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Eleven Star Confederate First National Flag with 'Artillery'

À propos de l'objet

This information was provided by Gregory G. Biggs, a military and Civil War flags historian who has worked with several museums including the Museum of the Confederacy and the National Civil War Museum as well as the Civil War Trust. The following is mostly verbatim from his report with some minor changes for space and formatting: A most interesting First National flag bearing eleven stars and the word “Artillery” on the white bar is currently being offered for sale. This flag has been in a prominent collection but so far has defied attempts at its identification. There are not many Confederate First National artillery flags in existence to date which will certainly add to the value of this banner. The First National Flag: After the secession of the first seven states, which became independent republics, they met in Montgomery, Alabama in February, 1861 to form a new nation, the Confederate States of America. Being a republic, the new government formed a Congress and selected a president. The Congress then spent its time creating government departments and all of the things needed to run the government but one of the first things they created was the Committee on Flag and Seal. They realized that the new nation had to have a flag to represent it among the nations of the world. William Porcher Miles, one of the Fire Eaters of South Carolina, was selected to chair the committee probably due to his expertise in heraldry. The rest of the committee consisted of men from the other six states that had seceded. The committee then asked for designs for the flag to be sent to them to help them choose the new flag. The influence of the Stars and Stripes flag of the United States was powerful in many of the submissions they received which, in fact, was the majority of the submissions. The next level featured the Cross of St. George (+) which reflected the mostly English heritage of the South. Several of these designs came from South Carolina and they brought about resistance from two religious groups. First, the prominent Jewish community of Charleston, led by Charles Moise, wrote that they could not support the flag as it had a Christian basis. A fundamentalist Christian sect also wrote and explained that they could not support this design as it was an abuse of the symbol of their church. While Miles also supported the designs with the Cross of St. George, he did not want to alienate anyone in the new Confederacy so, calling on his own heraldry expertise, he took this design and simply tilted it on its side which replicated the well known Saltier of Heraldry – (X).This was also called the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland which was also the symbol used on the flag of that nation. In fact, there was no connection with Miles and the post-war myth of the St. Andrew’s Cross having anything to do with alleged Celtic/Scottish or St. Andrew’s crucifixion on a cross of that style whatsoever. Miles, writing at the time, stated that his designs solved any religious problems and that it had nothing to do with any religion at all. He also stated that it was an ancient device going back to the Greeks if not earlier. Miles’ submission, then bearing only seven stars, was rejected by the committee for being asymmetrical. One member of the congress derisively called it, “a pair of blue suspenders.” The design would come back later in 1861, with four more stars, and become the most well known flag of the Confederacy. The committee also received designs that Miles called, “fantastical” that would not be conducive to mass production. The committee narrowed their choices down to four and had the deadline of March 4, 1861, facing them to have their new flag created and flying by that time. This was when Abraham Lincoln was being sworn in as President of the United States so there was an intense need to have the new flag flying by then as a response. Ultimately, the committee chose a flag that they themselves designed although a number of submissions were similar. They stayed with the red, white and blue color scheme, typical for flags of a republic and created a flag with three horizontal bars – one red, over a white bar and under that another red bar. There was a blue canton bearing seven stars for each state that had seceded. The committee submitted the flag to the congress with a report by Miles going into the details of the various submissions and why they selected the flag they did. With that taken care of, and without an actual flag act by the Congress, a model of the new flag was sent to Montgomery sewing machine dealer George Cowles who quickly sewed an example. Returned to the Alabama capitol building, then being used by the Confederate government, it was hoisted with much fanfare on the flag pole by Letetia Tyler, grand-daughter of former President John Tyler. Telegraphers spread the news across the Confederacy and examples of the new flag were flying in several of these states within 24 hours as newspapers North and South also spread the design. Thus was born the First National flag of the Confederacy. Years after the war, two claimants came forward stating that either Nicola Marschall of Alabama or Orren Randolph Smith of North Carolina designed the flag. The National Archives holds the Flag Committee’s scrapbook of flag models, drawings and correspondence. Neither name can be found in this book. Miles stated, at the time of adoption, that none of the submissions were suitable and the flag was designed by the committee. Period newspapers also reported this fact. The First National flag was not only used for a political flag of the Confederacy, flying over government buildings and forts, but it was also used as the first battle flag for