Arkansas in the Civil War: Battle Colors of Arkansas
The Old State House Museum hosts its second exhibit to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War from May 5, 2012, to February 1, 2013. The exhibit, Battle Colors of Arkansas, will help visitors understand Arkansas’s place in the American Civil War.
The Old State House Museum maintains a large collection of Arkansas-related Civil War artifacts, Blue and Gray. At the forefront is the museum’s collection of Civil War battle flags; these flags will command attention in the Battle Colors of Arkansas exhibit. Not all of the museum’s flags can be displayed because despite the best efforts of textile conservators, the flags remain extremely fragile. The effect of light on the flags is especially damaging, so exposure is severely limited. The Old State House Museum’s inclusion of eighteen flags in this exhibit is uncommon.
A flag is a powerful symbol, serving to bind together a company of soldiers and to remind them why they are fighting. The Old State House Museum’s collection contains many rare flags, some with patterns that cannot be found anywhere else. Very few repositories hold the unique battle flags of the Western and Trans-Mississippi Confederate armies that can be found at the museum. Five flags bear the First National Confederate pattern, the first battle flag pattern to fly over the heads of Arkansas soldiers.
The 3rd Arkansas infantry was the only Arkansas regiment to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia. Two flags on exhibit belonged to the 3rd Arkansas Infantry and incorporate the famous battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. Also on exhibit are battle flags that belonged to General Patrick Cleburne’s division. These flags bear the Hardee pattern, perhaps the most iconic battle flag pattern of the Western Confederacy.
A Save America’s Treasure's Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and private donations supported the recent conservation of two newly acquired flags, which will be shown to the public for the first time in Battle Colors of Arkansas. One flag is linked to Arkansas regiments that fought in every major Army of Tennessee battle. The other represents an Arkansas artillery unit known for its role at the Battle of Pea Ridge.
All of the flags in the Old State House Museum’s collection are representative of the bravery of the men that bore them in the heat of battle. Some of these banners were captured by Union troops after Arkansas soldiers gave their all to protect their flags. As you look at this collection please keep in mind the men that fell under their folds. A flag of war is always much more than the cloth from which it was made.
Battle Colors of Arkansas Exhibit Video
Flag historian Greg Biggs discusses the meaning and importance of Civil War battle flags in this video. Biggs's fascinating insight helps give context to the symbol of these flags.
About the Old State House Museum
The Old State House Museum is a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and shares the goal of all seven Department of Arkansas Heritage agencies, that of preserving and enhancing the heritage of the state of Arkansas. The agencies are Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and the Old State House Museum.