Southern Battle Flags

Early in the war, most regiments carried the Confederate First National flag (the "Stars and Bars") or their state's flag since the Confederacy did not have an official battle flag. The "Stars and Bars" caused much confusion on the battlefield because of its similarity to the United States flag, the "Stars and Stripes." The Confederate Army never had an official battle flag. Instead, each army or corps had a designated flag. In 1863, the Army of the Mississippi (Army of Tennessee) had at least eight different designs used at one time.

The flag now commonly referred to as the "Confederate Battle flag" (red rectangular flag with 13 white stars on the blue X outlined in white) has been alternately described as either the Confederate Naval Jack or the 1864-pattern Army of Tennessee battle flag, both of which were based upon the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag (see General Van Dorn's personal flag below). It gained widespread use as the official battle flag of the Confederate Army in post-war reunions of veterans, primarily because the rectangular flags were easier for manufacturers to mass produce.

1st National Flag.  There are three stripes, (red, white and red) with a blue square in the upper corner.  Inside the square are 13 stars in a circle.  There is a crossed cannon marking in the middle of the white stripe.

Image by Wayne J. Lovett from a detailed sketch and notes by Howard M. Madaus.

Battle flag of Hart's Arkansas Battery. Van Dorn arrested Captain Hart for cowardice on March 8, and the battery was disbanded for the same reason. Hart was exonerated of all charges at his court-martial, and the battery was later reorganized.

Missouri State Guard flag.  Blue with the Missouri state seal in yellow.  The state seal has two bears holding the seal with the motto, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Image by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.

Many of the units in the Missouri State Guard carried variations of this flag. They also carried the Confederate 1st National flag.

Van Dorn pattern battle flag.  Red flag, with a white crescent moon in the upper left corner and 13 white stars in 3 rows.

Image by Wayne J. Lovett from a sketch by Howard Michael Madaus.

Battle flag of the 4th Missouri Infantry, 8th Division, Missouri State Guard. In February 1862, Van Dorn ordered that all units under his command use this flag as their regimental colors. Although it is closely associated with Pea Ridge, it is doubtful that any units were issued this flag before the battle. The original is in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA.

1st National flag.  Three stripes (red/white/red) with a blue field in the upper left corner.  There are 12 white stars in an irregular pattern on the field.  “Jeff Davis” is written on the white stripe.

Image by Wayne J. Lovett from a detailed sketch and notes by Howard M. Madaus.

1st National Battle flag of an unidentified unit from McCulloch's Division. This flag was captured by the 37th Illinois on the Leetown battlefield. The original is in possession of the Illinois National Guard and Militia Historical Society, Springfield, Illinois.

Cherokee Braves

Photo courtesy of Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

Battle flag of the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles. This flag was captured at Locust Grove, Indian Territory, on 3 July 1862. The five red stars represent the "Five Civilized Tribes" - the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. The original is in the collection of The Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Museum, Republic, MO.

Van Dorn's personal battle flag was a square red flag with a blue "X" outlined in white.  There are 12 gold painted stars on the "X".

Image by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.

Personal Battle flag of Major General Earl Van Dorn. This flag was presented to General Van Dorn by Miss Constance Cary while he was a division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. Although Van Dorn had this flag with him at Pea Ridge, it was not flown or used at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The original is in the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA collection.

Image of a flag, with one large dark blue square with seven white stars inside the box. Opposite the blue square are three large stripes, red, white, and red.
Third National Confederate Flag-States-of-America-design-times-March-1861

Public domain

During the American Civil War (April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865), they used the First National Confederate Flag. After the First Battle of Bull Run, when the similarity between the First National Confederate Flag and the Union flag, the Stars and Stripes, made it difficult for troops to distinguish friend from foe, Confederate commanders petitioned for a new flag.

Last updated: February 24, 2023

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