the Confederate Army and Navy. In fact, despite being replaced by numerous battle flag patterns during the war, the First National saw service throughout the war with examples being taken at battles and surrenders through 1865. The first flags bore seven stars for the first seven states to secede, in order; South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. After the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC, on April 12th, 1961, four more states seceded from the Union, in order; Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, the latter going out officially on June 8, 1861, adding the eleventh star to the flag. As each new state left the Union, a star was added to the First National flag. Eleven states officially left the Union but in September, Missouri was recognized as a Confederate state and a star for it added to the flag. Then, in November, Kentucky was also recognized and the thirteenth star as added to the flag. The star count on such flags can help historians date, at least approximately, when the flag was made and issued. As this flag bears eleven stars, it was made around or after the time of the secession of Tennessee, which took place on June 8, 1861. First National Artillery Flags: As mentioned, there are not that many First National flags for artillery units that still exist. Most that do are in museum collections today. The following is a survey of these flags by state: Alabama: Unknown battery captured at Island Number Ten – 11 stars (Private Collection), Gage’s Alabama Battery – 7 stars (Alabama Department of Archives and History), Montgomery True Blues Light Artillery – 11 stars (ADAH), Semple’s Alabama Battery – 13 stars (with eight points) – captured at Ringgold Gap, November 1863 (Museum of the Confederacy), Arkansas: Hart’s Arkansas Battery – 11 stars – crossed cannons on white bar (Old State House Museum, AR), Georgia: Jackson Artillery – 10 stars (Cannonball House, Macon, GA), Louisiana: Unknown Louisiana Battery -13 stars, St. Andrews Cross pattern – Battle of Nashville capture (Smithsonian Institution), Pointe Coupee Artillery – 13 stars – PCA on white bar (Private collection and probably missing today), St. Mary’s Cannoneers – 13 stars (Private Collection. Sold by auction in 2011), Mississippi: Unknown Mississippi Battery – 13 stars in St. Andrew’s Cross pattern – Battle of Franklin capture (Texas Civil War Museum), Vicksburg Artillery – 11 stars – battle honor for Fort Mcree and Victory or Death slogan (Old Courthouse Museum, Vicksburg, MS), South Carolina: 15th South Carolina Heavy Artillery/Lucas’ Artillery Battalion – 11 stars – unit name on white bar (Private collection), Battery Gregg, Charleston, SC – 7 stars (Atlanta History Center), Palmetto Artillery – 11 stars in horse shoe pattern (Private Collection), Tennessee: Bankhead/Scott’s Tennessee Battery or Steuben Tennessee Artillery – 10 stars – “Tennessee” in white bar obverse side and “Artillery” in white bar reverse side – probably Stones River capture (Tennessee State Museum), Texas: 1st Texas Artillery/Galveston Artillery – 11 stars (Galveston Museum). There may be other First National artillery flags in existence, but this survey shows those that I know of. Of interest this breaks down to of sixteen flags listed, eleven of them are in museums leaving five in private hands. Even with the addition of the flag that is the subject of this report, this shows that such flags in private hands are rare indeed. Artillery First National Flag: These measurements were supplied to the late Howard Madaus from the flags first known owner. Hoist – 52 ½ inches. Fly – 82 inches. Bars – upper red is 17 inches wide; middle white is 18 inches wide; lower red is 17 ½ inches wide. Canton – 35 inches on the hoist by 32 inches on the fly. Stars – eleven, measuring 4 ½ inches across the points set in a circle 22 inches in diameter. Inscription – white stripe is 4 ½ inches high by 21 inches long; the letters are 3 inches to 3 ¾ inches high. The flag is made from two types of cloth according to Madaus. The red bars are serge, and the white bar is flannel. The canton is also flannel. The stars are silk as is the white strip with the painted “Artillery” designation. Both the stars and the strip are bordered with the same braided piping which adds wonderful ornamental highlighting to the flag. The braid borders clearly were done when the flag was made. The strip is sewn on the reverse side off center in the lower portion of the white bar which suggests, but is not conclusive, that another strip, probably bearing the unit identity, was sewn above it. I could not see any marks on the bar that proved this however, but the lighting when I saw it was too low to get a really good look at the bar. Sam Small of the Horse Soldier did look at it under better lighting and could not find any such markings that showed where threads for another strip had been. This is puzzling as the off center strip does not make sense in its location. If not another strip above it when why is the existing strip located in the lower portion of the white bar? It is possible that the strip bearing the word “Artillery” was from an earlier flag from the militia period for whatever unit this was and it was transferred to this flag when it was made in 1861 and just not centered when sewn on. There are existing Confederate flags that were altered in some form from pre-war militia colors, so that is not an uncommon feature. As we do not know the identity of the unit that bore this flag or who it was intended for, this is purely speculation. Provenance: As of June 1978, this flag was owned by well known and highly respected Confederate militaria collector Ben Michel of New Jersey. Conclusion: The flag is authentic to the Civil War period based on my overview examination.
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