Battle Flags at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, 19 January 1862
compiled by Geoffrey R. Walden
Click here to go directly to the page on Federal flags.
In contrast to many other battle studies, much more information is available on the flags flown by Confederate units during the campaign and battle of Mill Springs, than is known about their Federal counterparts. This is mainly due to flag captures; at least eleven Confederate flags were taken by the Federals either during the battle, or picked up in the Beech Grove camp after the Confederates had abandoned it.
Most Federal infantry regiments carried two flags, the National flag and a regimental color, and the standard Confederate practice was to have one regimental color. However, many Confederate regiments were formed from companies that had been recruited in a single locality, and many of these companies were presented with their own flag before going off to war, often by the ladies of their town or county. The companies naturally felt a great deal of pride for these banners, many of which had been presented during formal ceremonies, and which had patriotic slogans applied by the ladies. The new troops were reluctant to give up these special flags, and it appears that the practice early in the war in the Southern forces, particularly those in the Western Theater, was to carry these company flags into battle. The flag of the company that became the color company was often designated as the regimental color. However, this plethora of flags undoubtedly produced confusion on the battlefield, and the practice of carrying multiple flags had largely died out by mid-1862.
That the Confederates in the Mill Springs campaign carried more than one flag in some regiments is amply demonstrated by the 15th Mississippi Infantry, which lost at least six flags during the campaign. Indeed, as many as nine early-war flags of the 15th Mississippi Infantry may be identifiable today, indicating that each company probably carried its own banner. It must also be noted that many of the Mill Springs "captures" were found in the Confederate camps at Beech Grove and Mill Springs after their retreat, and it is possible that these flags were in storage at the time of the battle, and that each Confederate regiment carried only one flag into the battle. However, the large number of flags reported to have been captured during the actual battle argues against this. (Note 20)
16th Alabama Infantry
Letter from Lt. Green Clay, USA, aide to Gen. Schoepf, 22
January 1862 -- "I am on my way to Louisville by order -- I have in my possession the
enemy's flag captured -- which is to be presented to Gen. Buel [sic] --."
Capt. Frederic A. Ashford commanded Co. B, 16th Alabama Infantry, which company was called the Mountain Rangers. The Chardavoyne (correct spelling) family was prominent in Courtland, Alabama (Capt. Ashfords home). The present location of this flag is unknown. (Note 4)
Unidentified company from Marion County; possibly Company G, the "Marion Guards" -- A soldier of the 10th Indiana Infantry wrote home that he had "captured a splendid banner belonging to the Marion county 'Alabama Guards.' I will present it to old Tippecanoe county--together with another one captured by Johnny Mackessey of our company" [Co. E]. Two companies of the 16th Alabama Infantry -- G and K -- were from Marion County, but I have been unable to identify the "Alabama Guards." Present location unknown. (from the Logansport, IN, Weekly Journal, 1 February 1862, courtesy Mark Jaeger)
15th Mississippi Infantry
Company A, "Long Creek Rifles." The company had a "beautiful silk flag" which had been presented by the citizens of Bluff Springs, Attala County, Mississippi. This flag was lost at Mill Springs (it may be one of the unidentified captured flags described below, perhaps W.D. 50; the source implies the flag was left in Beech Grove during the retreat across the river). (Note 18)
Company F, "Water Valley Rifles." Presented by Miss Althea Dawson (and ten other young ladies) to Lt. R. A. Bankhead in May 1861. Described as a "beautiful bunting flag, with the name of the company, and the inscription Our Country, Our Home on it." Apparently not captured during the battle; subsequent fate unknown. (Note 9)
Company G, "Grenada Rifles." Presented by Miss Mollie Granberry to Capt. W. S. Statham in April 1861. Inscribed "Pro Juribus et Forcis." Carried in the battle by Ensign John Goodrich, who was wounded in the thigh, and by Ned McDaniel, who was shot in both arms. Found in the abandoned Confederate camp at Mill Springs, 20 January 1862, by Capt. Benjamin Gregory, Co. F, 10th Indiana Infantry. Returned to Mississippi, to the Dixie Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Mrs. J. W. Buchanan, President), on 25 October 1899. Present location unknown. (Notes 5, 6, 10, 16)
Company H, "Yalobusha Rifles." War Dept. Capture No. 16. Presented by the ladies of Coffeeville, Mississippi, in May 1861. Confederate First National style. Used as the regimental color. Several color bearers were shot during the battle, before the flag was lost. (One account says the flag was placed on a cabin at the right of the regimental line as identification, and mistakenly left there when the regiment advanced.) Captured by Corp. Albert Esson, Co. G, 2nd Minnesota Infantry. Returned to Mississippi by the U.S. War Dept., 25 March 1905. Mississippi State Museum, Jackson, cat. no. 68.54. (Notes 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 15)
