Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 7.75" x 14.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 2.75" x 9"
This exceptional, Civil War period bookmark or bible flag has not one, but two images of the Confederate First National flag. Also known as the "Stars & Bars," this particular style is an early war version, with 7 stars to signify the initial wave of secession, when South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas left the Union together. The larger image makes up the body of the textile, executed in fine needlepoint on a ground of woven fabric mesh. The stars are in the form of a crosshatches, with an additional stitch in each vortex to create a starburst or snowflake-like design. These are beautifully visual, sewn with gold floss and punctuated by a white glass bead at the centermost point. The form tapers to a point at the fly end and it is interesting to note how the maker tapered the red needlework into the white to add bit of flare. The upper register of the textile is comprised of a crocheted fringe, but made in the form of a yet another Stars & Bars, perpendicular to the first, with 7 small, white glass beads as stars. The imaginative design is bold and artistically pleasurable, and pleasantly different from other Confederate textiles.

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.

Most Bible flags were pieced and sewn like a regular flag, though in miniature. They were often made of ladies’ dress silk or ribbon. A woman may have bought new fabric for the task, but if the maker was a girlfriend of fiancée, as opposed to a mother or sister, then she might use fabric clipped from her own dress a way to further personalize the gift.

In this case the maker took a different route all together, which is partly why this object is so interesting. Bible flags are found in all shapes and sizes, and with every star configuration imaginable, but most were small enough to fit in a small Bible and many were small enough to fit in a Civil War cover (a small 19th century envelope used for correspondence in that period) and could be mailed to a loved one in the field, perhaps with a single fold. There was no standard size, however, so they were sometimes larger. At 2.75" x 9", this one is larger than many and could not be easily folded because it is too thick and un-pliable. Despite the fact that only one layer of mesh was used, the image is executed on both sides with the same level of precision. Even the flag-style fringe is two-sided, with beads on both sides.

The Confederacy had three successive national designs. The First National looked much like the Stars & Stripes, with the 3 linear bars (the correct heraldic term) instead of 13 "stripes" and white stars arranged on a blue canton. 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, if given the opportunity, they would dip the end in blood.

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 that we are so familiar with today 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 very unusual gilded molding is ca 1830-1860, with a double-beveled outer edge, followed by a flat section and a coved inner lip. The textile has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash for further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is minor mothing on either side, exposing the inner mesh.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 07
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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