Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 12.75" x 15"
Flag Size (H x L): 5.75" x 8"
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.

This example, in the First National format (a.k.a., Stars & Bars), is made of silk and entirely hand-sewn. Note that there are 8 stars in the blue canton of this example, instead of the expected 7, 11, or 13 seen on most flags in the Stars & Bars design.

Although each state voted to secede on different days, 7 are considered to have left the Union together on February 8th, 1861, in what was known as the “initial wave of secession.” This was the day that the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America (CSA) was adopted at the first secessionist convention in Mobile, Alabama. In actuality, it was accepted by just 6 of the 7 states, as delegates from Texas were not yet present. The first delegate from Texas took his seat on February 15th, followed by another on February 19th, then 5 more on March 2nd. While the CSA is said to have formally admitted Texas on March 2nd, the state was automatically included in the first round, probably because the percentage support of its February 1st decision was second only to that of South Carolina.

The Stars & Bars was adopted as the first of three official designs for the Confederate national flag on March 4th, 1861, a day that coincided with Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. The original configuration had 7 stars in a circular wreath. Forty-four days later, on April 17th, delegates to the secession convention for the Commonwealth of Virginia voted of 88 in favor versus 55 opposed. In some states, it was necessary that a vote of such delegates be followed by a popular vote of the people. In Virginia, this took place on May 23rd. Though the official count of votes was 132,201 in favor versus 37,451 opposed, the ballots of pro-Union counties were conveniently "lost."

On May 6th, a vote for secession was placed before delegates in the State of Arkansas. Here it was approved by 69 to 1, with 9 delegates absent. On the same day, by a vote of 55 to 15, the decision was made to forego a popular vote within the state. Sonn after, on May 20th, North Carolina’s delegates voted unanimously to approve secession, and declared there would be no popular vote (also apparently unanimous).

8 Virginia – April 17th, 1861 (88 to 55 in favor of secession)
9 Arkansas – May 6th, 1861 (69 to 1 in favor of secession, 9 delegates not present)
10 Tennessee – May 6th, 1861 (66 to 25 in favor of secession, the vote coming after the vote of Arkansas)

8 Arkansas – none (state representatives voted 55 to 15 against a popular vote on May 6th)
9 North Carolina – none (state legislature declared there would be no popular vote– apparently unanimous–on May 20th)
10 Virginia* – May 23rd (132,201 to 37,451 in favor of secession, ballots of pro-Union counties conveniently "lost")

Despite the fact that Virginia does not technically consider itself as having seceded for another 3 days, when its own popular vote occurred, practically all literary sources cite Virginia as being the 8th state to secede, with an assigned date of April 17th. The fact that there was also an official list of dates upon which the CSA admitted states probably bears some weight here also. In that regard, Virginia is the 8th as well, with admission date of May 7th, 1861.

8 Virginia – May 7th, 1861 (accepted)
9 Arkansas – May 18th, 1861 (accepted)
10 North Carolina – May 20th, 1861 (accepted)

In any event, there was so little time between the secession of the 8th, 9th, and 10th states, that very few first national pattern flags have any of these three counts. A much longer term followed after the 11th state.

This particular 8 star Bible flag was discovered in 1962 by antiques dealer Alec Thomas, amid Civil War memoirs and other personal effects, during a chance attic cleanup in Mahopac, New York. The contents of that fortunate discovery were all traceable to one Alfred Bellard, a youthful enlistee who mustered in with the 5th New Jersey Volunteers in August of 1861, for a 3-year term of service. The Bellard memoirs so fascinated Thomas that he researched and organized the material for publication under the tile Gone for a Soldier (Little Brown, 1975) with a 6-page excerpt also published in American Heritage in August of the same year. The book, edited by David Herbert Donald, would become a Civil War classic. Thomas retained the Bible flag until 1982, when he sold it to a Maryland collector. Bellard’s memoirs cite an incident in which a “small rebel flag” was confiscated from a defiant woman in Virginia. The words "Rebel" and "Rebel Flag," faintly inscribed in the white bar, are similar in style to other hand-written notations made by Bellard in his own hand.

