A Rebel Banner of Historic Worth

The Artifact: Battle flag carried by the 7th Texas Infantry

Condition: The flag quadrant is worn and tattered with several small tears and one large tear running the fold width of the flag. The fibers of the fly quadrant are worn and faded, commensurate with considerable use. Several projectile holes are scattered about the flag, which also has extensive bloodstains that have caused degradation of the cotton gauze of several stars. There is some paint loss of the battle honors.

Details: After mustering in to service in November 1861, the 7th Texas Infantry participated in the Confederate defeat at Fort Donelson in February 1862, where hundreds of its men were taken prisoner. After these men were exchanged and new men recruited, the 7th returned to service in early 1863. The regiment would subsequently take part in a number of the western theater’s most significant engagements, including at Chickamauga, Ringgold Gap, Nashville, and Bentonville. On November 30, 1864, Lieutenant Ira B. Sadler carried the 7th’s battle flag (shown here) into the fight against heavily entrenched Union forces at Franklin, Tennessee. During the battle, a decisive Confederate defeat, Sadler was severely wounded (some of the flag’s bloodstains are probably his). Soon after that, Major Arthur MacArthur Jr. of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry seized the flag and in the process was himself wounded. Sometime later, Captain Charles Hartung of the 24th picked up the 7th’s flag, which he kept after the war and displayed for years in his hardware store in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The flag passed to Hartung’s daughter and, after her death, to several collectors. Both Sadler and MacArthur recovered from their wounds: Sadler died in 1881, just short of his 40th birthday; MacArthur, whose son Douglas would rise to the rank of five-star general in the U.S. Army during World War II, died in 1912 at 67.

Quotable: Edward Parsons, the adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin, later recounted what he had witnessed of MacArthur’s efforts to seize the 7th Texas flag at Franklin: “The whole army was imperiled unless the breach could be closed. I saw … [MacArthur] swing into his saddle and heard his yell, ‘Up Wisconsin.’ There was no time to form lines. We just rushed pell mell to meet the enemy in a desperate hand to hand melee. I saw … [MacArthur] sabering his way toward the leading Confederate flag. His horse was shot from under him, a bullet ripped open his right shoulder, but on foot he fought his way forward trying to bring down those Stars and Bars. A Confederate … now had the flag and shot … [MacArthur] through the breast. I thought he was done for but he staggered up and drove his sword through his adversary’s body, but even as the Confederate fell he shot … [MacArthur] down for good with a bullet through the knee.”

Price: $235,000 (realized at Fairfield, Maine, in June 2020). “This flag … is the finest, and perhaps most historic, Confederate battle flag—and unquestionably the most important Confederate Texas battle flag—known to exist,” a representative of Poulin Antiques & Auctions Inc. noted at the time of the sale. “It is a truly rare and special opportunity to own an extraordinary Texas historical treasure.”

Leave a Reply

Fathering Recruitment

Titled, “A Good Way for Fathers of Families to Aid Recruiting,” this July 1862 Harper’s Weekly cartoon is a playful take on Union recruitment efforts. (Yet, it is much more…