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CONFEDERATE SOUTHERN CROSS “BATTLE FLAG”, AN UNUSUAL AND GRAPHICALLY PLEASING EXAMPLE, MADE OF SATIN SILK AND DATING TO THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1890 AND 1920

Web ID: fcj-896
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 40" x 45.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 29.25" x 34"
 
Description:
Southern Cross format Confederate “Battle Flag”, with especially pleasant graphics and patina. Made sometime between 1890 and the 19-teens, the body of the flag is is constructed of satin silk, as are the 13 stars, which are double appliquéd (applied to both sides). A gold fringe, made of either silk or cotton sateen floss, is applied to three sides, and there is an open sleeve along the hoist, through which a wooden staff would be passed and tacked into place. All of the piecework, appliqué and binding were accomplished with lineal, treadle stitching.

The flag was almost certainly made for use by a veteran's unit, perhaps for parade and ceremonial use, possibly to replace a flank-marker lost by the unit during wartime or that afterward became too fragile to be carried.

The flag is unusual in that it does not appear to have been commercially produced. The United Confederate Veterans (UCV), which formed in 1889, served as the primary post-war organization for Confederate soldiers and there were plenty of flag-makers that supplied reunion materials to UCV posts, but the characteristics of this flag are homemade and I would not expect to encounter another in this variety.

Despite the fact that there were many makers, few pieced-and-sewn, battle flag-style Confederate flags can be found that date to this era. Extremely small is scale, this is one of the most easily displayable examples that I have encountered. Extensively flown, fading and water staining have led to an endearingly beautiful presentation. The red has beautifully faded to a persimmon orange hue and the overall textile has great, early patina.

Brief History of Confederate Flag Design:
The Confederacy had three successive national designs, known as the first, second, and third Confederate national flags. The original looked much like the Stars & Stripes. It consisted of 7 white stars arranged in a blue canton, and three linear stripes instead of thirteen (2 red with 1 white in-between). The star count was updated with the secession of additional states and/or the admission of border states by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This is the flag known as the "Stars & Bars." Because they were so alike, use of the Stars & Stripes and the Stars & Bars on the same battlefield created great confusion. For this reason, the Second National Confederate flag was adopted on May 26th, 1863. It was white in color, with the Southern Cross (the Confederate battle flag) serving as its canton. Soldiers and officers alike disliked this design because it looked too much like a surrender flag, and, so the story goes, if given the opportunity, would dip the end in blood to provide color.

36 days before the war’s end a red vertical bar was added at the fly end and the result became the third national design. This was the “blood stained banner”, but officially it did not represent blood, but rather paid homage to the French, who lent aid to the South during the war. Note how if you were to replace the first third of the flag with a blue vertical bar, the result would be the French tri-color, the national flag of France.

The Southern Cross battle flag, or the "Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia," as it is often called, was put into use more quickly than the adoption of the Second National Confederate design and was carried simultaneously by various Confederate units for the remainder of the war. The purpose was the same. It was a better signal, being distinctly different than the Stars & Stripes, but many people are surprised to learn that the Southern Cross, by itself, was not the national flag of the Confederate States of America. Officially, in rectangular format, it served as the Confederate Navy Jack. In square format it came to be called “the battle flag”, partly because it was carried in this format, for that purpose, by Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, as well as by Beauregard’s Army and others. It also received widespread love in the South because it was Lee's flag, and because the second and third national designs were not particularly admired by Confederate soldiers, the second for reasons previously stated and the third because the design was so short-lived.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a cove-shaped molding with a rope style inner lip and very dark brown, nearly black surface with reddish highlights, to which a hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is significant water staining and fading throughout. There is wear in each corner from extensive use, with some holes and associated fabric loss at the top of the hoist end and the top and bottom of the fly end. There is modest loss in the gold fringe. Many of my clients actually prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
   
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1890
Latest Date of Origin: 1920
State/Affiliation: The Confederacy
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
Nautical:
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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