Flags For the Fourth

It’s July 4. Back in 1863 it was the day after the Union triumph at Gettysburg: it was also the day Ulysses S. Grant took possession of Vicksburg.

Several weeks ago two graduates of institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia decided upon a most appropriate way to mark this twin triumph of the armies of the United States.

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

I have always liked the North Carolina monument. People forget that it was cast in New York City. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s works also include Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore.

We then walked across the street.

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

I’m not so sure I care for the proliferation of modern regimental monuments. The 11th Mississippi has been honored with new monuments at Antietam and Gettysburg. However, this regiment suffered terribly at Gettysburg.

Then it was down the street …

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

Ah, the Old Dominion itself, topped by Robert E. Lee. As he himself admitted, what happened on July 3 was all his fault … although I agree with George Pickett that the Yankees had something to do with it.

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

Of course, there are some people who think it was all James Longstreet’s fault. We disagree. So we thought we’d honor this graduate of the United States Military Academy and groomsman at Ulysses S. Grant’s wedding. He was smart enough to know when the war was over.

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

People forget that Robert E. Lee’s headquarters was located along the Chambersburg Pike west of town. We did not.

Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.
Photograph by Kristilyn Baldwin.

Finally, nothing could please us more than to learn that The Civil War Trust announced on July 1 a campaign to purchase this building and its surrounding establishment with plans to restore this area to its wartime appearance. We thought that was worth celebrating: after all, this land was actually in Union hands for much of July 1.

Happy Fourth of July!






27 thoughts on “Flags For the Fourth

  1. Bill Underhill July 4, 2014 / 9:14 am

    These photos made my Fourth! Thank you.

  2. Rob Baker July 4, 2014 / 9:24 am

    Oh man. lol. That’s funny. I’m sure there will be some people upset over that one.

  3. T F Smith July 4, 2014 / 9:53 am

    You rabble-rousing flagger, you! To the United States – beating tyranny since 1775!

  4. Brad July 4, 2014 / 9:56 am

    And who knew you were a flagger 🙂

  5. Christopher Shelley July 4, 2014 / 10:49 am

    What a great flag! But I’m starting to think that maybe you two are a couple of sh!t disturbers.

  6. rortensie July 4, 2014 / 12:56 pm

    I’ve been waiting for these. I did my own version last night….

  7. Mike Rogers July 4, 2014 / 1:37 pm

    This just might be the greatest blog post of all time.

  8. C.W. Roden July 4, 2014 / 1:41 pm

    Um, didn’t West Virginia become a US State prior to the Battle of Gettysburg?
    If so then shouldn’t the flag (which is a remarkable work and design BTW) technically be a 35 Star banner rather than a 34 Star flag….for the sake of historical accuracy, of course.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 4, 2014 / 2:20 pm

      Actually, “Raptorman,” you bring up an interesting question.

      West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863. To have included the star prior to that time would have been jumping the gun, although a careful examination of some national colors suggest that this may have happened in a few cases. However, nearly all of units during these campaigns carried 34-star designs, for they had no time to swap out to the new national colors that in any case were not the official colors until July 4, 1863 (some may have been given their colors carried at Gettysburg and Vicksburg prior to July 3, 1861, in which case they might well have been carrying 33-star flags).

      2nd Wisconsin Flag

      And, as you can see here, other units carried their 34-star banners through subsequent campaigns:

      So you’re free to show us 35-star flags flown at Gettysburg, but it’s clear that 34-star flags were the order of the day (and, as Al Mackey points out, the 35-star banner was not the official flag until July 4, 1863, which you might recall was after Gettysburg. It appears that even the 7th West Virginia Infantry (which was present at Gettysburg) had a 34-star flag, according to this and this. For other West Virginia flags, several with 34 stars, look here.

