1861 - 1865
Hardee Pattern Flag
With Battle Honors
Hardee Battle Flag - First
Late 1861 / Early 1862
By Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.
The third force organized for the defense of the Confederacy's "heartland" was formed in September of 1861 by concentrating Brigadier-General Hardee's forces from Arkansas with the Kentucky forces organizing from that state around the central Kentucky town of Bowling Green. This force came to be called the "Central Division of Kentucky", the "Army Corps of Central Kentucky", and finally the "Army of Central Kentucky." At the end of October it numbered two divisions (the first under Major-General Hardee, the second under Brigadier-General Buckner) consisting of an aggregate of twenty-four infantry regiments or battalions, eight artillery batteries, and three cavalry units. By the end of January 1862, this force had grown to three divisions and consisted of forty-three infantry regiments or battalions, twelve artillery batteries, and nine major cavalry units. While stationed at Bowling Green during the winter of 1861-1862, a distinctive battle flag was created for the forces of this command.
The flag was claimed (in 1909) to have been inspired by General Simon Bolivar Buckner, commanding the 2nd Division. Buckner may have drawn the design of the battle flag from the flags of his old Kentucky State Guard or from the Virginia state flags present in Floyd's Division; the verdict is still out on this claim. Buckner claimed that the flags were made by his wife in accordance with a simple design - a blue field with a circular white center. However, though Mrs. Buckner most probably contributed to the making of the flags, there is also evidence that Mrs. Samuel Blackburn and her daughters did much of the sewing at their home near Bowling Green.
The flag that resulted was indeed very simple: a dark blue cotton field, varying considerably in size (anywhere from 2.25 feet to 3 feet on its hoist to 3.25 feet to 3.5 feet on its fly. In the center of this field was a plain white elliptical disc, about 16" high by 21" wide inset into the field. The regiments to which these flags were issued usually painted a regimental abbreviation on this disc. The flags had no border unless a white pole sleeve was added at regimental level to secure the flag to a staff. Although surviving flags from the first issue of flags of this pattern are few, the evidence is substantial that the flags were in use by the battle for Fort Donelson, with Brown's Tennessee Brigade definitely known to have carried them in conjunction with their Confederate 1st national flags.
After the fall of Fort Donelson, the Army of Central Kentucky was reorganized to accommodate the loss of the forces surrendered under General Buckner. Hardee's Division, and the survivors of Buckner's Division in Breckinridge's Kentucky Reserve continued to carry their distinctive blue battle flags into the battle of Shiloh. The newly reformed 2nd Division under General Crittenden, however, had no distinctive battle flags when they arrived at Corinth; however, those attached to Hardee's 3rd Corps adopted the blue flags that distinguished his command. Hence, though Beauregard had ordered 31 extra battle flags from New Orleans with the probable intent of equipping Hardee's Corps with the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag, that effort would be resisted, and, when Beauregard became incapacitated and left the army in Bragg's control, no effort was made to enforce a uniform battle flag in the Confederate Army of the Mississippi. Instead the old blue flags made in Kentucky were either repaired or replaced.
Hardee Battle Flag
By Wayne J. Lovett
These repaired and replaced flags differed from their predecessors by the addition of a white border, usually about 2" wide around all four edges of the flag. Through the summer of 1862, the central disc remained elliptical in configuration, with the major (longer) axis on the horizontal and the minor (shorter) axis on the vertical. When the army was divided into the "Right Wing" (under General Polk) and the "Left Wing" (under General Hardee) in August of 1862, Hardee's force was enhanced by the four brigades of Jonesís Division, formerly of Bragg's Corps.
These newly added units of the "Left Wing" adopted the distinctive blue flags of Hardee's old corps. The regimental tailors of the new units were responsible for the production of their flags, so size and materials varied from regiment to regiment. Instead of the elliptical central disc, this newly added force made their flags with circular discs. These discs, like those of Hardee's prior command, were often decorated by whatever means the regiment had available with an abbreviated unit designation. And in accordance with orders that had begun under Beauregard's regime and continued under Bragg's auspices, the names of the battles in which the unit had gained honor were painted on the field or the borders of the flag. A few regiments, in addition, decorated their colors with the "crossed cannon inverted" battle honor that General Bragg had authorized after the battles of both Perryville and Murfreesboro.
Hardee Battle Flag
By Wayne J. Lovett
Although the make-up of Hardee's "Wing" would be altered yet again in December of 1862 subsequent to the renaming of the "Army of the Mississippi" as the "Army of Tennessee" the previous month, the units that had adopted Hardee's distinctive flag before the December reorganization continued to carry the blue flag regardless of affiliation with Hardee's or Polk's Wing, even as late of November of 1863. In the interim, new flags were occasionally provided through regimental tailors. At some time in 1863, a fourth variation of the Hardee flag came into prominence. This new variation featured a return to the elliptical white central disc on the white bordered, blue field, but with the major axis of the ellipse in a vertical, rather than horizontal mode. While many of the 1863 Hardee flags were still regimentally produced, it appears that in September of 1863, Private Jacob Gall, Co. D, 19th Louisiana Infantry (who had been detailed to Hardee's headquarters as his personal tailor on 6 May 1863) was sent to Enterprise, Mississippi, where he transformed 38 yards of merino, 30 yards of "domestic" (cotton), and 8 spools of thread into "34 Battle Flags for Lieutenant General Hardee's Command". Some of these were evidently distributed at Demopolis, Alabama, while others are thought to have been sent to forces of the Army of Tennessee.
Hardee Battle Flag
By Wayne J. Lovett
It was the intent of Generals G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston to have the flag they adopted in Virginia become the standard for all Confederate armies. The first attempt to spread the Southern Cross to other forces was by General Beauregard. In February 1862, he was sent West to assist Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in Department Number 2 in Tennessee. Upon arrival, the Creole began showing his flag brought from Virginia and, as number two commander of forces in that theater, began issuing orders for that flag's adoption by troops of his command. He was quite chagrined to find, however, that several of the armies of the area had already adopted their own distinctive battle flags - and for the same reasons that the Army of Northern Virginia adopted theirs. As such, the eastern flag was rebuffed.
In what would become the Army of the Mississippi gathered in Corinth, Mississippi after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Beauregard soon got his chance to have his flag adopted by Western troops. Arriving from Pensacola and Mobile under the command of Gen.Braxton Bragg, what would be known as Bragg's Corps came north without a distinctive battle flag. As such, Beauregard had these troops adopt the Southern Cross from the East.
These new flags were ordered by Beauregard through Major-General Mansfield Lovell, commanding "Department No. 1" in New Orleans. Lovell contracted with New Orleans sailmaker Henry Cassidy for the initial and subsequent sets of flags. Cassidy had previously made Louisiana state flags for his state, flags for the Army's fleet of gunboats assembled at New Orleans, and numerous large Confederate 1st national flags. Between early February and March 29, 1862, Cassidy would provide 132 battle flags for Beauregard's command in three separate groups -- all following the general design that Beauregard had championed in Virginia.