Battleflags of the Orphan Brigade-Pt 1

    First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 


by Geoffrey R. Walden

   The flags of the Orphan Brigade trace its assignments throughout its service period. The Kentuckians left the state in early 1862 with a variety of flags. Some of these may have been unit flags of the Kentucky State Guard. Each company of the KSG apparently had its own banner, and since some companies went into Confederate service with their KSG uniforms and weapons, it is reasonable to assume they may have taken their flags with them. A KSG flag of the 1860s period belonging to the Woodford Blues resembles a U.S. infantry regimental color. It is a large blue silk banner, with an eagle and shield painted on a blue disk, and a red scroll below with the unit designation.
(Thompson (1898), p. 48; Kirwan, Johnny Green, pp. 9-10; Confederate Veteran 2(7), July 1884, p. 207; Kentucky Military History Museum)

   Early in the conflict, many Confederate regiments carried more than one flag. Many regiments were composed of a number of previously independent companies, and these companies were reluctant to give up their own flags, many of which had been presented by the ladies of their hometown. Orphan Brigade flags of this type include that of the Hamilton Guards, Co. G, 2nd Kentucky Infantry. This flag was sewn from wedding dresses by ladies in the Guards' hometown of Paris, Kentucky, who also sewed their first uniforms. This is a silk flag of the Confederate First National style, or "Stars and Bars."  This flag was recently rediscovered, and is now on display in the Hopewell Museum, Paris, Kentucky.
NOTE: Subsequent examination of the flag shown here, plus post-war data, indicates that it was not, in fact, the flag of the "Hamilton Guards." Although the ladies of Paris did indeed present such a flag to the "Hamilton Guards," this particular flag had a different history. It was initially a flag of the 1st Kentucky Infantry, which was a 12-month regiment serving in Virginia. When this regiment was disbanded in May 1862, this flag was saved and brought West, where it became the battle flag of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry when that regiment was released from its captivity at Fort Donelson.
(Confederate Veteran 32(6), June 1924, p. 205, and 33(10), October 1925, pp. 361-364; Hopewell Museum, Paris, KY; flag files in the Kentucky Military History Museum, Frankfort)

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2nd Kentucky Infantry Flag, ca. late 1862
Picture on left from the October 1925 "Confederate Veteran" magazine; others courtesy Hopewell Museum, Paris, Kentucky. The flag is currently displayed folded in half, inside a frame, with only the reverse side showing.

When the flag was adopted by the 2nd Kentucky, new white panels were sewn over the originals, and the unit
designation 2ND KENTUCKY REGIMENT was added (inexplicably, the lettering was upsidedown). The gold scrolls
with KENTUCKY on the canton are original to the flag, but the lettering HAMILTON GUARDS was added when
the flag was conserved in 1925. (author's photos)


   Other early First National flags were carried by the Citizen Guards, Co. B, 9th Kentucky Infantry, and Company C of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry. This latter flag was captured when the regiment surrendered at Fort Donelson. Its canton displays the motto KENTUCKY SHALL BE FREE over a Latin cross, a common motif on Western Theater flags. The 6th Kentucky Infantry carried a silk First National flag that had been presented by the ladies of Huntsville, Alabama, as the regiment passed through there on the way to Shiloh.
Kentucky Military History Museum; Museum of the Confederacy, Cat. No. 4.95)

Right:   Battleflag of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry, Co. C, after restoration
(courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum)


Above:  Battleflag of the 4th Kentucky Infantry
(courtesy Kentucky Historical Society / Military History Museum)
   Units of the Orphan Brigade carried an unusual pattern battle flag in 1862. Although this style has previously been identified as a Brigade flag (also called a "Beauregard battle flag"), they were apparently regimental issues. Little information is available on these flags, although at least three originals survive, but they were issued to the regiments of Gen. Breckinridge's division in May 1862, when the army was at Corinth, Mississippi.

   This style of flag is a large banner of dark blue bunting, with a red Latin cross bearing thirteen white stars on each side (obverse and reverse). One of the surviving originals is identified to the 4th Kentucky Infantry, whose members noted after the war that this type of flag was not popular, because it looked too much like a black flag when furled.

   Another original flag of this pattern probably belonged to the 6th Kentucky Infantry, and another is tentatively identified to the 3rd Kentucky Infantry. Since the 3rd Kentucky only served with the Brigade until September 1862, this would seem to confirm the date of 1862. How long these flags continued to be carried by other regiments of the Orphan Brigade is not precisely known, but they were likely replaced in 1863. (Confederate Home Messenger 3(8), June 1910, p. 1; Kentucky Military History Museum; Museum of the Confederacy, Cat. No. 4.98)


   Following the battle of Murfreesboro, the Orphans were assigned to Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps, and they were issued battle flags of Hardee's pattern in early 1863 (recent research indicates that this style of flag was probably invented by Gen. Simon Boliver Buckner of Kentucky). The 4th Kentucky was issued a new flag in March 1863, and the Hardee flag belonging to the 9th Kentucky survives today in the family of the final commander of the regiment. The unit designation on this flag is a graphic reminder that the 9th was numbered as the 5th ( 9th / Formerly the / 5th Ky ) for its first year of existence (click here for further info). An artist's rendition of other Kentucky Hardee pattern flags is shown on the cover of the sheet music for the "Kentucky Battle Song," written by Charles Ward of the 4th Kentucky Infantry.   The period engraving on the bugle of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry also shows a Hardee pattern flag.
(Frederick Todd, American Military Equipage, Vol. II (NY: Chatham Square Press, 1983), p. 833; I. Beverly Lake collection; Kentucky Military History Museum; Steve Menefee collection)

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9th Kentucky Infantry, Hardee pattern battleflag, 1863
Photos by Geoff Walden; courtesy I. Beverly Lake, Jr.

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Cover of the "Kentucky Battle Song"
(courtesy Steve Menefee)


Rstone.gif (1273 bytes)    Battleflags, continued

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Comments to page authors:

Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at)
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at)

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