Battle Flags of the Army of Tennessee, late 1863 to 1865




Army of Tennessee Battle Flag, beginning December 1863.
Army of Tennessee Battle Flag, beginning December 1863
By Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr. 27 January 2000



Links: Photos and images of Augusta Depot battle flags

In late November, 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee (which had been the old Army of the Mississippi), was soundly defeated at the Battle of Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It fell back into North Georgia in battered condition, finally stopping its retreat at Dalton, Georgia. Its morale was shattered and desertions rose dramatically. Its long time commander, Gen. Braxton Bragg, had finally had enough of the infighting with his officer corps and relinquished command of the troops. His replacement was Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, and upon his arrival at Dalton on 26 December 1863, quickly took stock of his new command and began the long road to rebuilding the army.

Among the first priorities of General Johnston to re-establish the faltering morale of the Army of Tennessee was the adoption of an army-wide battle flag of the same basic design he had helped create in Virginia in 1861 and which had been contracted for in Mobile while he held command in Mississippi in 1863. For considerable time, it was thought that Johnston turned to the Atlanta Clothing Depot of the Confederate Quartermaster Department for the manufacture of these new flags. However, newly discovered telegrams indicate that these flags were instead made in Augusta, Georgia. Whether they were made at the Augusta Clothing Depot or by the manufacturers J.B. Platt & Co. of Augusta has yet to be determined. It is notable, nevertheless, that Jacob Platt had indicated to the Confederate War Department in October of 1863 that he was prepared to accept orders for battle flags in quantity at reasonable prices, whose size was to be 3 feet by 4 feet. That size is not far off from one of the two size battle flags issued to the Army of Tennessee during the late winter of 1863-1864 that originated in Augusta.

The flags were fairly similar in size with two basic issues – one for infantry and cavalry that averaged 37 by 54 inches overall and one for artillery that averaged 30 by 41 inches overall. The white edging along the cross was about 2 inches wide and was often filled with battle honors. The stars were from 3 ½ inches to 4 inches across and were set every 8 inches on the 6 inch wide cross. There was no color exterior borders and the flags had a double hemmed seam to protect the edges from fraying.

The evidence as to when the new Johnston pattern battle flags arrived has yet to be firmly established. On 31 December 1863, new flags were issued to two units of Finley’s Florida Brigade and for a combined unit in Bate’s Georgia-Tennessee Brigade. Since Johnston had arrived only four days previously (unless Platt already had flags in stock), it seems unlikely that these flags were newly made flags of the Army of Northern Virginia pattern. The flags received by the Kentucky Orphan Brigade in mid-January may have actually been the first flags received of the new pattern. However, it would appear that major deliveries of the new rectangular version of the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag did not arrive until after the first week of February, 1864. During the second week of February 1864 at least 40 new battle flags were enroute from Augusta (via Atlanta) to the Army of Tennessee encamped at Dalton. Others must have followed during the remainder of February and into early March, for on 11 March 1864, Lieutenant-General John Bell Hood issued the following order:

    “To avoid dangerous confusion in action, each regiment will be required to bear the Confederate battle-flag. The lieutenant general commanding can well understand the pride many regiments of the corps feel in other flags which they have gloriously borne in battle, but the interests of the service are imperative.”

Hood would, in April, order that the new flags for his corps be marked with sewn on letters stating the respective unit designation.

This order shows that it took some time for the army to adopt the flags, or, for the Augusta Depot to deliver them to the army. The reason for the spread of issue dates is probably the way these flags were made. The depot would not be able to completely fill the order for flags by the time the Atlanta Campaign began in early May, 1864. Several brigades of the army would, therefore, be forced to draw new flags from reinforcements heading their way from Alabama once they arrived.

These flags would see service through the Atlanta Campaign, with Hood’s Tennessee Campaign and on into the fighting in North Carolina at war’s end.

Greg Biggs
Based on research by Howard Madaus, Devereaux Cannon, Ken Legendre, Alan Summrall, Richard Rollins, Greg Biggs, and a host of other flag enthusiasts.



Battle Flag of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, 1863.
Battle Flag of the Department of
Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, 1863
By Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr. 27 January 2000



Mobile, Alabama, had long been a major flags manufacturing city for Southern troops. Using private civilian contractors as the source, this city would rival New Orleans, Charleston and Richmond in terms of privately made flags. In 1864, this was no exception, as the flag makers of the city would come through with the largest amount of flags they would ever be asked to make.

Before being relieved of his command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana in December, 1863, Gen. Joseph Johnston may have sewn the seeds for standardizing the battle flags of his department prior to leaving for Georgia. While it so far cannot be proven, a few Alabama regiments received flags in late 1863 that may have been the first flags issued from Mobile on a standardized type. His replacement, Gen. Leonidas Polk, carried out the standardizing of battle flags for the troops of the department which included the Army of Mississippi, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry Corps and the troops of the District of the Gulf, which included Mobile.

