Battle Flags in the Trans-Mississippi Department





Like Kentucky, the state of Missouri was severely divided on the issue of secession in 1861. Missourians in the slaveholding sections of the state, led by Missouri governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, favored secession, while the German “48’ers” who had settled in St. Louis and the northeastern part of the state detested slavery and opposed secession. As early as February of 1861, secessionists in the Missouri River Valley in the northwestern quarter of the state crossed the river into Nebraska Territory and raised a Palmetto flag bearing the motto “Southern Rights” at Old Fort Kearney (the federal encampment on the Missouri occupied from 1848 to 1849, not to be confused with the Fort Kearney on the Platte River). Evidently “secessionist” flags bearing the Palmetto tree in honor of South Carolina’s departure from the Union in December of 1860 were popular among the secession sympathizers of Missouri in early 1861. Another, captured near Booneville, Missouri on 16 June 1861, had a red bordered white field with a Palmetto tree in the center and bore the motto “Constitutional Rights.”

Despite the occasional presence of these “secessionist” banners in the state in the first half of 1861, the Missouri militia that Governor Jackson had called into state service favored flags that bore the state’s coat-of-arms. One of the flags, that of the “Missouri Guard,” seized when the Missouri militia was surrounded and forced to surrender to the federal “home guard” in St. Louis on 10 May bore the state’s coat-of-arms enwreathed in oak and laurel, surmounted by the federal eagle and flanked on each side by representations of the United States flags, all on a white field fringed in gold. Another flag of the Missouri militia, that of the “2nd Missouri Militia”, which bore the state coat-of-arms on one side and a den of tigers in repose with the motto “Beware” on the other side, was secreted from Camp Jackson by Mary Bowen, who later presented it (with designation appropriately altered) to her husband’s regiment of Confederate volunteers, the 1st Missouri Infantry (C.S.).

Missouri State Guard flag (reconstructed), 1861
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 08 March 2000
The pre-War prominence of the state coat-of-arms on the flags of the Missouri militia was reflected in the flag adopted by the Confederate oriented Missouri State Guard shortly after that force began to form in early June of 1861. On 5 June 1861, Major-General Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri State Guard, directed that “Each regiment will adopt the State flag, made of blue merino, 6 by 5 feet, with the Missouri coat-of-arms in gold gilt on each side. Each mounted company will have a guidon, the flag of which will be of white merino, 3 by 2 1/2 feet, with the letters M.S.G. in gilt on each side.” No flags conforming to these orders are known to survive. Nevertheless, from the accounts of the engagements fought in Missouri in 1861, it is plainly evident that flags either conforming to this pattern or variants thereof were in service with the Confederate forces.

Indeed, General Price himself used a flag that was a variant of the state flag. According to one account describing Price’s headquarters: “The Missouri State flag waved over the General’s headquarters; it is emblematic of our coat of arms, but exhibits a portion of its flag only; though the escutcheon with the bear on each side, rampant and guardant, in heraldic terms, is not represented, and perhaps would not be appropriate, yet the ascending star upon an azure ground [is] there and something else, which is not distinctly visible.” Other variants were also in use in the state in 1861.

At Booneville, Missouri on 17 June 1861, one eyewitness account indicated that three of the four flags flown by Missouri State Guard incorporated the state’s coat-of-arms. Thomas W. Knox, who accompanied the Union forces, gave a fairly detailed account of the flags, noting that the “flags captured in this affair were excellent illustrations of the policy of the leading Secessionists. There was one Rebel flag with the arms of the State of Missouri filling the field; there was a State flag, with only fifteen stars surrounding the coat-of-arms. There was a Rebel flag, with the State Arms in the centre, and there was one Rebel flag of the regular pattern.”

Two weeks later near Carthage, Missouri, Brigadier-General Franz Sigel’s “Dutch” U.S. volunteers fought the withdrawing forces of the Missouri State Guard. The Fort Scott Democrat later reported on the engagement and indicated that: “The rebels had three flags, one of the State of Missouri, which was unharmed, and two secession flags, which were twice shot down and raised no more.” These may have been the same flags that carried into action by the Missouri State Guard during their successful siege of Carthage, Missouri on 20 September 1861. After the Union garrison of that town surrendered, a correspondent to the Democratic Herald wrote: “At six o’clock P.M., the “stars and stripes” were lowered and the blue flag of the state and the Confederate flags were raised from the College building, and thirty-five hundred Federal soldiers marched out and laid down their arms.”

