During the Civil War, flags were very important to both Union and Confederate troops. They served
many purposes. Some were used to “signal” soldiers on the battlefield. Others were used as rallying
points during battle. They were put atop forts to show who controlled them.
Sometimes flags were used by communities to show their support of the Union or the Confederacy. One such event took place in LeFevre Township, Arkansas, on April 27, 1861, when community members gathered for a barbeque and a “flag raising” to show their support for the Confederate cause.
On both sides of the war, each regiment, or group of soldiers commanded by a Colonel, created their
own flags to represent themselves. Soldiers were proud of their regimental flags, and would decorate
them in ways that showed the group’s experiences or special attributes. Some flags included the names
of battles in which a regiment fought; others included specific images, like the South Carolina palm tree
or the California bear.
One regimental flag style particularly associated with Arkansas is the “Hardee pattern,” named after its creator, General William J. Hardee of the Confederate Army (above). This pattern includes a blue background with a white oval in the forefront. This image was meant to represent the full moon against a dark night sky. General Hardee was of Irish heritage where the image of the full moon was used as a symbol of resistance to British rule. Many regiments from Arkansas carried a version of this flag. The 6th Arkansas Infantry used a Hardee pattern flag. Their experience at the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee influenced their flag design choices.
The first Union regimental flag in the collection of the Old State House Museum in Little Rock uses almost the exact opposite design. The flag of the 43rd Regimental of the Illinois Volunteers uses a white background with a dark blue oval in the forefront. This particular flag was presented to the 43rd Illinois Volunteers near the end of the war.