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"Question about Union regimental flags - mirrored?" Topic

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Baranovich20 Jan 2021 4:04 p.m. PST

So this is kind of a strange one. I say strange because in all my years of reading Civil War, studying Civil War and reenacting Civil War, after seeing photos of thousands of different regimental flags in books, seeing reproduction regimental flags, original flags in museums, etc…

There is one thing about them I never noticed or thought about!

Were Union regimental flags "mirrored" on both sides or were the Eagle emblems "flipped?"

What I mean is, with regards to the typical Eagle with the shield and ribbons. Was that generally repeated on both sides so they would be mirrored like a reflection or was it flipped to face the opposite way?

I just hand painted a 12mm Union regimental flag, and I just assumed that the eagle's heads would be facing the same way on both sides – in other words, if you were facing the flag and looking at the flag on each side one at a time the eagle would be facing to the right on both sides.

But I just looked at GMB's site, and if their reproductions are faithful and correct they have most if not all of their Union regimentals flipped the eagle points to the left on one side, and points to the right on the other.

I have to believe there are original examples of it done both ways, mirrored and flipped!

The military regulations for infantry flags at that time, as far as I know didn't specify which way the eagle had to face, but only that the flag should have the eagle emblem on both sides.

Now with the National Union infantry flags, those are of course mirrored because the blue field with the stars is always supposed to be in the inner corner of the flag up against the pole or staff of course, so you would never flip that and have the field of stars on the "outer" side away from the staff!

I was just curious about this because I don't think I've ever bothered to or had the opportunity to actually look at both sides of a Union regimental flag!




Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2021 4:27 p.m. PST

Traditionally, the eagle's face was turned to the olive branches in his claw during times of peace, and turned to the arrows in his other claw during times of war.

Since there was no official declaration of war, the head of the eagle continued to face towards the olive branches during the ACW.

Ryan T20 Jan 2021 4:34 p.m. PST

The image will be flipped between the obverse and reverse sides of the flag. The image is painted on a single ply of silk and if the image is not flipped you could have the paint bleeding through to the other side.

Some flags with different images on both sides will still have the outline of the images flipped. Thus, for example, the 1st Minnesota regimental color can have a federal eagle painted on one side and the state arms on the other, but both are on a larger painted background of which the outline is flipped.

Flags that have a completely different image on each side often will be constructed of two ply of silk.

Bill N20 Jan 2021 6:06 p.m. PST

My understanding was that the eagle was supposed to be facing the fly of the flag, but I cannot say I researched the issue.

Cleburne186320 Jan 2021 6:38 p.m. PST

The most common method was to paint one side, and then intentionally let the paint bleed to the opposite side. Then the details were added.

You could also have two pieces of silk sewn together, in which case it would not bleed through and would not be a mirror image.

Ryan T20 Jan 2021 6:44 p.m. PST

The three QM Depots issuing flags (New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati) all contracted for regimental colours with the eagle facing the flag's fly. However, private contactors did not necessarily follow this pattern as can be seen by flags produced by H. G. Hamlin Jr. and John Shilletto of Cincinnati, Gilbert Hubbard of Chicago, and Hugh Wilkins of Louisville. All of these manufacturers made regimental flags with the eagle facing the staff.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2021 6:51 p.m. PST

There was so much variation and interpretation, it is probably pretty hard for you to be wrong. As noted above, eagles could face the fly or the staff.

Ryan T20 Jan 2021 7:55 p.m. PST

For what it's worth, the three flags pictured in the original posting can be identified as follows:

The top flag is from the New York Depot. The two manufacturers of regimental flags for that depot were the firm of Alexander and William Brandon and the company owned by William Scheible. Both of these companies produced an identical pattern of regimental flag, although their national colours were each of a slightly different pattern.

The second flag is of the pattern made by Evans & Hassall for the Philadelphia Depot.

The third flag is also from the Philadelphia Depot, but was manufactured by Horstmann Brothers.

ezza12321 Jan 2021 4:48 a.m. PST

A bit more information can be found at the foot of the page here: link, although it does refer to the use of the Great Seal on a flag. The author makes a valid point though, that could also be applied to regimental flags, that there seems to have been no significance to which way the eagle faced and it was down to the artist's whim. Adding that these flags were all hand-painted, not mass-produced, so design consistency would likely fluctuate a bit.


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2021 9:46 a.m. PST

Ryan, it looks like you get the job of resident flag expert.

Baranovich21 Jan 2021 12:48 p.m. PST

Lots of very impressive information and insights folks, thanks a bunch!

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2021 1:01 p.m. PST

Most would have the front and back identical. A notable exception was the four green flags of the Irish Brigade (the 116 PA did not have a green flag). The Tiffany flags were embroidered, so the "backs" of the flags were the mirror images of the "fronts"

I hope that makes sense.

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