Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 7" x 10"
Flag Size (H x L): 1.75" x 4.25"
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 of this sort safe, with limited places to do so, and because it sometimes doubled as a bookmark.

Made of silk, this example, in the First National format (a.k.a. the Star & Bars), displays 13 stars arranged in the form of a saltire, to mimic the pattern found on Southern Cross style battle flags. In spite of the fact that this might seem to be an extremely logical way to configure the stars on a Confederate flag of any sort, this was not the case with the First National flag of the Confederacy. Because one design actually replaced the other on the battlefield, for many Southern regiments, the Southern Cross star configuration is extremely rare on flags in the Stars & Bars pattern.

Most First National pattern flags displayed stars in a circular formation, usually with a single, center star, though all manner of configurations can be encountered. With white stars in a blue canton, like the American national flag, and 3 horizontal stripes (bars), alternating red-white-red, the First National Confederate flag looked a lot like the Stars & Stripes, a fact that only became more problematic amidst the black powder smoke of Civil War battlefields. With troops sometimes firing on their own men, incorrectly identifying signals, the Southern Cross battle flag was introduced by Generals Joe Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, in the fall of 1861. Though Jeff Davis and the Confederate legislature turned down their request to adopt the new flag, Johnston approved it at the field level for use by the Army of Northern Virginia. The design soon spread throughout other armies of the South.

Even so, the First National / Stars & Bars continued to be carried throughout the war by a wide range of Confederate units in every state. Across full-sized, pieced-and-sewn flags in the First National pattern, just one example is known to survive with a saltire of stars, a fact that speaks volumes to the rarity of its use. Of unknown origin, that flag is among the present holdings of the State Historical Society of Iowa. With 7 stars, to reflect the first wave of secession, it is reported to have been captured at Cairo, Missouri. Among Confederate Bible flags in variations of the First National design—which accounts for practically all of them, with just a tiny handful in other forms—only two other war-period examples have been identified with a saltire star arrangement. Like the flag that is the subject of this narrative, all are believed to be of Louisiana origin. Like this flag, one of the two others features verbiage, in French, in the white bar. Both of the others are institutionalized. One, found in the scrapbook of Lizzie and Mary Ann Lane of Louisiana, survives in the collection of the American Civil War Museum [formerly known as the “Museum of the Confederacy”] in Richmond, Virginia, which most vexillologists have long considered to be the top repository of Southern flags. The other, in the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum, is inscribed "This Confederate flag was present at the birth of Anatole. New Orleans; Friday, January 8, 1864. He was born during the war."

The stars of the flag that is the subject of this narrative are made of gilt paper foil with a textured surface. Almost too large for the available space, the points of each are carefully sewn down with extraordinarily tiny hand stitches. The result is incredibly beautiful, and at the same time endearing. The body of the flag was constructed in a somewhat unusual fashion, in that the red bars are made of horizontal lengths of silk ribbon, folded over the top and bottom, to encapsulate the length of white silk ribbon in-between. This was done in such a way as to leave just the right amount of white showing to form the center bar. The selvedge edges were then sewn with extremely tiny stitches, and the hoist end carefully hemmed. The fly end was left rough intentionally, and filaments of both the red and white were pulled so as to resemble fringe. Pulled work of this sort is common on Confederate Bible flags. The blue canton is made of a single length of silk, folded over the top, folded under along the bottom and hoist ends, on both the obverse and the reverse. A selvedge edge meets the bars along the fly end side only. All of the necessary stitching was done by hand. The stars appear only on the obverse, which is not at all unusual in Bible flags.

In the white bar, the French phrase: “Glorie et Liberte” (Glory & Liberty) was embroidered in white silk thread. This is accompanied by the humorous sentiment “Victory or slight wounds” penciled above and below. On the back of the flag, “This is French” was also inscribed, denoting the language of the embroidered text.

A four-page, hand-written letter, dated October 10th, 1863, accompanies the flag, written by New Orleans native “Annie” to an unknown friend, probably a soldier. There is little doubt that both the flag and letter are of the Acadian deep south of Louisiana. In the letter, Annie expresses how much she misses an unknown Confederate soldier, and that she and her father have been trying to get a pass to Vicksburg from General Grant. A touching sentiment at the close of the letter reads: “If you should be killed, your last moments would be happy ones, your last thoughts of me would not be tinged with the least unforgiving feeling - I should not be the one whose unkindness had driven you to seek that death.” I suspect that Annie is the maker of the flag, which is why the flag and letter were kept together. Although the Second National Confederate flag had been adopted by that year, the star count of 13 and the star formation would both be well-known by that time.

It is of interest to note that if the red fabric were removed, leaving just the white length of ribbon to become the entire field, the design would be the Second National pattern, with the Southern Cross serving as the canton (minus the red Cross of St. Andrew and white fimbriation). Though one can be fairly certain that this was never considered by the maker, the fact that the red fabric was applied over the white—instead of being 3 individually pieced bars, in red-white-red, does make for an interesting curiosity.

Whatever the case may be, the Southern Cross star configuration make this one of the rarest and best Bible flags known to survive in private hands.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The American, ripple profile molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. To this a mid-19th century gilded molding, with a bowed profile, was added as a liner. This is a pressure mount between crystal clear, U.V. protective, museum acrylic (Plexiglas) and 100% cotton twill. The black fabric was washed and treated for colorfastness.

Condition: Excellent.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: The Confederacy
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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