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Third National Flag of the Confederacy: Confederate States of America

Last modified: 2022-10-15 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | csa | southern cross |
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[third national flag] image by JT Tate, 9 October 2005

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Because it could be mistaken for a flag of truce, the Stainless Banner was modified to include a red bar on the fly. It was to be one-third of the area of the flag beyond the now square canton. The width was to be 2/3 of length. The canton was to be 3/5 of width and 1/3 of length. This was signed into law on March 4, 1865. Few flags of this version were issued and few survived.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 29 April 1996

The Flag Act of 1865 describes the flag in the following language:
The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The width two-thirds of its length, with the union (now used as the battle flag) to be in width three-fifths of the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the field on the side of the union twice the width of the field below it; to have the ground red and a broad blue saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with mullets or five pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white, except the outer half from the union to be a red bar extending the width of the flag.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 9 October 2005

In the image above the larger stars are good, and close to the 26 May 1863 Navy Regulations. The regulations do not specify the orientation of the stars, however, with the exception of the center star, JT Tate's star orientation matches that found on original flags of the 1863-1865 period. I do not recall having ever seen original flags with stars all upright. The center star also usually followed the origination of the stars on the arms, although whether it followed those of the dexter or sinister orientation was variable.

The few actual 1865 flags that exist tend to use the square canton, rather than the rectangular called for by the law. Most of the surviving flags are those issued by the Richmond Clothing Depot, which used the same pattern for the canton as the 1863 flag.
Devereaux Cannon, 10 October 2005

Square canton version

[third national flag] image by JT Tate, 9 October 2005

Background Information

The flag was published in newspapers in December, 1864 when it was first proposed in the CS Congress. The first example of it that I have tracked down flew over Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond starting in January 1865 - two months before it was officially adopted by law! CS Navy vessels of the Richmond Squadron also flew the Third National before its official adoption. I have little doubt that some government buildings did as well once it was adopted. This was probably due to the pattern having no competition and as such, it was only a matter of time before it was signed into law.

I know of four Third National battle flags that were used by troops in the field - three of which I have seen personally. They are: an unknown one in the Confederate Museum in New Orleans; the flag of the 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion in the Dekalb County History Museum near Atlanta, Georgia; the HQ flag for Gordon's Corps that was surrendered at Appomattox (and is correctly pictured in CW artist Don Troiani's painting "The Last Salute") that is in the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History; and the flag of the Upson County Guards of the Georgia Militia that is in the Chicago Historical Society (if I correctly recall).

I think the Museum of the Confederacy has one or two Third National flags that are definitely wartime issues as well as some post-war versions.

So, while the flag is certainly rarer than either of the other two CS national flags - they were definitely issued during the war.
Greg Biggs, 8 June 1999