Thursday, June 14, 2018

Carrying Jackson's Flag

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post asking about who carried Robert E. Lee's headquarters' flag during the war. The short answer was "whoever was assigned to Lee's courier group for a given day of campaign."

In the discussion that followed, it was suggested that headquarters' flags were not carried on the field, but used to mark the various camps of the army's top brass. In the earlier post, I included a story of Jackson's headquarters flag being used during the Seven Days campaign. Here is the previous story:

 In 1931, J. Churchill Cooke, 4th Virginia Cavalry, left us this reminiscence: "My company, the Hanover Troop, was an old organization in existence many years before the war... The company was composed of men from all parts of the county, many of them from that part of the county where several battles were fought. Before Jackson reached Mechanicsville, all of the men of my company were assigned to different generals as guides, scouts, and couriers. The captain of my company rode up to me with a flag and said: "Sergeant, as you are from the upper part of the county and don't know this part, I can't assign you to any of the generals, but here is Jackson's headquarters flag, which I shall give you to carry.' I took the flag and said I hoped I would not disgrace it. I reported to General Jackson as his flag bearer. He sent me word not to stay very close to him, only keep him in sight, which instructions I tried to comply with. I was with Jackson and in sight of him during the Seven Days." (Confederate Veteran Vol. 38, 248)

Recently, as I was reading Blackford's Letters from Lee's Army, I came across another story. This one dates to the time after the battle of Cedar Mountain, probably at the beginning of the Second Manassas battle. Blackford was serving as a courier and was attached to Jackson's staff. Blackford writes: "While moving on the crest of the hill a solid shot from the enemy's battery passed through the horse of my sergeant Bob Isbell, who was carrying General Jackson's battle flag, the same flag he had waved at Slaughter Mountain. The horse fell over perfectly dead; it was between me and the General, its head lapping on the General's horse and its rump on mine..." (117) 

Jackson is With You by Don Troiani 

To backtrack just a little, at Cedar Mountain, Jackson was trying to rally his broken left. In the midst of the battle, he seized the colors of a nearby regiment (possibly the 21st Virginia), and cried "Jackson is with you!" A couple of thoughts: where were Jackson's flag and flag bearer during the time? Is the flag the one that Bob Isbell is carrying? On the other hand, Jackson probably grabbed the regimental flag, trying to rally that particular regiment.

Given the date, I assume Bob Isbell (Robert B. Isbell, Co. B, 2nd Virginia Cavalry) is carrying a First National Flag. I would surely like to know where that flag is...

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