|15-STAR CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG OF GENERAL LLOYD TILGHMAN, WHO LED THE 3RD KENTUCKY INFANTRY, CO. D; CAPTURED & EXCHANGED FOR UNION GENERAL JOHN REYNOLDS IN 1862; DEFEATED GRANT AT COFFEYVILLE, KANSAS WITH RELEASED PRISONERS; KILLED AT VICKSBURG IN 1863, WHEN STRUCK IN THE CHEST BY A CANNONBALL; ONE OF ONLY FOUR FLAGS KNOWN IN THIS RARE STAR COUNT ACROSS ALL EXAMPLES; THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SOUTHERN CROSS BATTLE FLAG I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN PRIVATE HANDS
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 49" x 51"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|37" x 39"
|Of all the types of early American flags, Confederate battle flags in the Army of Northern Virginia / Southern Cross format have become the most desirable artifacts. Their collective value is driven by a combination of their limited window of production, age, interest in Civil War-period relics, and a keen dose of Southern patriotism. Across surviving examples there are many varieties. As with most antiques, the best are the most unusual, the most beautiful, and the most historic.
Because the homemade, personal battle flag of Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman (b. 1816, d. 1863) scores high in all of these aspects, it falls among the best of those that have been carefully stewarded into the 21st century by caring hands. The flag survives as one of very few homemade battle flags belonging to Confederate Generals. This makes it particularly extraordinary and it is a wonder that the flag survives in private hands. The count of 15 stars makes it especially rare.
Most documented flags in this format contain 13 stars, recognizing the 11 states that officially seceded by way of popular vote, followed by ratification in the respective state governments, plus Missouri and Kentucky, which were accepted by Confederate President Jefferson Davis despite divided views among its populous and less official achievement of secession. A less significant number of such flags contain 12 stars, excluding Kentucky, which was the last of the list to be added.
Only three other Confederate battle flag exist with 15 stars in the Southern Cross style. One such example is the flag of Georgia's Fowler Guard, 42nd Infantry, Co. D, which I was privileged to have previously owned. The remaining two include the flag of the 50th Tennessee Infantry, held by the Tennessee State Museum, and a recently discovered flag of the 7th Texas Infantry.
The count of 15 stars incorporates all of the Slave States, adding the Border States of Maryland and Delaware to the 13 others represented on most flags. Two Confederate 1st National pattern flags are known with 15 stars. None are known in the 2nd or 3rd National varieties (the latter of which effectively wasn't produced at all because it was adopted just 36 days before the war's end). Only one of the above is documented in a text on the subject. A sketch of the 1st National pattern flag carried by the 26th Tennessee Volunteers appears in "The Battle Flag of the Confederate Army of Tennessee" by Howard Michael Madaus and Robert Needham (Milwaukee Public Museum, 1976), p. 129.
The stunning, hand-sewn flag of General Tilghman is made entirely of silk, constructed with great care, and can easily be placed among the very best that I have seen in terms of visual presentation. Chief among its design elements are the blue satin, picot-edged ribbon used to create St. Andrew's Cross (on the obverse side) and the extraordinary, hand-knotted, lattice-work fringe. Handed down though the Tilghman family, it survives in especially fine condition for a silk flag of the period. The colors are especially rich and the stitchery is unusual, executed in a style that has both a decorative and utilitarian element, which is unusual in flag-making.
Lloyd Tilghman was born near Claiborne, Maryland in 1816 and to a family of long military and patriotic tradition. He was a 7th generation Marylander, descending from one of the state's earliest settlers. He was the great-grandson of Judge Matthew Tilghman (1718-1790), who was at the forefront of political revolution in the state.
Matthew Tilghman was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1751 and served until the colony became a state. He became Speaker of the House from 1773-75 and from 1774-76 he effectively led the Revolution in Maryland as Chairman of the Committee of Safety and head of the Maryland delegation to the Continental Congress. He also served as President of the Annapolis Convention and headed the committee that drafted the "Charter of Rights and Plan of Government" that was Maryland's first constitution. When the new state government was formed in 1776, Matthew Tilghman was elected to the state Senate, serving until 1783, including the last three of those as Senate President.
