a distance, of the original
Confederate flag to the colors of Federal regiments," recalled
Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. This mishap caused the
Confederates to cast about for a new ensign, brought out our
battle-flag, led to its adoption by General Beauregard, and
afterwards by higher authority as the union shield of the
Confederate national flag.
Civilians were also generally unhappy with the similarity
between the northern and southern flags. "There is little room for
doubt that the resemblance of the Confederate flag to that of the
United States renders it displeasing in the eyes of more than three
fourths of our population," editorialized the Daily
Richmond Examiner on 13 December 1861. "The desire for a change
in the present banner has been so generally manifested that is
nearly certain that it will be made." The newspaper's editor further
suggested that the new flag should not have stars or the colors of
red, white, and blue, preferring instead a gold or scarlet national
emblem in the canton or center of the field.
A Joint Committee on Flag and Seal was appointed by both
houses of the first Confederate congress, and on 19 April 1862 it
submitted its recommendation as a joint resolution: "Resolved by the
Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the
flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: A red field,
charged with a white saltier, having in the center the device of a
sun, in its glory, on an azure ground, the rays of the sun
corresponding with the number of States composing the Confederacy."
After a great deal of debate the House of Representatives voted 39
to 21 to postpone further consideration of the resolution, which the
Senate never formally discussed. Therefore, it died in Congress; and
apparently few if any of these flags were made, as no physical
examples exist today.
Nevertheless, unhappiness with the First National Flag
continued. In the Confederate field armies the problem of a flag
that looked like that of the enemy-an important objection when the
colors regiments carried on the field were a major means of
identification-was solved by local commanders (see the page on the
battle flag). Indeed, the battle flags of the Army of Northern
Virginia were those most seen in the capital city of Richmond, and
most influenced Confederate legislators.
Consequently, on 22 April 1863 Senate Bill No. 132 was
introduced, which read: "The Congress of the
Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the
Confederate States shall be as follows: a white field with the [Army
of Northern Virginia] battle flag for a union, which shall be square
and occupy two thirds of the width of the flag, and a blue bar, one
third of the flag, in its width, dividing the field otherwise."
Passed by the Senate, the bill was introduced on the floor of
the House on 1 May to a great deal of debate. One proposed motion
removed the blue bar from the field and instead edged the field with
red. Another suggested simply adopting the Army of Northern Virginia
battle flag, in a rectangular shape, as the national flag. In the
end, however, the bill that passed the House and was agreed to by
the senate described the flag as follows: "The field to be white,
the length double the width of the flag, with the union (now used as
the battle flag) to be a square of two thirds the width of the flag,
having the ground red; thereon a broad saltier of blue, bordered
with white, and emblazoned with white mullets or five-pointed stars,
corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States.'
The Second National Flag was approved by both houses and
became official on 1 May 1863. It was first used to cover the coffin
of the beloved Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, who had
been badly wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 2 May and
died of pneumonia on 10 May. His coffin, draped with the new Second
National Color, lay in state in the chamber of the House of
Representatives on 12 May. As a result of this connection, as well
as due to the fact that both this flag and Jackson's picture
appeared on the too dollar bill of the 2 February 1864 issue, the
Second National Color was often called the "Jackson flag". The pure
white field also led to the Second National Flag being nicknamed the
On 26 May 1863 the Second National Flag was designated by the
Secretary of the Navy as the official naval jack, or ensign. The
orders establishing the jack also spelled out the specific
proportions Of 2:3. A flag 54 inches in the fly would be 108 inches
long with a square canton 36 inches on each side. The arms of the
saltier were to be 1/4.8 the width of the canton, so on a flag 54
inches in fly they would be 7.5 inches wide. The white border on the
saltier was to be 1/22 the width of the canton, or in this case 1
3/5 inches Wide. Each star was to have a diameter of 1/6.4 the
canton width; they would be 5.5 inches in diameter in this example.
As it turned out, surviving examples differ widely from both
the regulation flag and each other. The Second National Flag used as
the standard of the 8th Virginia Cavalry measures 53 inches by 98
inches; that used by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early in his headquarters flag
was 47 inches by 72 inches; and the headquarters flag of Maj. Gen .
J.E.B. (jeb) Stuart was 46 inches by 74 inches.
Moreover, Second National Flags were used mostly by the
government on its buildings and forts and the navy on its ships;
army units in the field did not as a whole take to the new flag.
Indeed, First National Flags were still being used as late as the
Battle of Gettysburg by some units in the Army of Northern Virginia,
despite the new flag's introduction.
Some Second National Flags were apparently issued by the
Richmond Clothing Depot, which made unit colors and standards as
well as clothing, to units in the Virginia and North Carolina
theaters, although plain First National Flags continued to be
carried-e.g., by the 44th and 60th Georgia Infantry Regiments-in
that theater even after the new flag's introduction. The Second
National Flags from the Richmond Depot were made of cotton and
bunting in the correct 2:3 proportion. The dark blue St. Andrew's
cross bore 13 white five-pointed stars. The white fimbration
overlapped the ends of the cross.
