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Re: War Department Capture No. 224

Hi Bob:

Sorry for the delay in responding. You have confirmed my tentative conclusion that War Department Capture No. 224, currently housed in the Confederate Memorial Hall collection, most likely belonged to the 40th Mississippi Infantry. The identification of this returned flag with the 12th Louisiana Infantry was an error made by its Federal captors on the battlefield in July 1864.

You asked for other comments on your analysis. I would like to challenge what seems to be your in-going assertion that regiments in Loring's Division (specifically Featherston's Brigade) carried two flags into battle: a "national flag" and a "battle flag".

You wrote: >>> Moreover, the flag matches the remainder of Featherston's Brigade's "national flags". Featherston's Mississippians also carried "battle flags" including the one that was captured from the 31st Miss. at Peach Tree Creek. It is a 12 star St. Andrews' Cross style that was issued to it most likely at Demopolis, Ala. between February and April, 1864. I am told by Gregg Biggs that it was produced at Mobile, Ala., and was part of the lot issued to all of Loring's and French's Division that Spring. Walthall's (Canteys) Division had not yet been created. I would assume that the 2nd National Flags were also issued at the same time. <<<

It has always been my understanding that Confederate "army regulations" required regiments/battalions on the march and in line-of-battle carry only one color. The purpose of the "regimental battle flag" was to identify the presence and location of these main maneuver units on the field of battle. Standardization of division flags and the "one flag rule" for each regiment/battalion was a battlefield command and control issue. Regiments/battalions could have all of the individual and company flags they wanted while in camp, but on the march and in line of battle, the rule was only one.

Carrying two flags into battle required two color bearers. My research into the history of the 12th Louisiana Infantry strongly suggests that there was only one designated color bearer in the regiment at any given moment in time. The 12th Louisiana Infantry Color Sergeant was identified in the records by Colonel Noel L. Nelson as "the color bearer of this regiment since May 3, 1863" when he recommended him for promotion to the newly created rank of Ensign on May 3, 1864. The promotion in rank was not confirmed until August 26, 1864. So he both carried the regimental color at Peachtree Creek, and survived the experience.

Years after the war, a small group of veterans of the regiment insisted that the 12th Louisiana Infantry carried only "one flag" throughout the war when they presented their regimental color smuggled home from North Carolina to the Louisiana Division of the Army of Tennessee veterans organization in New Orleans (the Confederate Memorial Hall collection). This flag was a simple 2nd national (4x6) flag and strikingly similar in construction to a flag in the Museum of the Confederacy collection identified with the 9th Arkansas Infantry. The "battleflag" emblem in the canton is rectangular, contains 13 stars, and there is no white edging on the saltire. The field is constructed of three horizontal bars, but all three are white, so this appears to be just a construction technique. These two regiments were sister regiments in Buford's Brigade, and later in Scott's Brigade until June 1864. Records I have seen suggest that these two flags were provided by the same quartermaster source in the fall of 1863 while these regiments were still in central Mississippi.

The "one flag" boast by these veterans can not be true since the 12th Louisiana Infantry regiment was enrolled in Confederate service at Camp Moore in August 1861 three months before the "battle flag" (blue saltire on red background) pattern was adopted for regimental colors in Virginia. This pattern did not work its way west until General Beauregard showed up at Corinth in the spring of 1862, and I am not aware of any reords showing that it was used by any regiments at Shiloh. Issues of the St. Andrew's Cross pattern were made to the newly formed Army of Tennessee in the summer of 1862 while still in Mississippi.

The 12th Louisiana's first regimental color was made by the same young ladies who produced the 3rd Louisiana's regimental color in April 1861. Based upon what they knew in June/July 1861 when the flag was made, the 12th Louisiana's first regimental color would have been an 11 star 1st national pattern.

Assuming that flag standardization and uniformity was rigidly enforced in Confederate commands throughout the war, the 12th Louisiana would have been issued a Polk Battleflag circa February 1862, and a Van Dorn Battleflag in the summer of 1862. I have found no records or anecdotal accounts of this happening. We do know from the records that they requisitioned a new regimental flag in the fall of 1863, but no description was provided. My tentative conclusion is been that is was the "2nd national pattern" that they brought home at the end of the war. I have presented my flag research on the Flag Page of my 12th Louisiana website. Have you read through that material?

It has been a puzzle to me that flag captures from units of Loring's Division at Peachtree Creek include both St. Andrews Cross (I know Gregg - itís a saltire, not a St. Andrew's Cross!!) and 2nd national colors. I have not yet bought into the "two flags" per regiment idea as the answer, although I do make the frequent mistake of using the term "regimental colors" when talking about a single specific flag. I think it was either a matter of not enforcing the standardization rule, or the "expediency of the moment".

The other "outside the box" suggestion I still cling to for War Department Capture No. 224 is that the flag actually was General Scott's brigade headquarters flag. General Scott and his staff were actively involved in directing the fighting at Peachtree Creek and I have a candidate in mind for the brigade headquarters flag bearer. But the common wisdom has been, so far anyway, that the Army of Tennessee did not adopt the practice of having "brigade headquarters" flags, at least on the battlefield until the very end of the war. What are your thoughts in this "wild card" for ownership of WD #224?

I look forward to your response. If you want to discuss my research on the 12th Louisiana Infantry in more detail, please contact me by e-mail. I am very much interested in your new book.

Hugh

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