Last modified: 2005-12-17 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | csa | stars and bars | first national flag of the confederacy | nicola marschall | confederate | biderman |
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image by Rick Wyatt, 20 November 1997
7 Star Version
image by Rob Raeside, 25 November 1997
13 Star Version
image by Wayne J. Lovett, 24 June 2001
The flag which first flew over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, SC in 1861.
The first official flag of the confederacy was the Stars and Bars, and was reported to the provisional congress of the C.S. by the flag committee on March 4,1861. It appears to have not had a recorded vote. It was written into the journal of the congress. It is said to have been designed by Nicola Marschall, a Prussian Artist and to have been inspired by the Austrian flag. It appears in many variations with stars ranging from 7 to 15 stars. 11 states that seceded from the Union, 2 (Kentucky and Missouri that had confederate and union governments), 1 (Maryland) that attempted to secede but whose legislature was disbanded by federal officials and was unable to join the confederacy, even though it furnished more troops to the cause then at least one member of that country and 1 slave state (Delaware) that remained loyal to the union.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 29 April 1996
There is a tombstone in Henderson, NC for Orrin Randolph Smith with an inscription "designer of the Stars and >Bars". He claimed (some time after the fact) that he had designed the original national flag of the Confederate States of America, commonly known as the "Stars and Bars". His claim is in conflict with a similar claim by Nichola Marschal. There was a great conflict between the descendants and partisans of these two claimants in the early years of the 20th century.
Without going into great detail, I am inclined to favour Marschal's claim, because he was known as a designer and painter of flags, and Smith was not, and Marschal was in Alabama, not far from the seat of the Confederate government, when the flag was adopted, while Smith was in North Carolina, which was still a member of the United States on 4 March 1861.
However, there is a good possibility in my mind that Smith and Marschal submitted similar designs. The design of the Stars and Bars is a simplification of the Stars and Stripes that could have been the composed by both men, and in fact, in the records of the Committee on Flag and Seal of the Confederate States Congress, there is another design, submitted by someone from South Carolina, which is the same design, but with the stars on a red canton, with blue/white/blue horizontal bars.
Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 3 July 2000
The reason for the variations in number of stars in the Stars and Bars was due to lack of centralized purchasing. The original ones had 7 stars and more were added as additional states joined and the flag makers became aware of the number of states.
In Oct. 1861, a rump legislative body in Missouri dissolved the bond to the union and joined the confederacy. Kentucky was recognized as neutral at first but later was represented in the Confederate congress, bringing the stars to 13. However many flagmakers only recognized those states that were able to maintain state governments within their own territory, so that 41% of the over 300 surviving STARS AND BARS have only 11 stars. Missouri and Kentucky were overrun by the union and maintained representation in the federal government.
One interesting variation is the 12 star version, used by Nathan Bedford Forest, who swore not to include the star for Georgia, "as long as a yankee remains on Georgia's soil."
Of the survivors those having eight stars, 9%; nine stars, 5%; ten stars, 4%; twelve stars, 9%; fourteen stars, 0.6%; and 15 stars, 5%. The fourteenth star was for Maryland, whose governor was under house arrest and whose legislature was disbanded until the jailed members were replaced in a election where all voters had to take an oath of allegiance to the federal government. The 15th star was for Delaware, the other slave state. Unlike Maryland, who raised a number of regiments in exile from citizens who escaped across the river into Virginia and actually had more troops in the field for the confederacy then Florida, Delaware, the first state in the union, remained loyal to the federals.
The most interesting (at least to me) version of the Stars and Bars is the 18 star version used by Gen. Stand Wa tie, the last confederate general to surrender his command, the Cherokee Brigade. It had 13 white stars in a circle and 5 red ones for the "five civilized nations", the five indian tribes that joined the confederacy.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 24 January 1996
image by Devereaux Cannon, 24 June 2001
The 12th star indicates Missouri, which was admitted to the Confederacy by act of Congress on 28 November 1861. The provisional government of Kentucky was admitted as the 13th State on 10 December 1861.
Devereaux Cannon, 24 June 2001
image by James J. Ferrigan III, 4 May 1999
The 1861 Pattern AKA "1st National" Confederate National flag and Ensign is known to have occurred with a wide range of both star patterns and numbers of stars. Examples of surviving flags as well as period drawings allow us to identify flags with as few as one star (at least two known) and as many as 17 stars (one surviving example.) The most stars displayed on an 1861 Pattern Confederate flag is 17. The flag still survives and was taken by Capt. Jack Biderman an officer of the California State Militia on July 4th 1861, in Sacramento, California after an incident with an armed secessionist.
The flag, sometimes called the "Biderman Flag", is an example of the irredentism that affected Confederate flag design in general, in that they often contained stars for territory that was coveted, but not under actual Confederate control. The flag is believed to have been associated with a secret society which was active the American West called the Knights of the Golden Circle. Their avowed goal was to take California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon out of the Union and either have them join the Confederacy or start a new nation to be called Pacifica or the Pacific Republic.
The actual 26"x46" flag is preserved in the museum at the capitol in Sacramento, CA.
James J. Ferrigan III, 4 May 1999