Historic Battle Flag of the 6th South Carolina Volunteers

The 6th Regiment battle flag we use today is only a reproduction of the unit's first Confederate issue, 1861 battle flag, which is on display in the SC Confederate Relic Room in Columbia. The original is silk, with 12 stars painted gold, a blue St. Andrew's cross, and a yellow border. The field of the flag is now dirty white; the original color of the field is uncertain, but it was clearly not the rich red usually associated with Confederate battle flags. It has faded to approximately the same color as the border, which is known to be yellow. This flag and the other 119 in the first issue were produced by volunteer sewing circles in Richmond. These twelve star flags were issued to regiments in late 1861. All subsequent Confederate battle flags had thirteen stars.

 

Being part of General David R. Jones' brigade, the 6th Regiment received it's flag on November 28, 1861, in a ceremony that one soldier recalled as...

"The ceremony was the grandest time we ever had. We were drawn up in a hollow square and several speeches were made. The noise of the men was deafening. I have never heard or seen such a time before." --- Soldier in the 4th SC Infantry

The flag was one of the first battle flags to be constructed at the direction of General P.T.G. Beauregard after First Manassas, when battlefield confusion was created because from any distance the Confederacy's Star and Bars (First National Flag) looked like the Stars and Stripes. The new battle flags, with a distinctive blue cross, were designed to avoid this confusion, and the pattern became standard for regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia. It was used by other armies of the Confederacy, but not to the exclusion of other battle flags.

Late in 1861 the Confederate quartermaster ordered 120 flags of this pattern for regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia. They were made of dress silk that was purchased on the open market; red silk was scarce, so various shades of pink and yellow were substituted. This flag and the other 119 in the first issue were produced by volunteer sewing circles in Richmond. These twelve star flags were issued to regiments in late 1861. Kentucky dropped its neutral status in December 1861; all subsequent Confederate battle flags had thirteen stars.

Original flag on display at the

SC Confederate Relic Room

in Columbia (Larger view).

Lack of silk forced the quartermaster to turn to wool bunting for flags, first from stock available at the captured U.S. navy yard at Norfolk, Virginia, and later by import from England. Those flags were manufactured at the quartermaster's clothing depot in Richmond and began to be issued in 1862. Second and third issue battle flags had orange borders. The final issue, settling into the pattern now accepted by the public as standard, had a thin white border. The quartermaster department was forced to issue some of these flags in cotton.

 

The reproduction flag for the 6th Regiment is silk; the cross is blue silk and very close to the original material. The field is rough silk that has been dyed. It is impossible to tell what color the original might have been. A color was chosen that may or may not approximate the original; the key factor in choosing the color was that it is "not red". The stars are painted and are gold, as were the original. Battle flags issued in 1862 and afterward had white cloth stars sewn to the flags.

 

Some flags were fitted to their standards (their flag pole) by means of a sleeve. Most of the 1861 battle flags were laced to their standards through holes in the yellow border.

The original battle flag is partly covered by the names of battles in which the regiment fought. The 1861 battle flag was apparently retired after Second Manassas, with one or more later issue flags being used. Retiring a worn flag in favor of one easier to see was fairly common; visibility and recognizability of a battle flag were crucial to a regiment in the smoke and confusion of a battle. The flags were keys for aligning battle flags, coordinating movement and direction of travel, and vital for rallying and organizing units shattered by either victory or defeat. If the existing color of the 1861 flag is close to its original color, it would have been a candidate for replacement even though it was not particularly tattered: the field is a color easily lost in the white smoke that enveloped battlefields. A bright red field would have been more easily seen and therefore more desirable.

 

The U.S. Congress voted in 1905 to return to southern states all the battle flags surrendered at Appomattox. It was intended as a gesture of healing.

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