From the evidence presented it is fair to conclude that the Missouri State Guard units that fought in their home state in 1861 seem to have carried a mixture of blue state flags either conforming to the General Orders of the Missouri State Guard, variants thereof, or Confederate 1st national flags, either adorned in part with the Missouri coat-of-arms, or devoid of any Missouri association. In this respect the flags they used paralleled those carried by the forces of the Confederate States government that ventured to join the Missouri State Guard at the battle of Wilson’s Creek in August of 1861.

Howard Michael Madaus — based on research by Greg Biggs, Ken Legendre, Mark Jaeger, and Howard Michael Madaus.



Of the four states (Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas) that composed the Confederate Trans-Mississippi District and then Department, only Texas had a legislated “state flag” when the Civil War erupted. That flag, which had been adopted in 1839 as Texas’ national flag, however, had fallen from use in the intervening sixteen years between annexation in 1845 and the reassertion of her independence in 1861. Indeed, so few of the state’s new immigrants realized the state had had a flag that the newspapers found it necessary to reprint the enabling legislation in 1861–and then initially printed the 1836 legislation by mistake! As the intervals between Texas’ secession, her integration into the Confederacy, and the adoption of the 1st national flag was barely over a month, very few flags conforming to the Texas state flag of 1839 were made for presentation. Instead, the communities that provided flags for the departing volunteers usually prepared variations of the Confederate 1st national flag in lieu of state flags. The same was true in Arkansas and Louisiana.

The former state, Arkansas, did not adopt a state flag. Moreover, the Arkansas coat-of-arms consisted of the design of its state seal emblazoned on a shield held on the breast of a fully displayed eagle as its supporter. Although at least one company flag was prepared employing this device on a blue field, the resulting flag nearly duplicated the United States Army’s official regimental color, and hence it was impractical. At least one other Arkansas company, the “Yell Guards” was presented with a blue silk flag. While one side bore a motto surrounding the initials of the company, the other substituted a cotton plant for the coat-of-arms, arced by fifteen stars and surmounting the state motto, “Regnant Populi” (The People Reign). This flag was captured at the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. By contrast to Arkansas, Louisiana had adopted an official state flag in February of 1861. Despite this, the 1861 state flag was seldom used as a unit color. Instead, in rural and up-state Louisiana the communities reverted to the pre-War Louisiana militia color–a blue field bearing the state coat-of-arms. At least two companies of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry (which initially was the state’s main contribution to the Trans-Mississippi District) were presented such flags. That of the “Iberville Guard” (Company A) bore the Pelican feeding its young in the center of a five pointed star affixed to the center of its flag’s blue field; that of the “Pelican Rifles” (Company K) had the coat-of-arms painted on a rococo framed panel in the center of its blue field. At the battle of Oak Hills (Wilson’s Creek), on 10 August 1861, these two companies were detached to counter a Union offensive against the Confederate right flank. In repulsing this assault, however, there are no references to the use of these colors; only the regimental color and its color guard are mentioned, suggesting that these company flags, like most throughout the Confederacy, were retired when the companies that had been presented these flags entered their regimental structures.

Instead of state flags, the companies that entered Confederate service from the Trans-Mississippi states and territories, usually received variations of the Confederate 1st national flag– the “Stars & Bars”. The star count on these flags at very least reflected the May addition of Arkansas to the Confederate fold as the nascent country’s ninth state, though most actually bore 11, 13, or 15 stars (the last in hope that all of the slave states would unite under the Confederate banner). These company Confederate 1st national flags sent by the local communities with the departing companies were invariably emblazoned with patriotic slogans or invocations. Patrick Henry’s Revolutionary War appeal, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” was shortened to “Victory or Death” or “Liberty or Death”, and emblazoned on many of the Confederate 1st national flags, often in conjunction with the local unit nickname of the company, all at the will of the flags’ makers. The star patterns chose for the company flags also varied considerably, and while most followed the prescriptions of the Confederate Provisional Congress, many makers chose arrangements that they found more aesthetic–from rows to arcs to crosses.