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 fiancé, as opposed to a mother or sister, then she might use fabric clipped from her own dress a way to further personalize the gift. 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, so they were sometimes larger. This particular example is larger than most, which also makes it more interesting.

The colors of a First national pattern flag included a blue canton and white stars (though sometimes gilded or gold), 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, as-is the case here.

The stars of this example were executed in needlepoint embroidery, with simple, linear stitches, so that they appear like the rowels of a spur. Arranged in a wreath of 7, with a star in the very center, note how their crude format on such a tiny, square canton, adds substantial folk quality to the homemade design. The bars are made of silk ribbon. This was a popular choice with Bible flags. Due to their small size, it was much more practical to seam lengths of ribbon with finished (selvedge) edges than it was to make French seams with clipped pieces of silk broadcloth.

One-sided, as many Bible flags were, the plain weave silk canton appears in the upper right, so that the flag is backwards-facing compared to what one would expect today. In actuality, display of American flags with the canton in the upper left did not enter the American consciousness as the one correct manner of presentation until sometime around the year 1900, and was not formally dictated as such until the flag code was adopted in 1923. In the 19th century (and prior), it was just as common to see flags displayed with the canton on the right.

Brief History of Confederate Flag Design:

For those unfamiliar with the history of the various designs of Confederate flag, know that this particular design, with St. Andrew’s Cross and 13 stars, was not actually one of the three successive national flags of the Confederate States of America. Known also that the Southern Cross "battle flag" is not the flag commonly known as the "Stars & Bars." Despite the fact that it prominently displays both of these features, that was the nickname of the First National Flag of the Confederacy, which initially had three horizontal stripes (in this case called “bars”, in red, white red) and 7 white stars on a blue canton.

The First National Confederate Flag was so similar to the Stars & Stripes that it led to great confusion on battlefields, laden with the smoke of black powder. For this reason, the Second National Confederate design was adopted on May 26th, 1863. Nicknamed the “Stainless Banner,” this was white in color, with the Southern Cross serving as the canton in place of the blue field with stars. Soldiers and officers disliked this design, because it looked too much like a surrender flag, and, if given the opportunity--or so the story goes--would dip the end in blood. 36 days before the war’s end a red vertical bar was added at the fly end to create a third national pattern. Officially this paid homage to French, who lent aid to the South during the war, noting that if one were to take the Third National pattern and add a blue vertical bar at the fly end, replacing the Southern Cross and the white field below it, the result would be the national flag of France.

General Joe Johnston became the first Confederate officer to approve what would become generically known as the "Confederate Battle Flag" in the fall of 1861. The term is misleading, because it was not the battle flag of every unit. It was, however, carried by many units, with much variation, and by some within all Confederate States. Johnson's approval followed the suggestion of General P.G.T. Beauregard, who complained to Confederate government that the First Confederate National Flag, (a.k.a., the Stars & Bars,) looked too much like the Stars & Stripes. Beauregard's request was denied, but after conferring with Johnston and General G.W. Smith, Johnston approved use of the Southern Cross as the Confederate battle flag at the field level. It was Johnston's own orders that led to the manufacture of the first silk examples, in 1861, sewn by ladies in Richmond, for use by the Army of the Potomac, and then to the flags made for General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia battle flags, issued in 1862.

Today many people are unaware that the most publicized flag of the Confederacy was never actually its national flag, though it did become part of the Second and Third National designs, approved in 1863 and 1865, respectively.

Mounting: The black-painted frame dates to the period between the late 18th century and 1830 and has outstanding surface. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% hemp fabric. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is significant soiling and fading throughout, but part of the reason that the flag's presentation is so wonderfully endearing is due to this fact. There are minor to moderate splits in the white bar. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use, while the rarity and desirability of Bible flags warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 08
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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