Resembling the Army of Tennessee pattern in that it too was rectangular, and lacked color exterior borders, the new flag featured only 12 stars. This may have been due to the flag of the New Orleans Washington Artillery being sent to Mobile for safekeeping during the war and that flag serving as a model.

Overall the flags varied in size somewhat, with the flags for Forrest’s Cavalry being the smallest in terms of dimensions. The gamut runs from flags of 42 by 53 inches to 48 by 55 inches. The stars were a uniform 4 ½ inches across and were spaced every 8 ½ inches typically. The blue bars varied from 6 to 8 ½ inches in width. Forrest’s flags were 37 by 46 inches usually and the cross was 7 inches wide. The star spacing varied from 6 ¾ to 7 ½ inches. The exterior borders were double hemmed to prevent fraying. On many of the flags of this pattern the hoist edge was folded over and sewn into a sleeve for attachment to the pole.

Two contractors were responsible for making these flags. One, a husband and wife team and local residents Jackson and Sarah Belknap, he a sign painter by trade, had been making flags for troops since the early days of secession, even advertising his services in neighboring states. His wife Sarah had even gotten into the act of making flags after her husband had been appointed clerk of the military court.

The other contractor involved with this new pattern was Memphis transplant James Cameron. Cameron had made flags in Memphis before being forced to leave the city when it fell to the Federals in June, 1862. Between Memphis and Mobile, Cameron made money manufacturing tents for the army.

The Belknaps, according to invoices in the National Archives, made some 42 flags prior to May, 1864 and even more after. These were the new pattern of 12 star battle flags. Cameron furnished an additional 25 flags in March. In the late Fall, 1863, Belknap made a few Second national battle flags as well as possibly the first issues of the departmental design. The jury is still out on the latter point however.

Greg Biggs
Based on research by Howard Madaus, Devereaux Cannon, Ken Legendre, Alan Summrall, Richard Rollins, Greg Biggs, and a host of other flag enthusiasts.



Hardee/Cleburne Battle Flag, 1864.
Hardee/Cleburne Battle Flag, 1864
by Alan K. Sumrall



In early March of 1864, shortly after Hardee’s Corps of the Army of Tennessee had returned to Dalton from its sojourn to reinforce General Polk’s Army of Mississippi, General Cleburne petitioned that the four brigades of his division be permitted to retain the distinctive blue battle flags that had been employed by Hardee’s Corps throughout 1863. Although General Joseph E. Johston had been attempting to enforce a uniform battle flag upon the Army of Tennessee since his arrival on 27 December 1863, he relented in the case of Cleburne’s Division and allowed that command to be recognized by the blue flags with white central discs and white borders that had been their distinctive flags since Bowling Green in the winter of 1861-1862.

As a result of Johnston’s decision, the units of the four brigades of Cleburne’s Division (consisting of three artillery batteries and 29 infantry or dismounted cavalry battalions and regiments– operating as 21 separate or consolidated commands) received new battle flags. The fields of these flags were made of a wool flannel, poorly dyed blue, edged on all sides with a white cotton border, 1 1/2″ wide on the three exterior sides and 2 1/2″ to 3″ wide on the staff side (that also served as a sleeve for the staff). The overall size of the flag thus measured about 30″ on the hoist by 39″ to 40″ on the fly. In the center of the blue field, appliqued to each side was a white cotton disc, somewhere between rectangular and elliptical in shape and measuring approximately 9 1/2″ high and 12″ wide. Once issued to the regiments in the field, these flags were decorated with battle honors, including the “crossed cannon inverted” honor (but with muzzles upward) if the units had captured artillery in combat, and a regimental abbreviation, usually in the central disc. With these flags, Cleburne’s Division fought through the arduous Atlanta Campaign.

Hardee/Cleburne Battle Flag (2nd type), 1864.
Hardee/Cleburne Battle Flag (2nd type), 1864
by Wayne J. Lovett from a sketch by Howard Michael Madaus

The Atlanta Campaign brought havoc upon Cleburne’s Division. At Atlanta three of its flags were captured on 22 July, and at Jonesboro on 1 September 1864, six more were lost. To replace those which had been lost or worn out in battle and to provide flags to the four units of Mercer’s Georgia Brigade that had been grafted into the division on 24 July 1864, a new set of flags was prepared for those elements of the division in need. These new flags, issued prior to the Nashville Campaign, were similar in construction to the March issue. Their fields were made of wool flannel, poorly dyed blue, and they were bordered on three sides with a white cotton border 2′ – 2 1/2″ wide and on the third with a similar white cotton border 3″ wide that doubled as a sleeve for the flag’s staff. Their overall size were usually 30″ on the hoist by 38″ on the fly. In the center of the blue field, appliqued to each side was a circular cotton disc, 10 1/2 to 11″ in diameter. A few regiments decorated these discs with improvised unit abbreviations, but none are known that bear battle honors or the “crossed cannon inverted” special award for the capture of enemy artillery. These were the flags furled and concealed when the Army of Tennessee surrendered in April of 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Howard Michael Madaus