      We’ll see whether you retract your claim on David Grove’s FB page. Not to do so would suggest that you are dishonest. But Grove’s not too bright, either, because he thinks the pictures were taken today, July 4, 2014. Sorry, David. Try reading the entry: “Several weeks ago two graduates of institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia decided upon a most appropriate way to mark this twin triumph of the armies of the United States.” You seem confused by simple English. But you keep telling yourself you’re right. Remember, it’s heritage, not history, especially on your right-wing website with a seasoning of racially-tinged commentary.

      Perhaps next time you boys will do your homework before trying to score points. You’ll find it’s a little more challenging than conjuring up episodes in the private life of “Hey Arnold.”

      Oh … and by the way, fellas … did you point out to your friends the Flaggers that hoisting the flag of the Army of Tennessee in a feeble effort to honor the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia was historically inaccurate? Then again, most people associate the flag they hoisted with white supremacy and the KKK, so I guess they knew what they were doing. So much for your commitment to historical accuracy. Maybe Matt Heimbach will appreciate the choice.

      We chose this particular 34 star flag because we appreciated the design. Apparently you share that appreciation, and it’s nice to see you admire a United States flag for once. It is your nation, after all. That’s the flag that Union regiments waved at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

      Glad to see you and your friends still read the blog, “Raptorman” … even when you tell each other that none of you do (and Mr. Grove seems challenged when it comes to reading, so maybe that’s why he’s in charge of cutting and pasting). Take care.

    • Al Mackey July 4, 2014 / 5:12 pm

      Sorry Mr. Rodent, but the 35-star flag didn’t become an official flag until July 4, 1863, meaning the official United States flag for the battle of Gettysburg was a 34-star flag. A unit that had a 34-state flag at Gettysburg on July 4 would not have an opportunity to change it. So the flag we used was not only good looking but historically accurate as well.

      • Brooks D. Simpson July 4, 2014 / 5:20 pm

        You’re right, Al, as to the official date for the flag change (hey, Carl could have found that in Wikipedia had he chosen to do so).

        More 1863 34-star flags can be found here and here among the national colors flown at Gettysburg.

        • Kristoffer September 28, 2016 / 4:58 pm

          Actually, the first flag is a 5 rows * 7 columns = 35-star flag, and the second flag is a 6 rows * 6 columns = 36-star flag.

  9. Mark July 4, 2014 / 1:46 pm

    About that picture at the top with Grant on the horse in the crowd with his hat in the air. No scene like it with Grant ever actually happened did it?

    • centerforhistorystudies July 4, 2014 / 4:26 pm

      Grant was going down to the river to check on the boats, in his accustomed all-business way, when to his surprise the troops cheered him spontaneously. His salute back to others was always raising his hat. He had led them once again to victory. I think the Army of the Tennessee is the finest Union army in that war.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 4, 2014 / 2:22 pm

      Did you happen to capture that person’s name? 🙂

      For the record, we thank the photographer, what’s-her-name.

      • Kristilyn Baldwin July 4, 2014 / 3:08 pm

        I did! I was just agreeing with you. And honestly, I surprise myself sometimes. It was a fun assignment. Thanks for including me.

  10. Al Mackey July 4, 2014 / 5:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Student of the American Civil War and commented:
    Brooks and I decided to make a statement honoring the Union victories in the summer of 1863. This is one type of flag units who fought at Gettysburg might have carried.

  11. Mr Dave July 4, 2014 / 8:45 pm

    There was another important campaign that concluded during the first few days of July 1863.
    The Tullahoma Campaign.
    I can’t believe that a scholar of your renown doesn’t know about it.
    I don’t want to believe you would deliberately choose not to mention it.
    So it must be that you just don’t believe that it is that important.
    That position is subject to endless debate but is rejected by those historians who have studied Tullahoma among them
    Michael Bradley, JD Alford, Christopher Kolakowski, Richard Brewer and`Albert Castel.
    However as an educator I think you have an obligation to mention it as many people with an interest in the War have never even heard of the campaign. It is a chance for you to sweep away ignorance (lack of knowledge).

