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Historical Civil War Flags

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A Brief History of Civil War Flags

In 1860 and 1861, following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, eleven southern states seceded from the United States to protect the institution of slavery, forming the Confederate States of America (CSA). This lead to the Civil War, which was fought between the Union, or northern states, and the southern Confederate states.

During the war, both the USA and CSA military forces used a variety of flags. In fact, flags were extraordinarily important on the Civil War battlefield. They helped soldiers to locate their unit and remain in information over the deafening crack of muskets and cannon fire, and through the smoke that hung in the air from the black powder.

After four incredibly bloody years at war, the Union defeated the Confederacy, and the abhorrent practice of slavery was abolished. The United States – as we know it today – began to take shape, however, the flags from the Civil War era remain, as important symbols of our nation’s history.

Civil War USA Flags

historical civil war flag museum photo

The Civil War Union Flag is not remarkably different from our existing American Flag, with the exception of the number of stars. It, too, had 13 red and white stripes to represent the 13 colonies and a dark blue stanton in the upper left corner. The difference is that the Original Civil War Era Union Flag, flown during the attack on Fort Sumter, had only 33 stars.

Additional stars were added to honor the admission of Kansas in 1861, and again in 1863, when Virginians, who wished to remain part of the Union, formed the state of West Virginia. The 36th star was added in 1865 upon the admission of Nevada.

Civil War CSA Flags

The first flag associated with the Confederates States of America is known as the Bonnie Blue Flag. Although never officially adopted as the national flag of the CSA, the flag was blue with a single star in the middle to represent South Carolina, and it was flown at the convention when Mississippi voted to join South Carolina in the secession.

In 1861, the CSA adopted its first national flag, also known as the Stars and Bars Flag. The flag has 3 red and white stripes with a blue canton on the top left corner with stars aligned in a circle to represent each state of the CSA. However, the similarities between the Union flag and the CSA flag caused confusion during battle, and a second national flag was introduced in 1863.

The new flag, known as the Stainless Banner, was white and featured the infamous Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (often mistaken as the CSA’s national flag) in the upper left corner. Unfortunately, the flags mostly white appearance made it difficult to distinguish from a flag of surrender, or truce, and so a third variation was created in 1865 with a red stripe on the right side.

More Civil War Flags

In addition to the flags of the Union and Confederacy, Gettysburg Flag Works carries a variety of flags from several Regiments, Infantries and HQ’s, as well as Cavalry Flags. Made of high-quality nylon, all of our Civil War flags are perfect for history buffs and are durable enough for use in Civil War reenactments.

For questions about our Civil War flags, or to make a purchase over the phone, give us a call at 1-888-697-3524. You can also contact us online for more information.