The Civil War Flags Message Board

Re: MOC "Colours of the Gray" flags captured.

Hi Tom

>>>>>Hi again Joe,
Evidently Bill’s memory has failed him, there still is no evidence to support the claim that they had a 2nd bunting issue ANV battle flag. If they were never in the ANV as claimed then that’s your evidence for not being issued a ANV pattern battle flag, It is still more probable that they carried a State flag as did most of the other regiments that went west from their area of Virginia.

They were not at Toms Brook but you say the flag was captured there, then they were not in the ANV but you present a ANV battle flag, what is what, Bill?

Happy Trails!
Tom Martin

I am posting this e-mail sent to me from Bill in response to your response above.
Joe,

I fail to see how this airing of opinions serves any useful purpose. First and foremost, the 34th's flag was not captured at Tom's Brook as was originally alleged before the conversation expanded. The unit was not at Tom's Brook; neither was the 32nd Virginia Cav, but there was a logical progression as to how the 32nd's (perhaps old) flag happened to be there during a reorganization process.

When Howie first advanced the premise that it was the 34th's flag that was captured, I was astounded. I asked just how in H--- anyone came up with that theory. Howie said that "they" had concluded that the 32nd wasn't at Tom's Brook and that the closest numbered Virginia Cav unit was the 34th; therefore, there must have been a mistake and it was the 34th's flag that was captured. In intelligence service terms, that is known as a SWAG - Scientific Wild-Assed Guess. Several of us who were researching the 34th disagreed with the logic and dug through the OR's, unit histories, etc. to come up with background information to refute the premise.

When we first formed the recreated 34th back in 1969 and later joined the N-SSA, we used a Virginia flag and a Kentucky pennon with the lettering "Witcher's Mounted Rifles" in gold gilt. The KY banner was used only because we had no other valid flag info and because the unit when first recruited up from Capt. Witcher's company of mounted riflemen was the 1st Bn Va Mounted Rifles and was part of Humphrey Marshall's Army of Kentucky. Throughout the war the 34th was periodically in the KY & TN area except when sent to accompany the advance into PA in 1863; they were never one of the eastern units. The 1st Bn Va Mtd Rifles became the 34th Bn Va Cav during the Army reorganization in 1862, but Witcher remarked that they were "simply mounted infantry." We had no valid information as to what was a correct flag, so we turned to Howie and he sent some sketches and dimensions of a 3rd issue bunting Battle Flag. We had one made of nylon (ugh) to resemble silk and carefully painted a slew of engagement honors on it. We used that flag when we were inspected to get into the N-SSA in 1972.

As time went on, we became uneasy with the authenticity of the flag. It was very impressive, but the nylon was a turn-off as was the large number of engagements lettered on it. We had purchased one of those "capsule histories" offered by persons that advertised in CW related publications of the era and the "history" turned out to be more fiction than fact. The 34th was not at many of the engagements listed in the history - among those engagements were various actions in the Shenandoah Valley as well as Early's movement against Washington in 1864 and the burning of Chambersburg. While including the 34th in places that they never were; yet the "history" didn't mention the raids across the Ohio River and actions around Nashville.

I wound up buying a full set of OR's and slews of other reference material back in those days before internet and CD's. Several of us traveled to different records repositories and the Nat'l Archives to do research. We wrote to various historians, to institutions, and to persons that had knowledge of the 34th. We advertised for information in publications. We even went to NH and poured through Witcher's original records and letters that were sent to Batchelder. A far different picture emerged than the various misconceptions of a bunch of ill-disciplined guerrillas. The 34th certainly wasn't jack-booted, sabre rattling cavalry as in the John Esten Cooke idylls, but they were extremely efficient mounted infantry that could fight across the spectrum of infantry and cavalry.

We eventually replaced the nylon flag with a 3rd issue Battle Flag made of cotton bunting that had (horrors!) crossed cannons on it. Howie looked that flag over and had no problems with it aside from the fact that it was fully machine stitched - we had taken out the grommets and did buttonhole stitching around the holes.