    Most Americans with some knowledge of the Civil War have heard of the Fall of Atlanta.
    Very few of them know where the Union army that took Atlanta came from (Chattanooga) or how that city came into Union possession. So as we celebrate the important Union victories of July 4th 1863 we should celebrate in the words of Herman Hattaway in his book How the North won:
    “The Symphony of Vicksburg, Tullahoma and Gettysburg.”

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 4, 2014 / 10:41 pm


      Sorry, but the Tullahoma Campaign doesn’t rank up there with Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Whatever success Rosecrans gained at that time he nearly threw away at Chickamauga. Indeed, it was a good question as to whether he would have held onto Chattanooga. But I’ve discussed before why it does not hold the same attraction as do Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Understudied, yes. Underappreciated, yes. As important as some claim? No. But after nearly six months, it was nice that Rosecrans finally decided to undertake offensive operations. Had he moved sooner in the same way, the results might have been far more spectacular. Had he continued to move rather than to rest for another month, the story might have been different in north Georgia.

      You missed that. You also missed the fact that Chattanooga was still in Confederate hands at the end of the campaign. It remained in Confederate hands until September 8. So it appears you need to do some reading on the campaign, and in so reminding you I simply meet your charge to sweep away ignorance (lack of knowledge). You’re welcome.

      As an educator, I have an obligation to my students, who pay tuition. They know that multiple Union armies, not just one, fought under William T. Sherman in 1864. So do the readers of my textbook. Guess you overlooked that. Thanks for giving me the chance to sweep away your ignorance of that fact. No charge.

      So, as you say, the importance of Tullahoma is a subject open to endless debate, and this exchange will not end it, as you yourself admit. But thanks for sharing your opinion. I’ve given it the attention it deserves.

  12. Mr Dave July 6, 2014 / 8:30 pm

    A few points:
    1- Tullahoma should be mentioned in any discussion of the actions of the Union armies in June-July 1863. To not mention it is to not tell the whole story.
    2-You admit that “some” claim that Tullahoma was important. It seems to me that if serious scholarship deems something important it should be noted in a history of the War. Tullahoma often isn’t even mentioned. I would also hold that most historians who look at Tullahoma in depth say it as important as Gettysburg and Vicksburg. That might be challenged but it shouldn’t be ignored. Page 204 of Victors in Blue has an interesting assessment of Vicksburg.
    3- Tullahoma didn’t result in the capture of Chattanooga. However it was a key step on the road to the capture of Chattanooga. Hardly anyone thinks Rosecrans would have abandoned Chattanooga. In fact he was putting the final touches on his plan to open the water route to Chattanooga from Bridgeport, Alabama on the day he was relieved by Grant.
    4- Rosecrans had his reasons for moving when he did. They are in the Official Records You don’t really think he rested (in the sense of sleeping or taking a trip to another city) after Tullahoma ? There was a problem with heavy rains after the campaign.
    Chattanooga wasn’t on a plain a few miles in front of him. There were mountains and rivers that had to be crossed. It was probably the most challenging terrain that any Union army faced in the war. You may think he could have done more sooner. But that’s just an opinion. Some would say Grant could have done better at Vicksburg. Again an opinion. None of us was there.
    5- You mention Sherman and 1864. Do your students know who fought under whom in 1863?
    Is Tullahoma in your textbook? I seem to recall that a book you wrote about the war in 1861 didn’t mention Rosecrans by name but did have a map of his campaign in West Virginia. It’s one thing to give reasons why someone doesn’t deserve credit for something, quite another to not even mention that person by name,
    6- I find your tuition statement strange. So good information is just for those who pay for it?
    What’s the purpose of this blog then? It’s not the “real” story? I won’t dwell on the fact that you work at a state institution that gets public monies. I can’t believe you have different versions of history based on who pays.
    7. Summary question. Regardless of its relative importance should Tullahoma be discussed in
    any complete history of the Civil War? Shouldn’t every Civil War student know about it?
    (Not many do.)

