Battle Flags at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, 19 January 1862
compiled by Geoffrey R. Walden
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Very little is known about the flags carried by Federal units at Mill Springs. These would presumably have been the National and regimental colors of silk, and many silk flags from this early period were worn out in service and replaced. Indeed, some of the Federal units that fought at Mill Springs received replacement flags immediately following that campaign. In fact, for some of the regiments, these flags issued shortly after the battle appear to have been the first flags they were ever issued, as noted below.
10th Indiana Infantry -- Colors had been presented to the regiment by the ladies of Lafayette, Indiana, in the summer of 1861, but were "completely torn into shreds by the bullets of the enemy" during the battle (it is unclear whether this was a stand of colors - national and regimental flags, or just one flag of uncertain style). The National color was presented in December 1861 by Union ladies of Louisville. The canton contained a scroll with the motto "E Pluribus Unum" in gold thread, surrounded by silver stars. The following inscription was on the stripes: "Presented by Sallie Mansfield and Betty Crabb to the Tenth Regiment Indiana Volunteers" (a c. 1900 photograph shows the inscription was actually "Presented By Miss B.C. & Miss S.N. To The 10th Ind. Regiment" - view this photo and in-depth descriptions of these flags on the 10th Indiana Infantry page). (Note 1)
2nd Minnesota Infantry -- The regimental color said to have been carried at Mill Springs is preserved in Minnesota. It appears to be a regulation U.S. infantry regimental color, but with the state seal on the obverse side (the standard federal eagle is on the reverse).
Regimental Flag, 2nd Minnesota Infantry,
9th Ohio Infantry -- About May 1861 the regiment had been presented a blue silk flag with the inscriptions "For the First German Regiment of Cincinnati" (in German) and on the reverse, "Kämpfet brav für Freiheit und Recht" (Fight Bravely for Freedom and Justice). The regiment presumably carried this banner into action at Mill Springs. (Note 2)
2nd Tennessee Infantry -- A regimental flag that had been stored in Washington as a captured Confederate flag was returned to Tennessee in 1905. Although this was identified as a Confederate flag (perhaps that of the 19th Tennessee Infantry), a 1905 drawing clearly shows that it was a Federal regimental color. It is unknown whether this flag dates to the Mill Springs period. The current location of this flag is unknown. (Note 19)
Regimental Flag, 2nd East Tennessee
Volunteers (date unknown)
Following the battle, several of the victorious Federal regiments were presented flags made by Hugh Wilkins in Louisville, Kentucky (Wilkins early flags are generally distinguished by the light blue color of their cantons). The 1st Kentucky Cavalry received a "beautiful blue silk banner" from Mrs. Wilkins, and the 10th Indiana Infantry, 4th Kentucky Infantry, and 2nd Minnesota Infantry received new Wilkins flags from the Loyal Ladies of Louisville Soldiers Association. Indeed, it appears that these flags issued to the Kentucky regiments following the battle were the first they had, and they may have fought at Mill Springs without colors. (Note 3)
National flag presented to the 2nd
National flag presented to the 10th
1. OR I, Vol. 7, p. 92; James Birney Shaw, History of the Tenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Lafayette, IN, priv. publ., 1912, pp. 131-132; Lafayette, IN, Daily Journal, 5 February 1862.
2. Carl Frederick Wittke, The Ninth Ohio Volunteers. Columbus: F. J. Herr, 1926, p. 15.
3. Sgt. E. Tarrant, The Wild Riders of the First Kentucky Cavalry. Priv. Publ., 1894, p. 66; Union Soldiers & Sailors Monument Assn., The Union Regiments of Kentucky. Louisville: Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., 1897, p. 306; J. W. Bishop, The Mill Springs Campaign. St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Book and Stationery Co., 1890, p. 74; Thomas W. Fugate, "Kentucky Colors," Military Collector and Historian, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Spring 1991), pp. 17-23; when the 1st Kentucky Cavalry was issued a flag on 25 February 1862, the requisition form noted that the regiment was "destitute of the above mentioned articles;" the first receipt of flags ordered by the state for its units was 23 January 1862, following the battle (regimental records in the Kentucky Military History Museum, courtesy Tom Fugate, curator).
19. The Flags of the Confederate Armies. Returned to the Men Who Bore Them by the United States Government. St. Louis: Charles E. Ware, 1905 (a paperback booklet, showing color drawings of the captured battle flags returned to the South in March and April 1905, which was printed for and presented to the United Confederate Veterans at their reunion in Louisville, Kentucky, June 1905). The entry for this flag shows no capture history, and it must have been mistakenly stored in Washington among the Confederate flags.
I wish to express my thanks to Joyce Butler (Maine Historical Society), Gay Carter, Howard Freed (Pioneer Village), Tom Fugate (Kentucky Military History Museum), Paul Hightower, Mark Jaeger, Mary Lohrenz (Old Capitol Museum, Jackson, MS), Ron Nicholas, Ray Pennington, Rebecca Rose (Museum of the Confederacy), Nancy Terhaar, and Duke Turpin for their generosity in supplying some of the information used herein.
All text contents copyright © 1998-2000, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.