Civil War Flags


Captured Confederate Flags

The State of Illinois has in its collection captured Confederate flags where were not returned to the former Confederate states. During the Civil War, there was no specific directive concerning the disposition of Confederate flags captured by the Union troops. In some cases the flags were passed up through the ranks to army command while at other times the flags were retained by the men in the company or regiment who had captured them. By the end of the War there were at least 500 Confederate flags in the possession of the U. S. Government. In 1887 President Grover Cleveland ordered the return of the captured flags in possession of the U. S. Government but the order was rescinded following political pressures from Union veteran organizations. However, in 1905 the government returned the captured Confederate flags to the Governor of each of the former Confederate states and to the appropriate border states. Those flags which were not associated with a specific State or where the State of origin was unknown were deposited at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.
Many of the Confederate flags in possession of the Northern States were also return, but Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin along with the Chicago Historical Society retained possession of some of the captured flags.

The following photos and information details the ten captured Confederate flags still held by the State of Illinois. The flags in the collection are of two types -- First National Flags and Battle Flags.

First National Flag

"The flag of the Confederate States of America shall consist of a red field with a white space extending horizontally through the center and equal in width to one-third of the width of the flag, and red spaces above and below to the same width as the white, the union blue extending down through the white space and stopping at the lower red space, in the center of the union a circle of white stars corresponding in number with the States of the Confederacy." (Congress of the Confederate States of America, March 3, 1861; depiction of the First National Flag) Illinois does not have in its collection any of the Confederate Second or Third National flags.

Battle Flags

The Confederates used a number of battle flags. The majority were patterned after those of Virginia - a square flag with a blue cross and white stars. Four of the flags in the Illinois collection are of this type while the remaining two have other, very distinctive patterns.

Flag photos are continuously being updated to the database.
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