In large part, however, Army of Northern Virginia units that
received the new flags cut off the white field and flew only the
small battle flag when on active service. As mentioned above, a
number of Second National Flags were used as headquarters colors by
various Army of Northern Virginia general officers, among them
Stuart and Early.
Soldiers in the Western theater, however, apparently took to
the new flag more than those in the East. There a small number of
infantry regiments received these flags and carried them as their
regimental colors. These flags generally lacked the white overlap at
the ends of the cross. The 11th Tennessee Infantry
Regiment even painted its unit designation in dark blue on the field
over battle honors for Rockcastle, Cumberland Gap, Tazewell,
Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Its color measured
33 inches by 67 inches, and did have overlaps on the ends of the St.
Andrew's cross. The 8th Virginia Cavalry Regiment embroidered its
unit designation in white on the field, along with a battle honor
for White Sulphur Springs in the same material.
From the first day the Second National Flag was
run up the flag pole, complaints were made about its appearance. The
most serious one was that when limp, in a windless day, it looked like
an all-white flag of truce. Many flag makers attempted to resolve this
problem by making the canton disproportionately large.
This did not solve the problem, however. The Daily Richmond
Examiner suggested that since the horse symbolized the "equestrian
South", if should be used in black on a white flag as a new national
flag. Indeed, the Confederacy's "Great Seat" featured Virginian George
Washington mounted on his warhorse. Although this suggested flag met
some acceptance, there was also opposition, especially to giving up the
battle flag, which had flown over so many hard-fought fields, as an
element of the new flag.
Therefore, on 13 December 1864 Senate Bill No.137 was introduced,
specifying a new flag designed by an artilleryman, Major Arthur L.
Rogers. It legislated "That the flag of the Confederate States of
America shall be as follows: The width two-thirds of its length, with
the union (now used as the battle flag) to be in width three-fifths of
the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the
field on the side of the union twice the width of the field below it; to
have the ground red and a broad blue saltier thereon, bordered with
white and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding
in number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white,
except the outer half from the union to be a red bar extending the width
of the flag." According to Rogers, the white symbolized purity and
innocence, and the red fortitude and courage. The cross of St. Andrew
indicated descent from British stock, while the red bar was taken from
the French flag, as many other Southerners were descended from French
After a great deal of consideration the bill was passed by the
Senate without change on 6 February 1865 and by the House of
Representatives on 27 February. It was signed into law on 4 March
1865-at which time the Confederacy measured its continued political
existence in weeks. Indeed, because the Confederacy was so short-lived,
few Third National Flags were made and most of those that were, were
made by simply shortening the fly of Second National Flags and adding
the red bar.
[Editor's note: the Third National Flag was never
officially surrendered, and still flies over many Southern official
The Battle Flag
[Editor's note: this flag is often confused with
the rectangular Naval Jack, commonly flown to this day in the South]
The first major battle of the war, Bull Run or First
Manassas, brought to light problems in using the First National Flag
on the field of combat. For example, then-brigade commander Jubal
Early was advised at one point during the battle that his regiments
were firing on friends. Although he thought it was not so, he halted
his men and rode out to where he could see a regiment drawn in
battle line several hundred yards away. "The dress of the volunteers
on both sides at that time was very similar," he later wrote, "and
the flag of the regiment I saw was drooping around the staff, so
that I could not see whether it was the United States or Confederate
flag." It was not until the regiment in question fell back that he
"saw the United States flag unfurled and discovered the mistake". In
the meantime, precious time had been lost.
After this problem became evident the commander of the army
in northern Virginia, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, ordered that his
regiments carry their state flags. Only Virginia regiments were able
to obtain enough state flags for this purpose. Moreover, some state
flags were too similar to colors carried by Union forces. The dark
blue field of the Virginia state flag, for example, when lying limp,
would look exactly like that of the US Army infantry regimental
color, which also featured a dark blue field.
