Flag of 1st Alabama Infantry returns to Alabama

On May 23, 2007, in a ceremony near the U.S. Capitol, the battle flag of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment was returned to custodians of the State of Alabama, after an absence of more than 145 years. On hand to receive the flag were Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History Dr. Edwin C. Bridges and Curator Robert Bradley, U.S. Representatives from Alabama Terry Everett and Robert Aderholt, Nebraska Representatives Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, and Curator Deb Arenz and Chief Executive Officer Mike Smith of the Nebraska Historical Society.

ADAH Director receives flag of 1st Ala. Infantry from Nebraska officials, May 23, 2007, Washington D.C.

From left to right: ADAH Curator Robert Bradley, U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, ADAH Director Edwin Bridges, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, U.S. Rep Jeff Fortenberry, and U.S. Rep. Lee Terry

The flag of the 1st Alabama Infantry was made in Montgomery, Alabama sometime after March 4, 1861. The flag is identical to the original Confederate flag raised on that date except that it has an Alabama coat of arms in the center of the seven stars. The fact that there are seven stars indicates that the flag was made before the firing on Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861. Following the bombardment and surrender of Ft. Sumter, four additional states seceded and the Confederate flag subsequently had eleven stars. This flag was presented to the regiment at Ft. Barrancas near Pensacola, Florida in the spring or summer of 1861. Following the bombardment of Ft. Pickens on nearby Santa Rosa Island, the regiment was allowed to add the battle honor "November 22nd and 23rd, 1861" to commemorate their service in the battle. In a broadside dated December 18, 1861 Governor John Gill Shorter praised the service of the 1st Alabama Infantry and made particular mention of the flag: "See the glorious banner, immortalized by the inscription, 22nd and 23rd November 1861 as it streams out upon the breeze." The flag was carried by the regiment until they surrendered at Island Number 10 near New Madrid, Missouri on April 8, 1862.

curators and Congressmen unfurl the battle flag of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment

Curators and Congressmen unfurl the battle flag of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment. From left to right. U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, Nebraska Historical Society Senior Curator Deborah Arenz, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, ADAH Curator Bob Bradley, and Mike Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Nebraska Historical Society.

Following the surrender, the flag was kept as a souvenir by Brigadier General Eleazer Arthur Paine. The flag eventually passed to Paine's son Phelps, who settled in Omaha, Nebraska. Phelps was very active in the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans of the Civil War) and the flag was apparently displayed at their headquarters. When he died in 1919, the flag remained with the local GAR camp. In 1949, the GAR collections were transferred to the Nebraska Historical Society. The flag remained there unidentified until May 2006 when James Hansen, former director of the Nebraska Historical Society, notified Howard Madaus of its existence. Madaus, the nation's foremost expert on Civil War flags, determined that the flag was that of the 1st Alabama Infantry. On June 1, Madaus contacted Curator Robert Bradley at the Alabama Department of Archives and History who verified that it was indeed the flag of the 1st Alabama Infantry presented at Ft. Barrancas in 1861. Bradley then contacted Curator Deb Arenz, senior curator at the Nebraska Historical Society, who later proposed that the flag be deaccessioned and returned to Alabama. After some conservation work in Maryland with a textile expert, the flag will eventually be displayed in Montgomery, along with the colors of two of the regiment's 10 companies, a rare combination in Civil War displays, Bradley said.

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Created: June 28, 2007
Alabama Department of Archives & History
624 Washington Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0100
Phone: (334) 242-4435
E-Mail:mark.palmer@archives.alabama.gov