CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA
 


 

BATTLE FLAGS OF THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
 

Images Added February 2011

3rd Arkansas Infantry • 4th North Carolina Infantry •  1st Virginia Infantry • 4th & 5th Texas Infantry
 

Notes
 

The battle flag adopted in late 1861 for Confederate troops in the Virginia theater was destined to gain fame as the most recognizable symbol of the Southern cause. It was designed by William P. Miles, an officer on the staff of General G.T. Beauregard. Experience had shown that the first Confederate States national flag, known as the Stars and Bars, was unsuitable for battlefield use because of its resemblance to the US Stars and Stripes. To remedy this problem, Beauregard suggested the creation of a "battle flag" specifically for army use, and after some discussion Miles' design was accepted.

The basic design of what became known as the Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag was a blue, white-bordered saltire cross on a red field. Placed on the arms of the cross were stars symbolizing the states of the Confederacy. The first prototypes, sewn by patriotic ladies of Richmond, Virginia, were made of silk, had gold stars, and were ornamented with fringe. Once the design was approved, the Confederate Army's Quartermaster General began purchasing silk for the new battle flags. which were actually produced by ladies' sewing circles.

To save materials, the new battle flag was to be made square. Originally, three sizes were specified: 48 inches square for the infantry, 36 inches square for the artillery, and 30 inches for the cavalry. The silk issues, however, were made in one size only—48 inches—and subsequent issues were often distributed to units without regard to size. In all, there were two silk issues, one cotton issue and seven bunting issues of the ANV Battle Flag.

Though the ANV Battle Flag was produced and issued in large numbers, it never completely replaced the flags of earlier patterns carried by various regiments, particularly those from the western states of the Confederacy. Some units of Hood's Texas Brigade, for example, continued to use battle flags based on the Texas state flag, the First National Flag, or privately produced flags based on the ANV pattern.

Credit: The text and drawings on this page are based on information from Devereaux Cannon's FOTC Flags of the Confederacy website.
 

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FIRST SILK ISSUE

SECOND SILK ISSUE

The Silk Issue flags were of two types: rose red field with 12 gold stars or pink field with 12 white stars, these color variations being due to a shortage of scarlet silk. The first type was made in two variants, one with gold fringe and one with a white silk border (illustrated). The second type had a blue sleeve for the staff and pale yellow silk binding around the three free sides of the flag. The materials were procured by the Quartermaster General's Department and the flags were produced by ladies' sewing circles. As noted above, Silk Issue flags were made in one size only: 48 inches square.

 

COTTON ISSUE

The 12-star Cotton Issue flags were produced as a stopgap measure when the supply of silk for flags gave out. They were made in one size only—42 inches square—and the material used was a cotton-wool blend usually employed for clothing. Due to a shortage of dyestuffs, the saltire cross was light blue. There was no white edging to the cross, and all four sides of the flag were bound with a narrow border of orange cotton. Like the Silk Issue flags, the Cotton Issue flags were made up by ladies' sewing circles. Only a limited number were produced before the Confederate Army's Richmond Clothing Depot began manufacturing battle flags made of bunting.

 

FIRST BUNTING ISSUE

 

SECOND BUNTING ISSUE

Having secured an adequate supply of wool bunting from various sources, including the former US Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, the Richmond Clothing Department began series production of battle flags in the spring of 1862. With the First and Second Bunting Issues, the ANV Battle Flag began to assume its classic appearance. For the first time, 13 stars appeared on the cross. These stars were usually made of polished cotton. It was common practice to apply them to one side of the flag only, with cutouts on the opposite side so that the stars would show through. The staff sleeve was white canvas and the three free sides of the flag were bound with orange bunting. The width of the cross was reduced for the Second Bunting issue to conserve material. Most of these flags were made 48 inches square; only a few in the smaller artillery and cavalry sizes are known to have been issued.

 

3rd ARKANSAS INFANTRY

 

4th NORTH CAROLINA INFANTRY

 

5th FLORIDA INFANTRY

The ANV Battle Flag was usually issued plain, with no additional markings, but unit designations and battle honors were often added. These could be embroidered, painted, or printed on cloth strips that were then sewn to the flag. Note how the unit designation of the 3rd Arkansas was applied to its First Bunting Issue flag in such a way as to cover the central star.

 

THIRD BUNTING ISSUE

 

FOURTH BUNTING ISSUE

For Third Bunting Issue flags, the binding was changed from orange to white; otherwise they resembled the Second Bunting Issue. Third and Fourth Bunting Issue flags were made in all three standard sizes, but they were not necessarily issued according to the original scheme. Some infantry units, for example, received 30-inch cavalry flags. The Fourth Bunting Issue and later issues differed from the Third Bunting issue in minor details only: the width of the white border, the width of the cross, the size and placement of the stars, etc.

 

42nd MISSISSIPPI INFANTRY

 

1st VIRGINIA INFANTRY

 

9th VIRGINIA INFANTRY

One popular method of adding a unit designation to the ANV Battle Flag was to place it around the central star. Another was to place it in the quadrants of the flag. In these examples, the unit designations and the battle honor have been painted on.

 

FIFTH BUNTING ISSUE

 

SIXTH BUNTING ISSUE

Fifth Bunting Issue flags were made in one size only and were slightly rectangular—usually about 48 inches at the hoist by 50 inches on the fly. The stars were equally spaced on the arms of the cross. Instead of a sleeve, eyelets were provided for securing the flag to its staff. Sixth Bunting Issue flags were made in one size only—48 inches square—with a narrower white border to the cross and stars placed similarly to flags of the Fourth Bunting Issue.

 

SEVENTH BUNTING ISSUE

The last ANV Battle Flags were issued in early 1865. Since they saw only a few months of service before the war ended, a relatively large number survive in good condition.

 

4th TEXAS INFANTRY

 

5th TEXAS INFANTRY

These two regiments formed part of Hood's Texas Brigade. Their flags—one based on the First National Flag, one based on the ANV Battle Flag—illustrate a characteristic feature of Texas Civil War flags: the enlarged central star symbolizing the Lone Star State. The battle honors on the flag of the 5th Texas date from the 1862 Peninsula campaign.

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