To solve this problem, Congressman William Porcher Miles
suggested to Gen. Beauregard that the army adopt as a battle flag
the pattern which he had designed for the First National Flag--a
pattern which Congress had rejected twice. On 27 August 1861 Miles
sent Beauregard a drawing of his suggested flag, adding that his
design called for, "...the ground Red, the Cross Blue (edged with
white), Stars, White. This was my favorite. The three colors of Red,
White, and Blue were preserved in it. It avoided the religious
objection about the cross ...it being the "Saltire" of Heraldry and
significant of strength and progress ... The Stars ought always to
be White or Argent because they are then blazoned "Proper" (or
natural color). Stars to show better on an Azure field than any
other. Blue Stars on a White field would not be handsome or
appropriate. The "White edge" (as I term it) to the Blue is partly a
necessity to prevent what is called "false blazonry"...It would not
do to put a blue cross therefore on a red field ...The introduction
of the white between the Blue and Red adds also much to the
brilliancy of the colors and brings them out in strong relief"
Beauregard liked the design, writing to Miles on 4 September
1861: "I regret to hear of the failure about the change of flag- but
what can now be done is, to authorize commanding generals in the
field to furnish their troops with a "field, or battle flag," which
shall be according to your design, leaving out, however, the white
border, or rim separating the blue from the red. I would have it
simply a red ground with two blue bars crossing each other
diagonally, on which shall be the white stars; a white or golden
fringe might go all around the sides of the flag."
Beauregard took the idea to Johnston, who also liked the
basic design but changed its shape to square on the recommendation
of the army's future quartermaster, Who said that a square flag
would save cloth. He also restored the white fimbration. Examples of
the new battle flag were made in September 1861 by three Richmond
belles, Hettie, Jennie, and Constance Cary. According to Constance,
"They were jaunty squares of scarlet crossed with dark blue edged
with white, the cross bearing stars to indicate the number of the
seceded States. We set our best stitches upon them, edged them with
golden fringes, and, when they were finished, dispatched one to
Johnston, another to Beauregard, and the third to Earl Van Dorn,
then commanding infantry at Manassas. The banners were received with
all possible enthusiasm; were toasted, feted, and cheered
The original flag sent to Van Dorn survives in the collection
of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. It has a red
field with a blue St. Andrew's cross with white fimbration and hoist
edge, with three white ties to hold it to the staff. Three gold
stars are set on each arm of the cross, clustered close to the
center; there is no star where the arms of the cross meet. It has
3-inch-long yellow fringing, and is actually 31 inches by 30 inches
in size rather than perfectly square. The name 'Constance' has been
embroidered on the lower arm of the cross near the hoist.
Three sizes were established for the battle flags made to
this design and finally issued throughout the Army of Northern
Virginia. Infantry versions were to be 48 inches on each side;
artillery versions, 36 inches square; and cavalry versions, 30
The first pattern Army of Northern Virginia battle flags were
made as the samples were, sewn of dress silk by Richmond ladies
under contract. Their blue crosses were eight inches wide, edged
with 3/4 inch-wide white silk. The 12 white stars were 4 inches in
diameter, set 8 inches apart from the center of the cross. All the
edges but the hoist were bound in yellow silk; the hoist had a blue
silk sleeve. Finally, the fields tended to be pinkish rather than
Not all of these flags were made by official contractors from
the start. The 4th Texas Infantry, for example, received in November
1861 a variant of this flag which was made by Miss Lula Wigfall,
daughter of one of Texas' senators. This 47-inch square silk flag
was very similar to the first pattern except that it featured a
single star at the point where the arms of the cross met which was
larger than the other stars-symbolic of the Lone Star of Texas. The
other stars were placed rather towards the outer part of the arms of
the cross, rather than being clustered towards the center as on the
first silk pattern flags. It was edged in yellow, with the edge on
the hoist side folded around to make a sleeve for the staff. This
battle-worn flag was retired to Texas for storage on 7 October 1862.
By that time, most of these colors had been worn out by much
use in the field. However, in early 1862 the Richmond Clothing Depot
had acquired sufficient stocks of bunting, both by purchase from
England and by the capture of the US Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia.
The Depot began manufacturing and issuing its own machine-sewn First
Bunting Pattern, Army of Northern Virginia battle flags. These were
very similar to the First Silk Pattern flags but made of bunting,
with true scarlet fields. Instead of yellow silk edging they were
made with orange flannel 1 inches wide; the orange rapidly became a
somewhat dirty tan in color after some time in the field. The
thirteenth star was added at the center of the cross, and the cotton
stars were smaller, only 3 inches in diameter. They were set 6
inches apart from the center of the cross. The fimbration was made
of inch wide cotton. The staff side was made with a 2-inch-wide
white canvas or linen heading with three whipped eyelets for ties.
These flags, often lacking any sort of designation such as
battle honors or unit designation, quickly became the standard Army
of Northern Virginia battle flag first issued to Longstreet's Right
Wing in May 1862. One of these unmarked flags, for example, was
carried by the 3rd Georgia Infantry throughout the war.
In the spring of 1862 the Depot slightly changed the colors
it had been issuing. The blue cross was now made only 5 inches wide.
The stars were also reduced in size, to 3 3/4 inches in diameter.
The so called Third Bunting Pattern flag appeared in late 1862, when
the orange borders were replaced with white 2-inch-wide bunting.
Source: "Flags of the American Civil War, 1: Confederate" By
Philip Katcher & Rick Scollins