    Thanks for your attention.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 6, 2014 / 11:04 pm

      Your concern about Tullahoma is duly noted. We disagree as to its importance, and reject your interpretation for reasons I’ve already outlined. You claim to know a great deal about Tullahoma, but your discussion does not support that assertion. Your grasp of what I teach or have written is rather shaky, indicating your capacity to be educated, and I’m being kind.

      Take care. I’ve enjoyed this exchange.

      • Mr Dave July 14, 2014 / 10:22 am

        I don’t claim to be an expert on Tullahoma. I have and continue to read whatever I can find on the subject.
        What I read reinforces my opinion that Tullahoma was important.
        The irony of your relatively low regard for WS Rosecrans and the battles and campaigns he fought in is that your name
        is on a book that is largely complimentary to the general and concludes with these words by author Albert Castel:
        “…I shall say no more than to state the wish, indeed the desire, that some other historian one young, talented, and courageous
        [note that word] would produce a biography of Rosecrans…”
        You were uniquely positioned to be that historian. I’m sure you have good reasons for choosing not to write that biography.
        That is not a problem for me what. What does bother me is that you seem to have gone in the opposite direction. Deprecating and ignoring Rosecrans. I didn’t ask you to equate Tullahoma with Gettysburg or Vicksburg just to mention it. You began your response to that request with the word “Sigh” as if I were asking you to mention something completely irrelevant. All of those military events happened at the same time and impacted on each other. You mention Rosecrans with comic titles like “Grant burns Rosecrans”, your posting for the anniversary of the battle of Stones River (after havingfun with the name) ends with a comparison to a hockey team.
        (My posting of Lincoln’s “I can never forget…” comment about the battle received no reply from you.)
        I suspect your motivation is that you are totally for Grant. Anyone who challenges your view of him is subject to derision.
        You mention a review of Dr. Frank Varney’s recent book on Grant written by someone who who hadn’t even finished reading the book at the time, yet you ignore Edward Bonekemper’s (who is criticized by Varney) positive review of the book. http://www.civilwarnews.com/reviews/2013br/sept/grant-varney-b09137.html
        You boast that you’ve skimmed the Varney book and looked up your own name in the index. You say he calls your biography of Grant “admirable.” You don’t mention that Varney criticizes some of your conclusions in his book. (pages 69, 130, 154, 230-231)
        To the best of my knowledge you haven’t written a review of the Varney book. Please direct me to it if I’m wrong.
        I would suppose one of the reasons you became a historian was to uncover the truth. Of course defining the truth is hard. However choosing to downplay or even ignore certain people and events that go against one’s view is not abetting the search for that elusive goal. Rosecrans and his campaigns merit further study not obscurity. Reread Dr. Castel’s words for proof of that.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 14, 2014 / 11:11 am

          We agree to disagree. However, you confuse your opinion with “the truth.” Try not to do that.

          I disagree with Al Castel. As he made clear, where we disagreed, his views prevailed. I was simply asked to help finish his book. It is fundamentally his book. That I helped to finish a book despite my disagreements with some of his findings should lay to rest your snarky and smug charges about my scholarship. By the way, that’s becoming tiresome. Post under your real name so that you can be held as accountable for your opinions as you want me to be held accountable for mine. That’s only fair if what you are really after is the truth.

          As for Mr. Varney’s book, someday I’ll deal with what he has to say about my work. He’s in error, and in fact he slipped badly. I chose not to write a review of the book (I was asked) precisely because I saw what his publisher did when another book published by that firm came under criticism.

  13. John Heiser July 7, 2014 / 8:05 am

    As alarming as this series of images is, the most uncomfortable symbol has to be the hat that you wear, Brooks. How could you? This is Orioles territory!

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 7, 2014 / 9:59 am

      That demonstrates my bravery … and, if you’ve been to Camden Yards when the Yankees are in town, you know that it’s a mixed crowd. Always respected the O’s, especially a certain third baseman and an outfielder with the same last name as that third baseman.

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