The survival rate for company flags from 1861-1862 is relatively high in comparison with regimental flags. Unless the company acted independently, or the company flag was chosen as the regimental flag because none had been presented at regimental level, company flags were soon relegated to the captain’s baggage or returned with grateful thanks to the communities which had presented them. Still, they provide historians one of the more colorful aspects of Confederate investigation.

Howard Michael Madaus — based on research by Greg Biggs, Ken Legendre, Mark Jaeger, and Howard Michael Madaus.



In the battle of Wilson’s Creek (Oak Ridge) on 10 August 1861, according to one of the German newspapers of St. Louis, General Franz Sigel’s command captured a “secessionist flag”. In the enthusiasm of the capture, Sigel’s victorious Unionist Missourians waved their trophy, which, according to the newspaper account caused Totten’s Missouri (Union) Batteries to fire into Sigel’s forces, and halt their initiative. Although the reports in the Official Records fail to note this occurrence, recently discovered documents indicate that General McCulloch’s forces had received Confederate 1st national flags prior to joining with the Missouri State Guard to oppose the General Lyon’s “invasion” of central Missouri.

According to documents discovered in the National Archives by flag historian Greg Biggs, during the 3rd quarter of 1861 (1 July to 30 September 1861), at least seven “Confederate flags” were requisitioned and delivered to General Ben McCulloch’s forces. Three of these were issued to the three infantry regiments of General Pearce’s Arkansas Brigade, another was acquired by the 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, two were evidently for the Indian forces of General Pike, and one was delivered to McCulloch’s quartermaster for delivery to an unknown unit. In the following (4th) quarter two more flags were requisitioned for McCulloch’s forces. Both were described as “regimental flags”; one went to the 3rd Texas Cavalry while the other was delivered to one of McCulloch’s staff officers for an unknown unit.

Unfortunately, neither the source of these government issue flags nor their exact design is known. A survey of thirty-three known, surviving Confederate 1st national flags that are associated with units serving or raised in the Trans-Mississippi theater suggests that the flags probably bore 11 stars, most likely with ten in a circle around a larger center star. Of the thirty-three flags surveyed, most (17 of 33) had their stars set in a circle around a center star, and of these 17 flags, 6 had their stars in a circle around a center star of the same size and the other 11 had their stars around a larger center star. Only 2 flags bore their stars in a peripheral circle; 14 of the flags bore their stars in patterns other than circular or bore stars which were not five-pointed. In terms of star count, the largest concentration was found on flags with 11 stars (11), followed by those with 15 stars (6), and 13 stars (5). Flags with 12 stars (4) and 9 stars (3) account for the only other flags from the Trans-Mississippi Department which are less than singular. Most of the flags surveyed were company flags, and although some “graduated” to regimental use by default, the survival of the flags suggests that they were retired shortly after the companies they represented were melded into regimental organizations.

“JEFF DAVIS” Stars and Bars
by Wayne J. Lovett from a detailed sketch and notes by
Howard M. Madaus
Documented regimental flags known to have been captured in the Trans-Mississippi theater in the first two years of the War are rare. Unlike the eastern theater, captured flags were seldom turned in to the U.S. War Department, and, accordingly the documentation of capture is often lost. At the battle of Elk Horn Tavern (Pea Ridge), two Confederate flags were taken from the forces of General McCulloch. One was a blue flag taken from an Arkansas command; the other was a Confederate 1st national flag with 12 stars scattered haphazardly over its canton and the motto “JEFF DAVIS” on the center bar. Because the flag bears 12 stars, it is exceedingly unlikely that it was one of the flags issued to McCulloch’s forces in 1861. The flag of Douglass’ Texas Battery was also captured in the battle of Elk Horn Tavern; unfortunately it’s current location is not known.

