The Confederate Battle Flag of the 4th Tennessee Infantry

The Confederate Battle Flag of the 4th Tennessee Infantry: The Famous Beauregard Design. This “artillery”-sized Confederate battle flag was the product of intense lobbying by General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. Realizing that the states were not supplying flags for their troops and being determined to end the confusion of identifying friend from foe on the battlefield, Beauregard lobbied the Confederate Congress to adopt a more distinctive flag for the Southern forces. After failing in that effort, Beauregard solicited design concepts from his commanders. The result was the design shown here which became the prototype of the Confederate battle flag used at the Battle of Shiloh; it is remarkably intact and only one of two known to exist. Descended through the unit’s last commander, the flag of the 4th Tennessee Infantry was manufactured by the noted New Orleans contractor Henry Cassidy and delivered to the regiment in April 1862. It is one of two flags proudly displayed by Confederate veterans at a Shiloh reunion in 1900 in the photograph below.

Cassidy constructed the flag’s field using a red cotton-wool fabric warp/weft. Emblazoned on the field is the dramatic, fine blue 5.5″ wide St. Andrew’s cross bordered by strips of white cotton. On the obverse, twelve white, six-pointed silk stars are sewn at 4.5″ intervals. Reverse, the blue fabric is cut away to reveal the twelve stars at 2.75″ to 3″ across from point to point. A yellow 3.25″ twill weave serge border is sewn to the three exposed sides of the flag. A 2.125″ wide cotton heading contains the five buttonhole eyelets that finish the staff side of the flag. The overall dimensions are 35.5″ on the staff side and 37″ on the fly. Accompanying the flag, once attached, is a white cotton swallowtail streamer measuring 8″ at the hoist and 44.5″ to the tip of the streamer’s points (40″ to the cut of the swallowtail). Also shown in the 1900 photograph below, the streamer bears the inscription “4th Tenn. Inf.” in block letters.

The most recognizable banner of the Confederacy, the design originally called for flags of different sizes to be issued to the infantry, cavalry and artillery. However, in practice, the flags were issued to units based on availability with no regard to protocol. And the 4th Tennessee would need them. Organized near Memphis at Germantown, Tennessee, it was accepted into Confederate service on August 16, 1861. In just over six months the regiment would lose almost half of its effective forces at the Battle of Shiloh with Brigadier General Charles Clark’s Division. While Colonel Rufus P. Neely would be commended for his bravery at Shiloh, the casualties included the regiment’s Major, John F. Henry. However, Colonel Neely would die soon thereafter in May 1862. After the siege at Corinth and the Battle of Perryville, the regiment was so decimated by the time of the Battle of Murfreesboro that it was consolidated with the 5th Tennessee to form the 4th/5th Tennessee Regiments. Forming the right wing of Stewart’s Brigade, the regiment was honored in their capture of many federal pieces during the battle. Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta and Jonesboro, Georgia would follow. By the time of their surrender at Greensboro, North Carolina on April 26, 1865, the few men shown here left standing and holding this same flag they fought under so many years earlier were lucky to be alive.

Info about flag and it’s sale at auction found here

5 comments

  1. I am seeking a portrait of COL Rufus P. Neely, could someone share one with me? it will be posted to Ancestry.com as at branch of my family. thank you

  2. My great great grandfather “William MacAdoo Reynolds” was in this unit.
    34th Regiment, Charlie Company 4th Tennessee infantry.

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