Lloyd Tilghman was an Army officer and engineer trained at West Point (Class of 1836). He worked as chief engineer for many railroads and in-between saw service in the Mexican War. His work eventually led him to Paducah, Kentucky, where he became an official resident of the state in 1852. He became an officer in the Kentucky State Guard in 1860 and quickly rose to Commander of the Western Division. When the war broke out in 1861, his decision to join the Northern or Southern cause was thought to have likely been a difficult one, but when Union forces invaded Kentucky against the will of its people to remain neutral, his mind was made up by his witness to the event and Tilghman took his unit into Confederate service as the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, Company D, on July 5th. On October 18th he was promoted to Brigadier General.
Tilghman was tasked with the refurbishing and reinforcement of Forts Henry and Donelson, which he worked skillfully and diligently to defend. He was impeded by thousands of ill-equip men, at least 2,000 of which remained unarmed when Union forces attacked. He was subsequently captured at Fort Henry (Feb. 6, 1862) before being imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor for a period of six months. On August 15th, 1862, he was exchanged for Union General John Reynolds.
Tilghman was given command of the men exchanged during his release. He went on to successfully defeat general Grant's forces at Coffeyville on December 5th, but it was Grant's Army that would bring his life to an end nine months later. On May 16th, 1863, he was killed in action during the Vicksburg Campaign at the Battle of Champion Hill, when he was struck in the chest by a cannon ball.
Today Tilghman's former home in Paducah serves as a Civil War museum, the local high school bears his name, and there are monuments with his likeness at both Paducah and on the Vicksburg Battlefield. The Vicksburg statue displays the General in a particularly robust posture, standing before his horse, back slightly arched and with both arms raised vigilantly skyward, drawn sword in one hand and reins in the other. A book entitled "Lloyd Tilghman, Confederate General in the Western Theater", by Brian Bush, was published by Acclaim Press (Morley, MO) in 2006 and accompanies the flag.
Other important documents include a notarized letter that briefly explains provenance, signed by Richard Tilghman, a direct descendent and namesake of the original Tilghman that settled Maryland in 1660. Also included is a full report and textile analysis by Fonda Thomsen, widely thought to be the leading authority in antique flags from a textile identification perspective.
In summary, the stunningly beautiful presentation that results from the silk fabrics and fringe of this unusual flag, enhance its already strong desirability among the few known to have belonged to Confederate Army Generals. The fact that there are only four known Southern Cross battle flags with 15 stars is of great significance and enhances both its Maryland and Kentucky relationships. The fact that Maryland is included makes perfect sense in light of Tilghman family history and lends an interesting opportunity for a person interested in Civil War, Confederate objects related to that state. This is an especially interesting feature because so few Maryland-relationship flags survive of any kind. And the fact that Tilghman was so grandly killed at such a memorable battle completes the package. All-in-all, the result is one of the best Confederate flags that a Civil War collector might acquire.
Construction: The red ground is made of silk sateen. The blue cross on the obverse side is made of blue satin ribbon with a decorative edge, while on the obverse is made of appliqued lengths of another variety of blue silk. The stars are made of ribbed white silk and double-appliqued (applied to both sides). Silk is seldom ever used in the making of appliqued stars and its presence here is especially interesting. Both the stars and the fabric used to applique the blue cross to the reverse were affixed with a looping blanket stitch. On the obverse a backstitch technique, unusual in flag-making, was employed to affix the blue ribbon. A length of woolen tape used to reinforce the hoist is the only fabric that is not silk. Three pairs of silk ties were used to affix the flag to a staff, only one of which remains. The knotted silk fringe is one of the most elaborate that I have ever encountered on an early flag. All of the thread used in the construction is silk, save that used to apply the pairs of ties along the hoist, which is 2/2 ply, S-twist cotton.
Mounting: Price of the flag includes conservation and framing in one of our best moldings.
Condition: The flag is intact as originally constructed save one repair in the top corner of the hoist end. There is minor dye bleed of the red into the white silk and the fringe. There is minor splitting with associated loss. Two of the pairs of silk ties are largely absent. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag is in an excellent state of presentation for a silk Confederate Battle Flag of this period and it's rarity and desirability well warrants such minor condition issues.
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