While the flag captured from Douglass’ Battery is still to be found, the 1st national flag of Hart’s Arkansas Battery does survive. This flag bears 11 stars (10 around a larger center star), with added crossed cannons on its center bar. It is likely that this flag was captured at Fort Hindman (Arkansas Post) in January of 1863. If so, it may represent part of another government issue of 1st national flags in the Trans-Mississippi Department.
Flag of Hart’s Arkansas Battery
by Wayne J. Lovett from a detailed sketch and notes by
Howard M. Madaus

On 11 January 1863, the three brigades of Arkansas and Texas Volunteers occupying the defenses of Fort Hindman were forced to surrender to the Union forces that surrounded the fort. Several Confederate flags were captured as a result of the surrender. Hart’s Arkansas Battery was at the time part of the Brigade of Colonel Robert R. Garland, which was composed of the 6th Texas Infantry, the dismounted 24th Texas Cavalry, the dismounted 25th Texas Cavalry, and Hart’s Arkansas Battery, as well as a company of Louisiana Cavalry. On 27 October 1862, the quartermaster of the 6th Texas Infantry (serving as acting brigade quartermaster) had received at Arkansas Post “four flags”. It has been suggested that the surviving flag of Hart’s Arkansas Battery may be one of those four flags. However, the flag captured at Fort Hindman from the 6th Texas Infantry (and another concealed by a member of the dismounted 17th Texas Cavalry of Colonel Deshler’s Brigade) were of a completely different pattern. Accordingly the verdict on the “pattern” of 1st national flag actually issued (as opposed to presented) to the units in the Trans-Mississippi is still out.

Howard Michael Madaus — based on research by Greg Biggs, Ken Legendre, Mark Jaeger, and Howard Michael Madaus.



On August 19th, 1861, the Fort Smith Times ran an article in its columns that detailed the meeting between the Confederate commissioners to the Five Civilized Tribes and the Seminole Indian Council. In describing the events, the Times reporter noted that: “The Confederate flag floats over our camp. In its blue field are the eleven white stars, in a circle, and inside that circle the Commissioner has placed four small red stars, forming the four extremities of a passion cross– for the four nations, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, in token that these Christian tribes of red men are encircled by our protection, and are with and of us. When, if ever, we deem it fit to treat with the Cherokees, a fifth red star will form the centre of the cross. …” Although the Cherokee Nation would split over the alliance between the tribe and the Confederacy, the fifth red star was eventually added to the “passion cross”. And, at least two flags survive that indicate that the flag which the commissioners used came to represent the Indian tribes that formed alliances with the Confederacy.

Flag of the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles
by Wayne J. Lovett from a detailed sketch and notes by
Howard M. Madaus
One of these flags is relatively large (about 4 feet hoist by 6 feet fly) with 12 white stars surrounding a cross of 5 red stars. It is otherwise undistinguished. A second flag of the same basic pattern was captured at Locust Grove, Indian Territory on 3 July 1862 from a force that consisted of the 1st and the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles was about the same size but bore 11 white stars surrounding five red ones. The latter were laid out in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross, with the center star larger that the others. This flag, additionally, has the unit nickname “CHEROKEE BRAVES” in red letters on the center white bar.

While these two flags indicate an attempt to recognize the Confederate’s Indian allies in representations of the Confederate 1st national flag, it should not be assumed that all Confederate flags with red stars were carried by the Confederate’s Indian units. Indeed, the 1st national flag of the 10th Texas Cavalry also incorporated four red stars (albeit in the corners of the canton), each representing four of the Five Civilized Tribes, with ten white stars encircling an enlarged center star representing Texas. (Why the Seminole Tribe was excluded from this flag is an enigma.)

Flag of the 10th Texas Cavalry Regiment
by Wayne J. Lovett

Moreover, not all of the units from or serving in the Indian Territory during the War bore flags with red stars representing the Indian tribes. A 3 feet hoist by 5.5 feet fly Confederate 1st national flag captured from a force that included the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles on 20 September 1862 near Spring River, Missouri by the 2nd Regiment Indian Home Guard of the Union Army bore only fifteen white stars—fourteen in a circle around a center star of the same size.

Howard Michael Madaus