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Blunt's Flag

Blunt flag after conservation treatment

The paths of two notable figures crossed near Baxter Springs on October 6, 1863, at the height of the Civil War. The torn pieces of this flag remain.

The clash between Major General James G. Blunt and Confederate guerilla leader William Clarke Quantrill had lasting effects on the standing of both men.

Blunt had attained the highest rank of any Kansan in the Union Army. His Civil War career peaked early with a string of successful battles in late 1862, then suffered because of political connections to U.S. Senator James H. Lane of Kansas. Lane, an anti-slavery crusader, had a reputation for erratic behavior (he committed suicide in 1866), and his association with Blunt cast suspicion on the latter's activities.

Following a bloody raid on Lawrence, Quantrill decided to attack a fortification known as Fort Blair (at present day Baxter Springs) when he observed an Union column moving in from the north along the Kansas-Missouri border. This column, led by Blunt, had left Fort Leavenworth with a cavalry escort of 100. Ninety men were killed in Quantrill's attack. Blunt barely escaped with his life, and his military reputation suffered greatly.

Blunt flag before conservation treatmentCaptured by Quantrill

Among the goods captured by Quantrill's men at Baxter Springs was this flag, presented to Blunt just a few days earlier by the women of Leavenworth. Years later, when fragments of this flag were donated to the Kansas Historical Society by the general's children, they gave this account:

"When General Blunt was moving his headquarters from Ft. Leavenworth to Ft. Smith, this flag was presented to him on the steps of the old Planters House in Leavenworth. At Baxter Springs it was captured by Quantrill and recaptured by a company of the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Before surrendering it the rebels tore it to pieces. These pieces were brought back to General Blunt. The full inscription on the flag was: 'Presented to Gen. J.G. Blunt by his friends the ladies of Leavenworth. . . . The flag was made in New York and was of very heavy silk, bordered with a heavy yellow silk fringe, with heavy cord and tassels suspended from the standard. Mrs. Gillpatrick [Blunt's daughter] put the pieces together so they could be framed."

James G. BluntWilliam Gregg, who rode with Quantrill, remembered this flag as the finest he'd seen, inscribed "Presented to Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt by the ladies of Leavenworth Oct. 2d, 1863." Gregg recalled that Quantrill sent the captured flag to Confederate Major General Sterling Price. A year after the Baxter Springs attack, Price led a march across Missouri that resulted in several battles in the Kansas City area. The Price's Raid campaign followed the Kansas-Missouri border south to Mine Creek in Linn County. Among the troops in pursuit of the Confederates was the 4th Iowa Cavalry, which apparently recaptured Blunt's flag at some point during this action.

Save the Flags!

The Blunt flag received professional conservation treatment through the Kansas Historical Society Save the Flags! fund raising project.

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Entry: Blunt's Flag

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2000

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.