Flags of the Civil War


Following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in November 1860, South Carolina passed an ordinance of secession relinquishing its allegiance to the Union.  Not long after, six weeks, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas followed.  These states organized themselves into the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis as their president.

President Lincoln did not recognize the right of the southern states to secede from the Union; therefore, the official Union flags still had the stars for each of the Confederate States.  Oregon entered the Union on February 14, 1859 and keeping with tradition the star representing Oregon was added on July 4th of that year.  The new flag with thirty-three stars was the Union flag as we entered into 1861.  Kansas entered the Union as a free state, free from slavery, on January 29th and when the new star was added, the Union flag had thirty-four stars.  The thirty-four star flag served from 1861 – 1863 when the state of West Virginia was created and another star was added to make the official flag thirty-five stars.  This flag served from 1863 to 1865 when Nevada joined the Union.



When the seven southern states left the Union and established their own federal Union, they raised a new stars and bars.  This flag design consisted of a blue canton with a circle of five-pointed stars representing the states and field of Red, White and Red.  This was accepted as the first flag of the Confederacy even though it was not authorized by the Confederate Congress.




The Battle of Bull Run proved not only to demonstrate the strength of the Confederate states and their army but also that they needed a new flag.  Because of the smoke from the cannons and the lack of a breeze it was all but impossible to distinguish the Stars and Stripes and the Stars and Bars from each other.  A new battle flag was designed by General Pierre G.T. Beauregard. It consisted of a red field with a blue cross of St. Andrew with a white outline border and twelve five-pointed stars, three on each arm of the cross and one star in the center.  There were at that time only eleven states in the Confederacy but Beauregard held hope that one more state, Maryland, Kentucky or Missouri, would enter.  This version of the flag served the Confederate Army for the remainder of the war.




The square battle flag was not considered adequate for the Confederate Navy, Maritime use or for the government.  A new flag was designed using the battle flag as a canton on a white field.  This second version of the Confederate flag was adopted on May 1, 1863.  It had the advantage of being flown as a distress signal with the canton upside down, but on a calm day with the canton hidden the white field could be mistaken for a flag of surrender.





For this reason a third flag was authorized with a wide Red vertical stripe at the outer edge of the fly.  The new flag was adopted on March 4, 1865, thirty six days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.




The lone star flag dates back to 1810 when it was used in Louisiana

It became the symbol of independence and self governing for the Southern states as the battle of secession continued.  It was the unofficial banner of the beginiing of the Confederacy.  The designer is unknown but is believed to have been fashioned after the territory of Texas flag.  In 1861 the Bonnie Blue was incorporated into the canton for the Republic of Mississippi state flag.  The Committee of Flag and Seal of the Confederate government decided against the Bonnie Blue and adopted the design we know today as the 1sr Confederate National flag.



Resource used

SO PROUDLY WE HAIL, The History of the United States Flag

Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong

Commodore Byron McCandless


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