Captured Confederate Flags

During the Civil War, a regimentís battle flag served as a symbol of honor and a rallying point for the troops on the field. Carrying the flag onto the battlefield was both a privilege and a significant risk for the unitís color bearers. Opposing forces took great pride in capturing or killing the color bearer and capturing the flag, which could confuse and demoralize the troops. Color bearers, both Union and Confederate, often acted heroically to keep their unitís colors flying.

Most Confederate flags captured by Wisconsin units were held by the Adjutant General and turned over to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (now known as the Wisconsin Historical Society) in the early 1900s. Although an early count is not known, later counts indicate that there were approximately 20 Confederate flags in the collection as late as 1951.

Just as the Federal government made an effort to return captured flags in the early 1900s, many Northern states including Wisconsin started to return their flags around that time. The return of battle flags was a highly charged issue, particularly when Civil War veterans were still alive. It wasnít until World War II, as the nation stood united against a common enemy, that Wisconsin returned the largest lot of its captured Confederate flags to the South.

All Confederate flags that remained with the State Historical Society in the late 1990s were transferred to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum during a large transfer of military material. As of 2008, eight Confederate flags or similar material remain in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Condition of the Confederate flags

All Confederate flags in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum are in stable condition. The Tennessee flag was conserved in 1996 with the financial support of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In 2006 the Wisconsin Veterans Museum undertook the conservation of four additional Confederate flags in the collection. As with all artifacts in the museumís collection, Confederate flags are stored and handled in a professional, respectful manner.

For general information regarding the capture and return of Confederate flags, an excellent reference is The Returned Battle Flags by Richard Rollins. For information regarding the Confederate flags captured by Wisconsin units please contact the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Registrar at (608) 261-6802 or registrar@dva.state.wi.us. Please reference the catalog number given after each flag for specific inquiries.

The most notable Confederate flag had been attributed to the 1st Tennessee Regiment, captured by the 1st Wisconsin on October 8, 1862 at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky. Newly uncovered information revealed that it is not the flag of the 1st Tennessee, although it was a similar Polk pattern flag and carried by a Tennessee regiment. Possible identifications of this flag have been the 6th, 9th, 17th or 27th Tennessee. (Catalog number V1998.1.334).
This flag was originally identified as belonging to an unidentified Confederate regiment. Flag expert Howard Madaus theorized that this flag may have been a Cavalry flag or may have belonged to Captain James F. Waddellís Battery of Alabama Light Artillery, captured by the 29th Wisconsin Infantry on May 16, 1863 at Championís Hill, Mississippi. Further research is needed to attempt to confirm the identity of this flag. (Catalog number V2007.1.46)
This small, homemade flag was captured at Kansas City, Missouri on November 26, 1861 by Col. C.R. Jennison of the 1st Kansas Cavalry. The flag was presented by Jennison to General James Bintliff of Darlingon, Wisconsin. (Catalog number V2007.1.47)
This Confederate flag was captured by the 1st Wisconsin from an unknown Confederate regiment at the battle of Falling Waters Virginia on July 2 1861. (Catalog number V2007.1.48)
There is no background information on this miniature 11-star, 3-stripe Confederate flag and it was made for unknown reasons. (Catalog number V2007.1.49)
This Confederate flag was captured at Columbia, South Carolina by Nicholas D. Brown, Co. G, 12th Wisconsin Infantry at the end of the war. It was donated directly to the G.A.R. memorial hall by his granddaughter in 1978. (Catalog number V1978.36.2)
This is a fragment of the 16th Mississippi flag captured by the 7th Wisconsin on August 21, 1864. The original catalog card indicates that a note came with the remnant: "My dear Col: Captain [Charles D.] Rogers of the 24th Wis. has just handed me this which I think Gen. Bragg ought to have as a memento. Will you please present it to him as from Capt. Rogers through F.D. Farrington. Yours very truly, John Gibbon, August 21, 1864. Remnants of the Battle Flag of the 16th Mississippi captured Aug. 21, 1864 by the 7th Wis. Vols. General Bragg's Brigade Cutlers Division, 5th Corps." Donor Mrs. Margaret Bragg-Sherman. (Catalog number V1999.1.376)

This large banner was used for unknown purposes and measures 3 yards 27 inches by 34 inches, with four alternating red and white stripes. It was captured by Col. Adam G. Malloy of the 17th Wisconsin on September 4, 1863 at Fort Beauregard, Harrisburg, Louisiana. (Catalog number V2007.1.50)