The Flags of the Confederacy
The very heart of the Confederate fighting unit was its flag, which came in a variety of designs and colors. The flag was the rallying point on the field of battle; it marked the unit headquarters in camp. In the South in 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment recalled: "Flags made by the ladies were presented to companies, and to hear the young orators tell of how they would protect the flag, and that they would come back with the flag or come not at all, and if they fell they would fall with their backs to the field and their feet to the foe, would fairly make our hair stand on end with intense patriotism, and we wanted to march right off and whip twenty Yankees." And in 1865, at the war's end, it was the furling of the defeated Confederate banners that marked the final closing of that episode in history. "For want of strength," sang Confederate veterans in their song Wearing of the Gray, "we yield them up the day, and lower the flag so proudly borne, while wearing of the gray."
The generally accepted jargon for the elements of flags and their components is used throughout this writing. The canton is the square or rectangle placed on the top of the flag next to the pole or staff. A border is the flag's edging when rendered in a different color than the field, the main part of the flag. Fimbration is the narrow edging used to separate different colors on a flag; it is often white. The hoist is the side of the flag next to the staff, while the fly is the opposite side. When, as is normal, the flag is shown with the hoist on the left and the fly on the right, this is the obverse or front of the flag; the side seen when the hoist is on the right and the fly on the left is the reverse, or rear. The staff itself is the stave; the metal top of the stave, usually a spearhead, an axehead or an eagle, is the finial; the metal cap at the bottom of the stave is the ferrule. Many flags have cords and tassels hanging from the finial, although this was rare among Confederate flags; collectively, these are simply referred to as cords. Finally, ensigns are national flags used on a ship, as well as the rank of a Confederate commissioned color bearer after 17 February 1864; jacks are small flags flown at the bow of a ship in port; a color is carried by an infantry or foot artillery regiment; a standard is carried by a mounted unit; a camp color was a small flag used to indicate the location in camp of the unit (these seen to have seen little use among Confederates); and a flag is, strictly, that flown from a building or over a post and is not actually carried-although "flag" is a generally accepted generic term for all flown cloth insignia that represent some nation or organization.
The following links will take you to the part(s) of my website that discuss the major flags of the Confederacy.
Source: "Flags of the American Civil War, 1: Confederate" By Philip Katcher & Rick Scollins
This Page last updated 02/10/02
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