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The brigade of Texans in the Army of Tennessee blazed a combat record from Chickamauga to North Carolina that places it comparably with the more famous Texas Brigade of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. A key component of Patrick Cleburne’s famous division, they held their ground and drove the Federals when they attacked. Although several officers led the brigade, it was Brig. Gen. Hiram Granbury that made it famous and whose name remained attached to it even after his death at Franklin on November 30, 1864.

The 7th Texas Infantry was not transferred to the Texas brigade of Cleburne’s Division until November 12, 1863. Mustered into Confederate service at Marshall, Texas in October 1861 with only six companies, John Gregg was elected colonel while Granbury received the major’s slot. Granbury began as a company commander of Co. A, the Waco Guards. At least two companies received flags prior to the muster.

The troops left Marshall for Tennessee with three more companies following a week later in the Fall of 1861. Arriving in Clarksville, Tennessee, many troops, soaked by incessant rains, became sick. Lacking good weapons they were transferred to Hopkinsville, KY for the winter of 1861-1862. Disease spread through Camp Alcorn killing Texans and Mississippians who were also in camp. Their graves remain there today. While there, a flag was presented to Company C.

Sent to Fort Donelson in February, 1862, they took part in the breakout attack on the 15th designed to save the garrison from capture. Poor top level leadership bungled the tactical victory however and the next day the 7th Texas became prisoners of war. Their First National battle flag was drawn by a soldier of the 11th Illinois Infantry. Captured by the 8th Missouri Infantry (U.S.), it bore fifteen stars and remains missing today.

The Fort Donelson prisoners were exchanged in October 1862 at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The 7th Texas and several other Donelson regiments remained for the Vicksburg Campaign fighting at Raymond and Jackson before being transferred to Georgia. After Chickamauga, fought in mid-September, 1863, the regiment became part of Cleburne’s famous division where they helped defeat William T. Sherman’s attack on the north end of Missionary Ridge in late November.

7th Texas Battle flag

Cleburne’s Division was known as the “blue flag division,” for their distinctive flags of blue with white “moons” in the center. Designed by Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner at Bowling Green, KY in January 1862, they were sewn by a local sewing circle including his wife. The flags were presented to the Confederate Army of Central Kentucky which included the Arkansas regiment commanded by Cleburne, then part of William J. Hardee’s Brigade. They first saw combat at Fort Donelson when part of Buckner’s Division was transferred there.

At Corinth, Mississippi, the army became known as Hardee’s Corps and their blue flags were conspicuous at Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville and Murfreesboro, being mentioned in numerous Federal accounts. The banners blazed the way for the corps and Cleburne during 1863 from Tullahoma through Missionary Ridge, waving in victory over Sherman’s troops. New versions of the flags were made in the field by troops with sewing skills with upwards of six overall patterns seeing use.

In early 1864, Hardee’s Corps was re-equipped with rectangular Southern Cross flags from the Augusta Depot – except for Cleburne’s Division, who refused to accept them. Instead, the division received new issues in March 1864 with rectilinear moons and bearing battle honors for their heroic actions to date. After the Atlanta Campaign, Cleburne’s Division received a new issue of flags replacing those lost in action or too shot up to be of further use. These returned to the circular moons of the January 1862 issues.

Despite all of this, a Southern Cross pattern flag of the 7th Texas Infantry was captured at Franklin. While it is the only known surviving flag for the regiment, it is not of the blue and white pattern of the division. How did this Southern Cross flag, bearing fifteen stars, come to be?

The answer lies in the regiment’s service in Mississippi in late 1862/into 1863 after being exchanged. The former Fort Donelson units needed new weapons and equipment including new battle flags. According to Captain Khleber Van Zandt of the 7th Texas, “…and in Woodville (Mississippi) I was presented with another ‘Flag’ but it was dark and I could not see the donor nor do I know her name…” It is not certain if this account pertained to the flag now on display or if it was another banner. It is doubtful that the flag was simply for Van Zandt’s company as those colors ceased being used in early 1862.

For units and officers that had a Donelson connection, fifteen star flags seemed to prevail. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, captured at Donelson and killed at Champion’s Hill in May 1863, had a flag with fifteen stars. The 50th Tennessee Infantry’s fifteen star flag, of the same pattern (although lacking battle honors) and using the same cloth, was made by the same person as the 7th Texas flag currently on loan to Carnton. This flag is held by the Tennessee State Museum. As with the 50th’s flag, the crossed blue bars were only applied to the obverse side of the flag although the stars are “cut through” so they could be seen on the reverse. Both units served in John Gregg’s Brigade while in Mississippi. At least two other units also bore fifteen star flags although they were in other brigades.

Based on a post-war Dallas newspaper account, describing the regiment’s history, this Southern Cross flag served the 7th Texas through 1863 from Mississippi to Chattanooga. At Franklin, “Amid the flaming volleys of leaden hail…Ira Sadler valiantly placed on the fortifications the flag of the Seventh Texas that had graced a victory at Missionary Ridge.” This strongly suggests that the Southern Cross flag was used in late 1864.

But what about a blue and white Hardee/Cleburne battle flag? The regiment could have received one after joining Cleburne’s Division in late November 1863 or they may have waited until reaching Dalton, Georgia for the winter. The 7th Texas should have gotten one when the rest of the division received a new issue in March, 1864. This flag would have flown during the Atlanta Campaign. With Granbury’s Brigade involved in heavy combat in that campaign the flag may have been shot to shreds and when new flags were issued prior to the Tennessee Campaign either the regiment got another blue and white flag or they decided to use their 1863 Southern Cross banner instead. The record is just not clear either way.

The 7th Texas flag shows three styles of battle honors. One artist did the unit designation (on both sides) and the “Fort Donelson” battle honor. Another did “Ramond” (sic) and “Chickamauga”. Still another painted the cross cannon honors, awarded to the regiment for capturing Federal guns at Chickamauga where Gregg’s Brigade shattered the Federal center. The honors for “Tunnel Hill” and “Ringgold Gap” are the most interesting however. Done in white paint they are the same style of honors painted on Hardee/Cleburne battle flag of the 17th & 18th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted) that was captured in the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864. This suggests that the same artist painted the honors on these two flags. Other flags of Cleburne’s Division were decorated by different artists in different styles.

The 7th Texas flag was captured close to the Carter House by someone from the 24th Wisconsin. The capture is not mentioned in their official reports, including that of Captain Charles Hartung, but that is not surprising. If a flag is not reported as captured then it is not likely to be sent to the War Department. Numerous flags were sent home instead. Hartung took this flag home and would later become mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin where he displayed it for years.

Another captain of the 24th Wisconsin, Edward Parsons, described the fighting and this flag, “I saw the Colonel sabering his way toward the leading Confederate flag. His horse was shot under from him, a bullet ripped open his right shoulder, but on foot he fought his way forward trying to bring down those “Stars and Bars.” This description, often and incorrectly applied to flags of the Southern Cross pattern (it was actually the First National), shows that this 7th Texas flag was indeed flying in front of the Badger State troops and not a blue and white banner.

The flag of the 7th Texas Infantry is a real treasure not only for its unique pattern for a unit of Cleburne’s Division, but also for being a never before seen or heard of flag coming to light and now able to be displayed not far from where it was captured on that bloody day of November 30, 1864. Visitors to Carnton have a great opportunity to see this gem and imagine the horror surrounding its capture and contemplate the bravery of the men of both sides who fought to protect it and capture it.