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MISSOURI STATE MUSEUM
Missouri Civil War Battle Flags

Introduction

As part of a long-term project to conserve its collection of Civil War battle flags, the Missouri State Museum has conserved 45 of the collection’s approximately 135 flags. Missouri’s Civil War flags represent both Union and Confederate regiments. These battle flags differed from the national flags in both design and use.


Union regiments would often carry both a national and regimental flag into battle. Regimental flags were often made of silk and mass-produced by Northern manufacturing companies. A common symbol adorning these battle flags was the Federal eagle. The flag also included the regiment’s identifying information, usually the state and number. The flag was carried and protected in battle by a color guard, a job easily filled despite the danger of leading troops into battle.


Battle flags had practical considerations. They identified troops on the battlefield and helped commanders more easily identify and position their regiments. Flags also served as important symbols for troops during times of war, representing the cause for which they were fighting and creating a sense of unity among the soldiers.

The Collection

This collection consists of photographs of the Civil War battle flags that have been conserved and framed through the efforts of the Missouri State Museum.


After the Civil War, Union and Confederate battle flags related to Missouri regiments or captured by Missouri regiments were gathered together by the Missouri Adjutant General‘s Office. In the early 1920s, the flags were furled (rolled) and placed in what were thought airtight cases in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on the first floor of the Missouri Capitol. This display method led to further damage to the already fragile artifacts. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s attempted to preserve the deteriorating flags by stitching them to a backing that kept the pieces in place.


Current conservation efforts attempt to stabilize the flags using techniques such as vacuuming or washing, reassembling those in poor condition (without recreating missing pieces), and encapsulating the flag in an inert material. Framing the flag allows display while still providing stability and protection. Between 2011 and 2015, selections of the flags shown here will be included in State Museum's current exhibit "Civil War Missouri: A House Dividing."

Rights and Reproductions

Any use of the images in this collection should credit the Missouri State Museum. To order a reproduction from the archival TIFF file, or to inquire about permissions, contact the State Museum at: DSP.State.Museum@dnr.mo.gov or 573-751-2854. These images may not be used without prior written permission except for personal or private scholarship.

Additional Resources

The following sources provide additional information on the flags photographed in this collection:

  • Civil War Missouri: A House Dividing (Missouri State Museum)
  • Flag Conservation at the Missouri State Museum (Missouri State Museum)
  • Flags of Missouri & the Civil War (Missouri Civil War Museum)

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