Sunday, October 21, 2012

Texas Civil War Museum Receives Donated National Confederate Flag

The Texas Civil War Museum received its first donated flag, a Confederate national flag.  This 2nd national flag or “Stainless Banner” had once been in the possession of Lieutenant Henry Lillibridge, a quartermaster for the 178th Ohio infantry regiment. His descendant, Elizabeth Wood, gave the flag to the UDC’s Oran M. Roberts Chapter in Houston. The UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy) in turn donated it to the museum. As a quartermaster, Lillibridge was in charge of confiscating rebel property in Tennessee and North Carolina. 

A late comer to the war, the 178th Ohio was assigned to defend Murfreesboro, TN during General John Bell Hood’s 1864 advance into Tennessee. Most of their fighting was with guerillas who tried to sabotage the railroad tracks. One guerilla, John Seal, was captured and executed. After Hood’s crushing defeat at Nashville, the 178th was sent to North Carolina to bolster Sherman’s advance. After the war, they performed occupation duty in Charlotte, NC.

During the war, flags were highly valued trophies. The loss of a regimental flag was the ultimate disgrace for both sides. To prevent confiscation, it was not uncommon for captured Confederate units to hide flags in their clothing, tear them into small pieces for easy concealment then sew them back together later, or bury them in the ground. The flag of the 4th Texas infantry regiment was once buried on the banks of Austin's Barton Springs.  National flags, like this one, were taken down from public buildings and replaced with Union ones if the city was occupied by Federal troops.

The “Stainless Banner” replaced the 1st national flag or "Stars and Bars."  Because of its red, white and blue pattern, the "Stars and Bars" was easily mistaken for a Union flag on the battlefield. The “Stainless Banner” was adopted to end the confusion. This flag consists of a Confederate battle flag in the upper left corner and a field of white covering the rest of the flag. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen Confederate states. Missouri and Kentucky were included even though they didn’t actually secede; they had Confederate governments in exile. A noticeable problem with the flag was its resemblance to a flag of truce; something that might send a mixed message.
In addition, the stainless white field was easily soiled. As a solution, a 3rd national flag was adopted in March 1865 that featured the “Stainless Banner” with a red border on its right side that covered the width of the flag. The controversial Confederate battle flag or rebel flag was used by military and naval units. Many people today assume the battle flag was the Confederate national flag, but it wasn’t.

The donated flag will be conserved by Textile Preservation Associates of Ranson, West Virginia. For decades, the flag was stored in a small metal box, leaving severe  creases from being folded. A specialized humidification process will be used to restore the flag’s pliability after its lengthy folded storage. A low pressure vacuum is used next to clean the flag without damaging the fabric. Afterwards, the flag is mounted on stabiltex to preserve the fibers and placed in an airtight frame for viewing.

Here are the three Confederate National Flags:


1st National (“Stars and Bars”) Flag
March, 1861 – May, 1863

2nd National (‘Stainless Banner”) Flag
May 1863 – March 1865

3rd National Flag
Since March 1865


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