Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: fcj-931
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 21.25" x 25"
Flag Size (H x L): 7.75" x 12"
Small, handmade parade flag, made sometime close on the heels of the Civil War (1861-1865), between approximately 1870 and the 1880’s. The form is that of the First National flag of the Confederacy, also known as the “Stars & Bars.” Arranged in a circular wreath, the flag’s 7 stars commemorate the first 7 states to secede from the Union, in what is referred to as the initial wave of secession. Texas was the 7th of these, which also included, in order, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana. Each voted for secession and/or were accepted by the Confederate States of America (CSA) individually, but the selection of this number as the first group is hinged to the acceptance of the Provisional Constitution of the CSA on February 8th, 1861. This was actually adopted by delegates from 6 states (SC, MS, FL, AL, GA, and LA) on that day. Although the contingent of representatives from Texas didn’t arrive in time for the vote, their support was presumed. The Texas State Legislature had, in fact, approved secession on February 1st by an overwhelming majority of 166 to 7. The Constitution of the CSA was officially adopted by the Confederate Congress on March 11th and ratified on March 29th. By this time there had been a popular vote of the people in Texas, in favor of secession, ratifying the legislative vote, Jeff Davis had officially accepted the state, and Texas representatives had formally voted to ratify the CSA Constitution.

The first 7 Confederate States were followed by 4 others, individually, that also seceded by way of official, legislative means, including Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, plus the two Border States that did not, Missouri and Kentucky, but were nonetheless officially accepted by the Confederate Congress, for a grand total of 13. The necessary processes of numbers 8 through 11 were complete by July 2nd, 1861, and with numbers 12 and 13 added on November 28th and December 10th of that year. This count remained constant for the balance of the war.

The canton and bars of the flag are made of silk that has been pieced and joined with treadle stitching, then hemmed along both the hoist and fly ends in the same manner. Note the lustrous tomato/persimmon red taffeta, the visual qualities of which are almost iridescent. Tiny, sewn, Confederate flags like this, made during wartime, are often referred to as “Bible Flags.” This is a generalized term for what were effectively hand-made parade flags.

In the North, flag-makers had been printing these on fabric, in the form of the American national flag (the Stars & Stripes) since at least 1840, perhaps even a couple of years prior. Called “parade flags” or “hand-wavers,” these were tacked or glued to a staff, in order to be waved at parades and political events. In the South, however, there were no Confederate counterparts. Printed versions of the national flag of the CSA did not exist in any of its three successive designs (1st, 2nd, or 3rd national patterns), or in the form of the Southern Cross battle flags that were being carried by many Confederate units. Because of this fact, anything waved at a parade, or mustering of soldiers, etc., had to be hand-made. Sewn by mothers, daughters, wives, fiancées and other various admirers, these little flags were often displayed in one of the associated festivities, then gifted to departing soldiers, or mailed to them in the field. Recipients then carried them as keepsakes, often inserting them within a pocket Bible (folded if necessary), as this was one of the few safe places to keep such a delicate object among their sparse belongings.

After the war there few reasons for the South to celebrate, nor any excess of financial means to do so. The South was generally impoverished by the many costs of war, suffered not only by states, of course, but by bankrupted businesses and private households alike. In addition, the right of Confederate soldiers or supporters to organize was made illegal by Reconstruction and enforced by martial law. Few Confederate flags of any kind are seen until the 1880’s at the very earliest, when the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC, est. 1884) and the United Confederate Veterans (UCV, est. 1889) fraternal organizations were founded, and reunions began to take place to commemorate Confederate military service, as well as Southern patriotism in a more generalized sense.

This little flag, with its striking red color and beautiful luster, is one of those rare exceptions of Confederate flags made between the war itself and the 1880’s. I suspect that the reason for its manufacture, either at the home of a patriotic Southerner, or perhaps even in a small, cottage industry setting, was to glorify the recipient’s military service, or their participation in parades or reunions, as part of one of these organizations. Because there was little need for hand-made examples like this for long, as firms began to make printed flags in Confederate formats, to meet the demands of a growing market to display them, tiny, sewn, Confederate flags are extremely rare.

A Brief History of Confederate Flag Design:
For those unfamiliar with the history of Confederate flag, know that the most widely recognized pattern, with 13 stars upon St. Andrew's Cross (a.k.a., the Southern Cross), was not actually one of the three successive national flags of the Confederate States of America. In other words, the design known to most people as the Confederate flag, was not, to the Confederacy, what the American national flag was to the Union. Nor was it the flag commonly known as the "Stars & Bars," despite the fact that the Southern Cross prominently displayed both of these features.

The Stars & Bars was instead a nickname for the flag that is the subject of this narrative, with a blue canton and three stripes, termed “bars,” in red-white-red. Approved by the Confederate congress on March 4th, 1861, this initially bore 7 stars to reflect the 7 states that left the Union in the initial wave of secession, then 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, as more states followed. The count of 13 stars, present on this flag, includes the two border states of Kentucky and Missouri, which had split governments, but were determined to have a significant enough population in support of the Southern position, with commensurate strength and leadership. For this reason, the two states were accepted by the Confederacy in November and December of 1861.

Because it looked so much like the Stars & Stripes, use of the Stars & Bars on the same battlefield created great confusion. For this reason, the national design would eventually change. The second national Confederate flag was adopted on May 26th, 1863. Known as the Stainless Banner, it was white in color, with the Southern Cross (a.k.a. the Confederate Battle Flag) serving as its canton. Soldiers and officers alike disliked this design because it looked too much like a surrender flag, especially if a unit that was carrying it was headed straight at you and there was no cross wind. If given the opportunity, so the story goes, soldiers would dip the fly end of the flag 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 called the “blood stained banner”, but officially the red did not represent blood, but rather paid homage to the French, which lent aid to the South during the war. If one were to replace the first third portions of the Third Confederate national flag with a blue vertical bar, the result would be the French tri-color (the national flag of France).

Changes in the flag on the battlefield, for the most part, occurred far more quickly. General Joe Johnston became the first Confederate officer to approve a Southern Cross style flag for use by ground forces, in the Fall of 1861. The design would not become the battle flag of every unit. It would, however, go on to be carried by many units, with tons of variation, throughout all states in the Confederacy.

Johnson's approval followed the suggestion of General P.G.T. Beauregard, who complained to the 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 style Confederate battle flag at the field level.

Popularity of the Southern Cross came, in part, from it being carried by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It also earned widespread love in the South, because the second and third national designs were not particularly admired by Confederate soldiers, the second for reasons previously stated and the third because it was so short-lived.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in 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 incredible, fancy-grained, veneered molding—probably Brazilian mahogany, mesquite, or a similar hardwood, dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is moderate fading of the blue canton. There are minor to moderate vertical splits in both the canton and the white bar, with minor associated losses. There is very minor fabric loss along the hoist, and in the upper, hoist end corner, and along the top edge of the canton. There are a couple of tiny stains in the top red bar and in the bottom red bar in the extreme, bottom, fly end corner. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1870
Latest Date of Origin: 1890
State/Affiliation: The Confederacy
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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