Howie and I were friends for over 40 years and shared many common interests and had many mutual friends. We often argued over details of firearms manufacture and other trivia. We also shared a like of decent beverages. One evening, while attending a Gettysburg CW show, we sat in the lounge at the Ramada drinking Drambuie on the rocks and discussing the 34th's flag, the Stuart presentation, etc. I don't remember whether Howie was still working at the Milwaukee Public Museum at that time or he was at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. Howie agreed that the flag normally cited as having been captured from the 34th was in fact not the 34th's flag.

Beginning at that CW show and continuing for some time, we discussed the probability of what the flag carried in late 1863 and into 1864 would have looked like. At that time, we knew that a flag had been presented, but we had not seen the actual date when the flag was sent. The assumption was that the flag was sent to replace the shot-up banner that Stuart had seen on the Gettysburg campaign, probably arriving sometime after the 34th's return to the Dept. of Western Va & East Tenn. Based on what was likely available at the time, we agreed that the flag was likely either a Staunton depot flag or similar to a Staunton depot 2nd bunting type flag. Using what we had available for information and discussing the project with Howie, I stitched up the flag in the photo that I sent to you. I have no idea where persons feel that the flag was a fake or misrepresentation or a fantasy - it's a known pattern flag and it incorporates construction methods that I observed through handling original flags. When the reproduction flag was originally made, the flag had a presentation panel and fancy ribands, but the panel was not attached because the wording could not be confirmed.

Howie was shown the flag at Ft. Shenandoah when we first brought it there and he had no criticism of it. Howie saw the flag again over the next several years and never expressed any problems with it, unless he saw a problem and was being kind. Anyone that knew Howie would know that if he felt that something was wrong, he did not hesitate to speak out. We occasionally mentioned the original confusion about the flag being captured, but the matter had been laid to rest.

Being caustically critical, we could say that the current flag may not be a valid depiction of the actual flag as presented by Stuart, but based on the information that we discussed with Howie, the flag could be the same as presented by Stuart and nevertheless would be a proper flag for the post-Gettysburg period.

Mr. Martin claims that the 34th carried a Virginia flag and not a Battle Flag - that is erroneous; he throws in that the flag is an ANV pattern, but that the 34th wasn't part of the ANV. Okay, if Stuart sent a flag or the unit was issued a flag from Staunton, should it be a flag similar to an ANV pattern or should it look like a Brazilian Navy ensign? There seems to be some unwritten command that flags had to fit a certain pattern and practices were confined to specific departments or army areas. The 34th did not normally draw uniforms and supplies from the ANV. If the flag presented by Stuart was in fact a fancy flag with Stuart's "flare" for show, and it was being used by the 34th and was captured at Tom's Brook, then the flag should be recognizable and not a plain ANV bunting flag. Of course, the 34th's flag wasn't captured, and further, they were not carrying a Virginia flag. Here is an eyewitness description by George Dallas Mosgrove of the 4th KY Cavalry, Oct 10, 1863:
"About 11 o'clock I was sent with a message to General Williams, and on my way thither I saw a strange flag and a motley troop of reckless riders—the most dare-devil looking ragamuffins I had ever seen. .... I soon learned that they were about one hundred and twenty-five in number, and commanded by the noted Colonel Witcher. Their battleflag was in a dilapidated condition, bearing many honorable scars. They were fresh from the battlefields of Maryland and Pennsylvania ,..."

Any email discussions that I had with Howie regarding flags were years ago before I retired and I do not recall Mr. Martin being involved. Further, Mr. Martin asks about a letter from Howie approving the design. Somewhere around here in one of the dozens of file cabinets and boxes there are notes from Howie, but at no time would Howie have to send a letter of approval for a flag design in order to agree to the design. Howie sent letters of authentication for original flags and supplied one for a 1st National Flag that I sold some years ago, but I wasn't aware that there would be a time when an official endorsement was needed for a reproduction flag.

You can post this if you like, but it seems to be becoming a nitpicking contest.

Bill

Thank You
Joe Adair

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MOC "Colours of the Gray" flags captured.
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Re: MOC "Colours of the Gray" flags captured. *NM*
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Tom's Brook - two flags!
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for Joe - 34th VA BTn repro flag
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