Co. H, 15th Mississippi Infantry,
Company K, "Oktibbeha Plowboys." First National style; six-pointed stars; reverse center bar has inscription "OKTIBBEHA! PLOW-BOYS!! / VICTORY OR DEATH!!" Not captured, but passed down through the family of the original color-bearer. It must be noted that the "Oktibbeha Plowboys," first Co. K, 15th Mississippi, was discharged on account of measles a few weeks after mustering in April 1861, and the Co. K designation was taken by the "Choctaw Grays." It is therefore unclear whether this flag was carried as late as the Fishing Creek campaign. (Note 11)
Co. K, 15th Mississippi Infantry,
Unidentified company. War Dept. Capture No. 28. Captured at
the battle of Logan's Crossroads, Kentucky, by Co. E, 2nd Minnesota Vols. First National
style. Returned to Mississippi by the U.S. War Dept., 26 April 1905. Mississippi State
Museum, Jackson, cat. no. 60.252. (Notes 5, 6, 7, 13)
Unidentified 15th Mississippi
Infantry flag, W.D. 28
Unidentified company, possibly from Holly Springs. Captured by John Chavers, Daniel O. Neal, Will Olive, and John Perkins, Company A, 10th Indiana Infantry, during a Confederate charge at Mill Springs. One report states that "the color bearer had been killed, leaving his flag, partly torn from the staff, hanging in some bushes. Neal rushed forward and cut the flag from the staff. All around the spot on which this capture was made, was strewn dead and wounded men. The flag shows several bullet holes, blood-stains and other battle-marks." First National style of wool or cotton bunting, having a light canton with 15 painted stars (in common with some other early Mississippi flags, it appears the canton may have originally been blue, but has now faded, and the stars were originally painted, perhaps in silver, which has oxidized to a bluish tinge). Incorrectly identified as the flag of the Yalobusha Rifles. This flag was to be returned to Mississippi in 1900, but it was retained by John Chavers (the last survivor of its captors), and is in possession of Chavers' descendants in Indiana today. (Note 12)
Unidentified 15th Mississippi Infantry
company. "Taken from
the 'Mississippi Tigers,' at the Somerset fight, by Company I of the gallant 10th
[Indiana], and by them since presented to Lieutenant Colonel W. C. Kise. The Colonel
sends it home to his family at Lebanon [Indiana]. ... The flag has the regular
red, white and red bars, and the ensign of blue, with thirteen stars. Upon the white
bar is inscribed the words, 'Presented to the Consacqua [? - unclear] Volunteers by the
Ladies of the Valley,' while the ensign contains the words 'Liberty or Death.'"
There was no such company name in the 15th Mississippi Infantry, and I have been
unable to identify this name as a Mississippi location. The reported post-battle
location of this flag is similar to the flag described and shown just above, but the
description is different (the flag above has fifteen stars, and no visible
inscriptions). (from the Indianapolis Daily Journal, 4 February 1862, courtesy
Unidentified company. "The 2nd Minnesota captured a banner from a Mississippi regiment, on which was inscribed 'Mississippi Butchers.'" This description was possibly a bit of literary license on the part of a newspaper reporter. (from the Lafayette, IN, Daily Journal, 25 January 1862, courtesy Mark Jaeger)
19th Tennessee Infantry -- See discussion under Unidentified Mississippi Company, just above. The flag of the "Conasauga Volunteers" captured by the 10th Indiana Infantry may have belonged to Co. H or Co. F of the 19th Tennessee Infantry.
20th Tennessee Infantry -- Was presented a flag made by the ladies of Nashville, in July or August 1861. This flag was carried at Mill Springs by color-bearer J. E. Patterson of Co. C, who "fell almost mortally wounded at Fishing Creek, with his face to the foe and his colors to the breeze." This flag continued in service through the battle of Murfreesboro. (Note 17)
28th Tennessee Infantry -- Upon its formation in 1861, Company F was presented with a "beautiful silk Battle Flag" by the ladies of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. (Note 14)
Unidentified unit(s), captured
at Mill Springs
War Department captured flags Nos. 48
(left) and 28 (right)
War Dept. Capture No. 50. First National style. Captured in Zollicoffer's intrenchments, 19 January 1862, by Co. A, 2nd Minnesota Vols. Displayed at the New York Metropolitan Fair, 1864. Unusual star design in canton -- 10 stars form a circle, with 5 others at 2, 4, 6, and 8 oclock positions (the one at 10 oclock is missing), forming an inverted star pattern in the whole. Museum of the Confederacy. (Notes 7, 8)
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).
4. Cassius M. Clay, "Postscript to the Battle of Mill Springs," The Filson Club Historical Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April 1956), pp. 109 and 114 (n. 9); Lafayette, IN, Daily Journal, 10 February 1862; Broadfoot Publishing Co., Roster of Confederate Soldiers. Wilmington, NC, 1994-1997; "Personal Recollections of Andrew Malone Hill," Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 20 (Spring 1958), p. 86.
5. Ron Field, "Flags of the Confederacy, No. 13; The Flags of Mississippi, Part Two: First Nationals," Journal of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, Vol. 15, No. 4 (1987), pp. 108-113.
