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During the Civil War, there were practical reasons that the color guard, a military force, was devoted to carrying and protecting the colors or flag for a military unit. Flags identified troops and provided a moveable landmark on the battlefield. Flags held patriotic, religious and emotional symbolism. Soldiers formed an emotional bond and the flag attained a nearly religious significance.
While the majority of flags were produced and issued by the military quartermaster clothing depots, many units, especially at the onset of the war, carried individual unit colors privately produced and financed. As the men of communities organized themselves into units, the women showed their patriotism by organizing in support of the units. These women worked hard, spending a great deal of time making flags, since the newly formed Confederacy had very few, and presented them to the troops with great fanfare.
For a listing of all wartime battle flags in the Museum's collection, please select one of the "Flag Database" links from the sidebar menu at left or from the links below. While this document has been separated into three parts to make load times shorter, they are large files and may take a minute to load. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Please note these are searchable PDF documents, which do not include flag fragments or postwar flags.
Since 1892 when the first flag was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy, the Museum has continued to preserve these important artifacts, culminating in a collection that total 685 today. The Museum houses the largest single collection of Confederate national, state, presentation, company and regimental flags. The collection consists of more than 500 wartime flags.
Over half of the Museum’s flag collection are captured flags entrusted to the Museum by mandate of the United States Congress and the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1905 and 1906. The remaining flags are from private donations. This collection continues to increase in this manner today. If you would like to inquire about donating a flag or related object to the Museum of the Confederacy, please email us.
The Museum’s flag collection is housed in a dedicated 1,300 square foot storage and examination facility. The 100 extra-fragile silk flags are preserved in a custom-built flat storage system. In the 1990s, the Museum embarked upon a systematic program to conserve the flag collection and increase research and access to the flags. Requests for research information and access to the flag collection have steadily increased over the years. Individuals, researchers, authors and publishers all over the world seek out the Museum for research information on its flag collection.
Please click here to learn more about our conservation and research efforts, or to donate to the Flag Conservation Program.
Interested in seeing some of our flags on exhibit? Several flags are on display in the permanent galleries of our museums in Richmond and Appomattox, and for a limited time in the Richmond museum, see the exhibit Colors of the Gray: Consecration and Controversy, which is devoted entirely to Confederate flags.
Access to the flag collection for research purposes is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. To ensure the availability of staff and examination space, appointments must be scheduled and confirmed at least one week in advance. There is a fee for research appointments; free appointments are a benefit of Museum membership. To arrange an appointment to view specific flags, write Curator of the Flag Collection, 1201 E. Clay Street, Richmond, VA 23219, or email us (please do not call). On-site appointment fees include admission to the Museum building exhibits. Allow approximately one hour for the flag appointment and time to view Museum exhibits afterwards.
Other research services for the flag collection are also available, including object worksheets (schematic drawings detailing an artifact, providing dimensions, condition, and general information) and photography. There is a fee for research appointments and services; free or reduced rates are a benefit of Museum membership. Click here for rates and more information on the Museum’s research services. If you have questions about the Museum’s flag collection resources or services, please call (804) 649-1861 or email us.