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  EXTRAORDINARY CONFEDERATE BIBLE FLAG OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM M. HARRIS OF VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI, WHO SERVED ON THE STAFF OF HIS BROTHER, GENERAL NATHANIEL H. HARRIS, IN HARRIS'S BRIGADE, WITH A LARGE SCRAPBOOK OF ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOS

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 11.5" x 13.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 4.5" x 7" including ribbon and fringe
Description....:
Confederate First national format (a.k.a., Stars & Bars) Bible flag, made of silk and entirely hand-sewn by the wife of Captain William M. Harris of Vicksburg, Mississippi, who served on the staff of Harris's Brigade under his venerable brother, General Nathaniel Harrison Harris, one of the great heros of the South. The flag is accompanied by an 1873 patent-dated scrap book containing an expansive collection of articles, letters, and records that reference both men. The flag was affixed in the book. underneath it was a hand-signed note that reads:

"Presented to me by my wife when I left for the Army-- 1861 W.M. Harris".

Bible flags are tiny flags made for a soldier by a loved one, to be presented as a token of pride and affection when he went away to war. They received this name because they were typically carried in a Bible, both because this was the safest place that a soldier might keep a flat, treasured object on his person with limited places to do so, and because it sometimes doubled as a bookmark.

Bible flags were most often made of ladies’ dress silk or dress ribbon. A woman might use new fabric, but if the maker was a girlfriend or fiancée, as opposed to a mother or sister, then she might use fabric clipped from her own dress a way to further personalize the flag. The colors of a First national pattern flag included a blue canton and white stars, set in the upper hoist end corner, and a field of three bars, red-white-red. Due to the lack of red silk in the average household, and the likelihood of some pink silk among a woman’s effects, pink was often substituted. That was most certainly the case here, where a length of pink ribbon with a decorative edge was used for the center bar.

The flag has remarkably beautiful and interesting construction, which leads to beautiful graphic qualities. In addition to the pink ribbon, take particular note of the 12 stars that were made by sewing star-shaped, bullion metal sequins to a canton made from overlapped pieces of sky blue ribbon. Lengths of extraordinary hand-made lace were tacked around the appropriate three sides of the perimeter. The white bars are made from a more fanciful style of white ribbon, with decorative, embroidered leaves and a scalloped edge, some of which was clipped to be used as a binding of sorts at the fly and hoist ends. Two bows, one blue and one pink, were sewn to the hoist, and it is possible that the flag was at some point tacked to a little staff, though it's just as likely that these served merely as decoration.

Bible flags are found in all shapes and sizes, and with every star configuration imaginable, but most are small enough to fit in a small Bible. Many were small enough to fit in a Civil War cover (a small 19th century envelope used for correspondence in that period) and were mailed to a loved one in the field. There was no standard size, however, and sometimes they were larger.

This small flag is larger than a cover. It's configuration of stars is basically random. The use of 12 stars may parallel the use of 12 stars on the Confederate battle flags carried by Beauregard's Army from September through November of 1861 and maybe afterwards. By this time 11 states had officially seceded. The 12th star was added for Missouri, the population of which voted in favor of secession on October 31st, 1861. The Missouri state government didn't ratify the vote, so Missouri never officially seceded, but it did end up with two state governmental bodies, one Union and one Confederate, and thus remained torn throughout the war. On November 20th it was joined by Kentucky under similar circumstances and a 13th star was afterwards added to most Confederate battle flags.

Extensive records of William Harris's military service proved difficult to find. Though he is listed as a member of his brother's staff from January to July of 1864 in a history of the 19th Mississippi Infantry, earlier accounts of his service are unclear. He is listed in the American Civil War Research Database as "W M Harris", attached to Company C of the 19th, but with an enlistment date as "unknown". This is not unusual, as Confederate records of military service do not remain as intact as those of the Union Army, which obviously did not dissolve in the mid-19th century or afterwards. Spectacularly, however, a total of no less than 5 newspaper clippings with various length obituaries are included in the Harris scrapbook. One of these states that he "served on the staff of his brother, the late General N. H. Harris, a commander and hero." A clipped photo of Harris is also included.

Another obituary describes William H. Harris as "a brave and gallant officer who followed the tattered flag of the Confederacy until the loyal hosts of Lee laid aside the harsh implements of war for the things that gave meaning to the words: "Let us have peace". The author (unknown), continues by saying: "He was a master in the arts of war, and rapidly went to the places of honor. He was a lover of peace, and with the same undaunted courage which had distinguished him in battle, he took up the task of rebuilding anew the things that war had wiped away." Harris's daughter, Mrs. L. C. Dulaney, married Colonel L.C. Dulaney of Virginia, a future Mississippi State Senator, at whose home Harris died of "Bright's Disease", a kidney disorder.

The 19th Mississippi officially mustered into service on June 11th, 1861. It served throughout the war, mostly as part of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. At the time of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, the 19th was present as part of Harris' Brigade, the namesake of which was his brother, Nathaniel, who had a originally enlisted in Company C (the same unit as William) on April 16th, 1861, just 4 days following the attack on Ft. Sumter. The hand-written note underneath the flag indicated that the date William enlisted was 1861. Given the information at hand, it can probably be assumed that both men enlisted on the same day. Nathaniel mustered out at Appomattox and it can be logically be presumed that William was likewise present at the historic event.

Among the documents and photos included in the scrapbook are the following items:

• (5) William M. Harris obituaries

• A clipped photo of Harris

• Three of Nathaniel Harris's original military promotions signed by Secretaries of War George W. Randolph (1862) and James A. Seddon (1862-1865)

• Many war-period, clipped, newspaper articles about General Nathaniel H. Harris, as well as his obituaries.

• An 1878 printed roster of the 19th Mississippi with various dates of leadership and service.

• (2) hand-written receipts for the purchase of slaves that were apparently purchased by ancestors of the Harris family, one dated 1835 and the other 1837.

• A 1916 hand-written letter by William O. Harris, son of Nathaniel and namesake of William M. The letter is to his father, informing his that he had enlisted in the National Guard and was soon expected to ship off to war. There is also a newspaper clipping about his WWI service and two clipped photos.

• Many other items of interest.

Mounting: The black-painted frame retains its original surface and is a very early example, dating to the period between 1800 and 1850. This is a sandwich mount between 100% cotton and U.V. protective acrylic. The background fabric has been washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose.

Condition: The portion of the fringe that was once at the fly end is partially absent. There is minor breakdown of the fringe near the top of the hoist end. There is very light staining and minor fading. There are a couple of holes from pins used to affix the flag to the scrapbook.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: Other
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: The Confederacy
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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