“The Sun of Glory”

Proposal of the Congressional Joint Committee (April 1862)

The first Confederate national elections under the permanent Constitution of the Confederate States were held on Wednesday, 6 November 1861. The Provisional Congress continued to meet and legislate until 18 February 1862, on which day it handed over the legislative machinery of government to the Senate and House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Confederate States. The new Senate formally counted the ballots of the electoral college, by which Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens had been elected to the offices of President and Vice-President under the new Constitution. Davis, and, symbolically, the new government, were inagurated on 22 February 1862 (Washington’s birthday) on a rainy morning beneath the equestrian statue of George Washington near the Virginia capitol building.

As late as five days before it ceased to exist, the Provisional Congress debated changing the national flag of the Confederate States, finally leaving that decision to the new popularly elected Congress. A week after the new Congress opened its first session, the Senate and House of Representatives appointed a Joint Committee on Flag and Seal. The members of the joint committee were Senators William B. Preston of Virginia, James L. Orr of South Carolina, and Thomas J. Semmes of Louisiana, and their House collegues, Alexander R. Boteler of Virginia, Peter W. Gray of Texas, and William R. Smith of Alabama. Senator Boteler was chairman.

The Charleston <i>Mercury</i> Proposal. The Charleston Mercury Proposal
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 1 April 2000

An idea that had been proposed by several sources was of replacing the stars on the flag with a sun. One such “sun flag” was proposed by Robert Barnwell Rhett in the Charleston Mercury on 6 March 1862. In that article, Rhett discussed four possible new flag designs, of of which he described as “unique and handsome. … The sun (gold or yellow on a blue shield) with a ray for each State, dispenses with the borrowed stars, while emblematic of the latitude of our country, source of our agricultural wealth, and also the warmth and geniality of Southern character.” Rhett, one of the original “firebrands” of secession, liked this design because “it discards the everlasting Yankee stars and worn-out combinations of ‘red, white, and blue.'”

Flag of the 3rd Battalion
South Carolina Volunteer Cavalry

Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Museum
Columbia, South Carolina

It sometimes occurred that flag designs mentioned in newspapers inspired the design of flags made for units in the field. This was most often the case when the newspapers lead their readers to believe that the design in question was about to be, or had been, adopted as the new national flag. This was not the case with the Charleston Mercury column mentioned above; but the design seems to have inspired the flag presented to the 3rd Battalion of South Carolina Volunteer Cavalry.

While omitting the blue border of the Charleston Mercury design, the 3rd Battalion flag replicates its red and white triangles. Instead of a sun on a blue shield, the center of the flag is decorated by a blue disc, on which are painted in gold, with a golden circle, the unit designation, and the crossed sabres of the cavalry.

The Charleston Mercury proposal may have drawn its design from another discussed in the Richmond Dispatch a month before. That design, submitted by someone who signed only the initials “W.L.B.” was a white saltire, which W.L.B. called “The Southern Cross,” representing the ‘pure, spotless’ cause of the South,” which was “menaced on every side by a barbarous war”, as represented by the red field. “The cross is intended to be purely symbolic of the South, and has no reference to religious sects, and to avoid giving offense to any a ‘Saint Andrew’s’ cross is adopted.”

Rather than stars, the flag was adorned with a sun, “emblematic of the South itself; of its climate, its productions, and its oneness of interest”, on a blue shield, signifying “fraternity and fidelity of the States to each other in their hour of trial.”

Joint Committee Proposal, Senate Resolution No. 11, 19 April 1862. Joint Committee Proposal
Senate Resolution No. 11, 19 April 1862
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 1 April 2000

On 19 April 1862, the Joint Committee on Flag and Seal submitted its report to both houses of Congress. The joint resolution proposed by the report, read as follows:

A JOINT RESOLUTION adopting the flag of the Confederate States of America.
Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: A red field, charged with a white saltier, having in the centre the device of a sun, in its glory, on an azure ground, the rays of the sun corresponding with the number of States composing the Confederacy.

This proposal is identical, or nearly so, to the flag sent to the Richmond Dispatch by “W.L.B.” His proposal discussed in the Dispatch article did not specify a ray on the sun for each State, and that detail may have been drawn from Rhett’s proposal in the Mercury article in March. In all other respects, however, it is clear that “W.L.B.” is the author of the flag proposed by the joint committee.

In its report, the committee stated that the azure ground would be in the form of a shield. In adopted the symbol of the sun, the committee report noted that nearly all of the designs submitted to it has some combination of stars. “This heraldic emblem, however, has been descended as a manifestation of our entire and absolute severance from the United States and the complete annihilation of every sentiment indicating the fainted hopes of reconstruction.”

The Senate took no action on the resolution, but the House of Representatives began debate. Eventually, the House voted 39 to 21 to postpone consideration of the resolution, but it was never again discussed.

This flag was given some degree of life by the press, however. The Richmond Examiner published a woodcut of the design and reported, “We are informed that Congress has definitely adopted a flag.” This report spread to other newspapers. As a result, some flags of this design were made and presented to combat units of the army.

Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.

Proposed Second National Flag
“Sun of Glory”

Flag of Company A (Manly’s Battery), 10th Regiment North Carolina State Troops (1st Regiment North Carolina Artillery). This proposed design to replace the “Stars and Bars” was rejected by the Confederate House of Representatives on April 19, 1862. According to information at the North Carolina Museum of History, this flag was made by women of Raleigh from their silk dresses. However, recent research by Howard Michael Madaus indicates the flag may have been presented to the unit by a resident of Hagerstown, Maryland. This is the only known surviving example of the proposed “Sun of Glory” pattern.

Tom Belton

Flag of Manly's Battery. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, North Carolina. © North Carolina Museum of History.
Flag of Manly’s Battery
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History,
Raleigh, North Carolina

© North Carolina Museum of History