Commentary on contemporary and historical issues related to Confederate Heritage.
|Beauregard's personal Confederate battle flag in the Louisiana State Museum|
(Photo by Mike Jones)
[From the Lake Charles American Press, Dec. 27, 1992, page 5.]
Museum's Civil War battle flag was prototype
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Civil War expert! believe a Confederate battle flag stored for years at the Louisiana State Museum in the French Quarter is one of the first three or four such flags made for the man who designed the banner.
Ken Legendre, a Gretna letter carrier and Civil War buff made the discovery earlier this month when he visited the museum's flag collection at the historic Jackson Square building known as the Presbytere.
Museum personnel didn't know the significance of the flag but Legendre recognized it as one of the first flags made for Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. The museum piece isn't for sale but Legendre believes it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The battle flag is perhaps the symbol most identified with the confederacy.
It was designed after Confederate officers found that it was difficult to tell the South's flag — three broad bands of red and white with a circle of white stars on a blue field — was difficult to tell from the Union's stars and stripes.
In 1861, Beauregard was in command o the Army of the Potomac. He decided or what became know as the "Southern Cross" a blue diagonal cross on a red field with stars on the blue bars representing the Southern states.
Some accounts say the very first battle flag was made under Beauregard's director by two Richmond women and later was possessed by the 5th Company of the Washington Artillery, an elite New Orleans unit.
But the prototypes that became most famous, and that were soon honored throughout the Confederacy as the first three battle flags, were made by Constance Cary Harrison of Richmond, Va., and her cousins Hetty and Jennie Cary.
Each made a silk flag for a top general: Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston and Earl Van Dorn.
Beauregard sent his flag to his wife in New Orleans. When Union forces occupied the city in 1862, she sent it by foreign ship to Havana. Beauregard reclaimed it after the war and in 1883 donated it to the Washington Artillery.
It reportedly stood above the general's coffin when he died in 1893, and four year earlier it may have covered Confederate President Jefferson Davis' coffin at his funeral in New Orleans.
The flag's fate thereafter is unclear. But in " 1941, according to museum records, the Washington Artillery gave it to the museum. Whether museum personnel ever realized its significance isn't known. If so, the flag's history was forgotten over time.
"I had heard of this flag for many years, but as far as I knew it was missing. To all of a sudden gaze upon it was quite a treat,'"
Legendre said. Legendre's identification of the flag has since been seconded by Keith and Glen Cangelosi, experts with Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans.
State Museum Director James Sefcik said the museum will seek money to conserve the fragile flag. The cost is expected to be several thousand dollars. The other two Cary flags can be seen at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va.