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[117]

The Confederate flag.


[from the Richmond Dispatch, April 26, 1896.] an interesting letter from General Bradley T. Johnson. Acts of Congress regulating it.

To the Editor of the Dispatch :
The Confederate flag, with the memories it arouses, is very dear to many people, and we think it but justice to perpetuate a true and accurate description of it—‘The Stars and Bars.’ I can find no record of it in the acts of Congress. It was used by companies and regiments in Virginia in 1861, without authority, and just as a matter of taste.

After Manassas, Beauregard had prepared at his headquarters a design for a flag, which was painted in water colors. It was a red square, on which was displayed a blue St. Andrew's cross, bordered with white, and charged with thirteen white, five-pointed stars.

This was adopted in general orders from army headquarters, and became the battle-flag of the Confederacy, which should blaze in many a coming trial, showing its followers the way to duty and to death.

Three flags were made by ‘the three Cary girls,’ out of their own silk frocks, one for Joe Johnston, Beauregard, and Van Dorn each, and were always floated at the headquarters of these generals and on the march and in the battle showed where they were.

This was Beauregard's battle-flag!

Act of May I, 1863.

May I, 1863, an act of Congress was passed to establish the flag of the Confederate States, and it provided that the battle-flag should be the union of the new flag, and that the field should be white. I never saw this flag with troops. General Lee had one in front of his headquarters. The first time this flag was ever used, and I suspect the first that was ever made, was used as a pall over the bier of Stonewall Jackson as he lay in state in the Governor's house in Richmond, in May, 1863. But this flag looked too much like a flag of truce, and did not show at sea, so the story went, and consequently [118] on March 4, 1865, just twenty-eight days before the death of the Confederacy, Congress passed another act, adding a broad red bar across the end of it. I never saw this flag, nor have I ever seen a man who did see it-or who saw a man who did see it — with this exception: Colonel Lewis Euker tells me that riding down to General Custis Lee's quarters in November or December, 1864, he saw this flag flying over Howard's Grove Hospital, and his companion, a German gentleman then serving in the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, asked him what flag that was, and this incident impressed itself on his memory.

Nearly certain to be right.

There is no possibility of doubting the accuracy of Colonel Euker's memory. He is as nearly certain to be right as any man I know, but there is confusion here. The flag was not adopted until March 4, 1865, and he saw it several months before. I explain this by thinking the design for the new flag was known and canvassed. I have a colored lithograph now, made by Hoyer & Ludwig, at the time, for Major Arthur L. Rodgers, who designed this alteration, and gave me the picture in December, 1864. So, I take it, the doctors at the hospital had made themselves a new flag to set the fashion. But that was not a flag authorized by law, and I have yet to see a man who saw such a flag, or saw any man who saw a man who saw one. After March 4, 1865, we were not making flags. Please print the acts of Congress establishing the flags. The last act has never been printed.



From the Records.

We comply with General Johnson's request by printing the Act of May 1, 1863, and the amendment thereto, passed March 4, 1865:

An act to establish the flag of the Confederate States:

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The field to be white, the length double the width of the flag, with the union (now used as the battle-flag) to be a square of two-thirds the width of the flag, having the ground red; thereon a broad saltier of blue, bordered with white, and emblazoned with white mullets or five pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States. (First Congress, third session. Approved May 1, 1863.) [119]

The foregoing was amended by the following act:

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The width, two-thirds of its length, with the union (now used as the battle-flag) to be in width three-fifths of the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the field on the side of the union twice the width of the field below it; to have the ground red, and a broad blue saltier thereon bordered with white, and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white, except the outer half from the Union to be a red bar extending the width of the flag. (Second Congress, second session. Approved March 4, 1865.)

Official statement furnished to the editor of the Richmond Dispatch.

By authority of the Secretary of War.

F. C. Ainsworth, Colonel U. S. A., Chief Record and Pension Office.

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