6. Howard M. Madaus and Robert D. Needham, The Battle Flags of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Milwaukee Public Museum, 1976, p. 131 (n. 18).
7. U.S. Adjutant Generals Office, "Record of Rebel Flags Captured by Union Troops Since April 19, 1861" (National Archives Record Group 94).
8. U.S. Sanitary Commission, Catalogue of the Museum of Flags, Trophies and Relics to be Exhibited at New York, April 4, 1864. New York: Charles O. Jones, 1864, pp. 13-14.
9. "Flag Presentation to Water Valley Rifles," Water Valley Progress, 3 June 1911 (reproduced in Yalobusha County History, by the Heritage Committee of the Yalobusha Historical Society (Dallas, TX, 1982), p. C-30). A post-war account by a local boy who witnessed the battle says that the flag of Company F was captured after the color-bearer was killed, and was located in Louisville, Kentucky, some years after the war, but the owners would not return it to the Mississippi veterans. This statement must be suspect (along with many others in this account), but there is always the possibility that the Water Valley Rifles flag exists in a private collection somewhere. (John W. Simpson, "A Boy's Story of the Battle of Fishing Creek and other Incidents of the Civil War," Bronston, KY, undated manuscript in possession of Duke Turpin, Nancy, KY; partially published as "A Boy's Story of the Battle of Mill Springs," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 18 (July 1910), pp. 335-336).
10. "About a Mississippi Flag," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 8, No. 2 (February 1900), p. 67; "Flag of the Grenada Rifles," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 9, No 9 (September 1901), p. 400; J. C. Hathorn, A History of Grenada County, p. 78; "The Grenada Rifles Flag," The Sentinel, Grenada, MS, 28 October 1899; "A Confederate Flag - The Grenada Banner Returned to Its Original Owners," The Weekly Patriot, Lebanon, IN, 26 October 1899; "Flag of the Grenada Rifles," The Weekly Pioneer, Lebanon, IN, 9 November 1899 (courtesy Mark Jaeger).
11. Information and photo courtesy Howard Freed, Pioneer Village, Box 696, Farmington, UT 84025. J. C. Rietti, Military Annals of Mississippi, Vol. 1. Jackson, MS, n.d., p. 187.
12. "About a Mississippi Flag," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 8. No. 2 (February 1900), p. 67; "Flags to be Returned," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 8, No. 9 (September 1900), p. 393; Ralph W. Stark, "Boone County Soldiers Captured Confederate Flag," Boone Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 4 (February 1979), pp. 10-11; "Relic of 1862," Lebanon, IN, Weekly Pioneer, 6 June 1898; "Another Rebel Flag," Lebanon, IN, Weekly Patriot, 16 November 1899; correspondence with Mark Jaeger, 10th Indiana Infantry Homepage, August 1998.
13. Dunbar Rowland, "Fourth Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History." Jackson, MS, 1905, pp. 21-22.
15. Letter of Capt. Francis M. Aldridge, Co. H, 15th Miss. Inf., 30 January 1862, Francis Marion Aldridge Papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
16. James R. Binford, "Recollections of the Fifteenth Regiment of Mississippi Infantry, C.S.A.," in the Henry Patrick Papers, Z215 Vol. 5, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, pp. 15, 16.
17. John B. Lindsley, The Military Annals of Tennessee, Confederate, Vol. 1. Nashville, 1886, p. 384; W. J. McMurray, M.D., History of the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A. Nashville, 1904, p. 190.
18. F. M. Glass, Long Creek Rifles: A Brief History. Sallis, MS, 1910.
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.
20. In addition to those flags described here, there is a flag in the Maine Historical Society that may be an early-war flag of the 15th Mississippi Infantry. It was carried by Capt. William Collins, one-time company commander of the "Quitman Rifles," Co. C, when he was arrested trying to rob a bank in Calais, Maine, in July 1864. It is a large blue silk banner with eleven stars and a gold painted inscription: THE CONFEDERACY FOR EVER, TO DEFEND HER RIGHTS. FROM HOME AND FRIENDS WE'LL SEVER, Although museum records identify this flag to the Quitman Rifles and the 15th Mississippi, this identification is somewhat problematical. (See -- Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. 4, p. 531; Mason Philip Smith, "Confederate Raid on Calais," Down East Magazine, October 1966, pp. 30-32, 43-49; Mason Philip Smith, Confederates Down East (1985), p. 69; info courtesy Joyce Butler, Maine Historical Society, and Paul Hightower, 15th Mississippi Infantry page)
21. The captured flags were presented to Congress in the House of Representatives on 22 February 1862 (see Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. 1, p. 892). Along with the woodcut that appeared in the New York Illustrated News was a detailed description of each flag and its capture history, as far as was known. Click here to see the entire woodcut, with the captured Mill Springs flags indicated.
22. Information provided by Howard M. Madaus.
I wish to express my thanks to Greg Biggs, 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), Howard M. Madaus, 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 © 1998-2003, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.