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Online Exhibits - Keep the Flag to the Front, Part 7

The Confederacy

During the course of the war, Kansas troops captured Confederate flags. Some were taken from town squares where they were flying. Others came with a more deadly price.

Our flags, almost the same, unfurl,
And nod across the border;
Ohio's wave between them curl-
Our stripe's a little broader;
May yours float out on every breeze,
And, in our wake, traverse all seas--
We greet you--over the river!

-"Over the River," Jane T. Cross, ca.1861
Flag captured in town square at Iatan, Missouri, 1861.

Members of Companies A and I of the First Kansas Infantry crossed the Missouri River to take this flag from the town square at Iatan, Missouri, on June 3, 1861.

Confederate flag that may have been captured at Chickamauga.

This flag may have been captured at Chickamauga, but its history has been lost. The phrase, "Emblem of the Lost Cause," was added after the war.

Pike Guards flag captured at Camden, Arkansas, 1864.

Records suggest this flag was captured at Camden, Arkansas in 1864. The Pike Guards were Arkansas state troops recruited in 1861 and mustered out later in the year, after fighting at Wilson's Creek. The men of the Pike Guards enlisted in other regiments, and the flag may have gone with them.

Quantrill flag found in Olathe town square after Quantrill's raid, 1862.

This small flag is reputed to have been picked up in the town square at Olathe after Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill raided the town on September 6, 1862. It may have been carried by one of the raiders as a keepsake. The size suggests that it was a "Bible" flag, meant to mark the place of a desired scripture in the family Bible.

 

A Symbol of Controversy

Graphical depiction of Army of Northern Virginia flag.

The flag we think of today as the Confederate flag actually was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, or a variation of it.

To many this is the correct Confederate flag (bottom, right), the one seen today on license plates, stickers, and t-shirts. It has become a symbol of controversy in a debate pitting heritage against racist beliefs. Recognized in its day as an emblem of the South, it was nevertheless not the only Southern flag design.

This battle flag was never the official flag of the Confederate government. In fact, it was not common to see it west of the Mississippi River. Perhaps because it is visually appealing, it has become the most emotionally charged symbol of the war.

 

Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Civil War, 1861-1865
  2. Rally 'Round the Flag
  3. Stories From the Front Lines
  4. The "Colored" Soldiers
  5. On the Border
  6. Chickamauga
  7. The Confederacy
  8. Save the Flags!
  9. Glossary and Explanation of Flag Types

Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org