Note: There currently two known battle flags for the regiment BUT enough evidence exist to lead me to believe there is a third and possibly a fourth regimental battleflag. The first possible Regimental Battle Flag would have been the "First National Flag", and the second the "Missouri" style flag. As noted below this flag was captured at Vicksburg. Wheather it was "rescued", "hid", or a spare flag put in its place we are still researching. I believe a flag was issued during the resupplying of the regiment in September 1863 at Decatur, Georgia. I believe this flag served with the regiment only for a short time and it was possibly a Hardee Flag. I believe the flag "captured" on Lookout Mountain was a spare. Greg Biggs, a flag expert and researcher, has been diligently digging into the dusty library shelves and dimly lit microfilm rooms to see what he can dig up for us on the 39th Georgia's precious battle flags. He has provided much of the information to me on the flags and I deeply appreciate it. Check his web site out at www.confederateflags.org
We are fortunate to have two of the known Regimental Battle Flags of the 39th Georgia still with us today. It has been 148 years since these flags were folded by loving hands.
There are two known battle flags for the regiment. The first is the Missouri style issued just prior to the siege of Vicksburg. This flag is about the same dimensions as a regular regimental flag. It is rectangular with a red field with a white Latin cross in the staff third of the flag and it was trimmed in yellow fringe. Somehow, this battle flag made it back to the regiment following the Vicksburg surrender. In Personal Reminiscences of a Confederate Soldier Boy, Private Robert M. Magill of Company F said they "marched out and stacked our arms in front of our works, leaving our regimental colors with the guns." A Federal staff officer found the battleflag on Lookout Mountain (24 November 1864). The battleflag had been left in the baggage wagons which had been left on the mountain. The regiment had left hurriedly the evening prior and went into line of battle along the Chattanooga Creek. Private Magill stated he had made an oven and had bread baking when the long roll of the drummer's drum made everyone scramble and he left his knapsack. He never saw either one of them again. For an example of this battle flag see Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, page 267. This is a close proximity (minus the stars). This first battle flag is at Panola Mountain State Park outside of Atlanta in the collections of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-State Parks Division.
Columbus Ledger Inquirer, October 10, 1915.
"Georgia Battle Flag Presented To The State"
Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 9. – Another of Georgia’s famous Confederate battle flags was added to the state’s collection on Saturday morning when United States Senator Hoke Smith, acting for Mrs. D.I. Bushnell, of Washington, presented to Governor Harris, for the state, a bullet-torn and blood-stained flag captured from the Thirty-Ninth Georgia Volunteers at the battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24, 1863.
Senator Smith brought the flag with him from Washington and on Saturday took it in person to Governor Harris at the capitol. The flag is about two feet square, made of dark red flannel with white cloth strips forming a cross in the upper right-hand corner.
Written on the white background of the cross in ink is the following inscription:
“Captured from the Thirty-Ninth Georgia Volunteers in the battle of Lookout Mountain, November 24, 1863, by Captain W.T. Forbes, acting adjutant and inspector general, Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps.”
Mrs. Bushnell, known as “Belle Bushnell,” is a native of Louisiana, and a distinguished author. In a letter accompanying the flag she says she obtained it in 1907 from a sister-in-law of Captain Forbes. She presents it to the state in order that it may be preserved. The Thirty-Ninth Georgia Volunteer Regiment was first commanded by Colonel J.T. McConnell, who died in service, and who was succeeded by Colonel J.F.B. Jackson.
Augusta Chronicle, October 12, 1915.
“Relic of War Between the States Presented to the State of Georgia”
It was captured from the Thirty-Ninth Georgia at Lookout Mountain – Restored to the State by Mrs. D.I. Bushnell, of Washington, D.C., through Senator Hoke Smith
Chronicle Bureau, Kimball House, John W. Hammond, Mgr.
Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 9. – A relic of the days of long gone, but never to be forgotten, was presented Saturday to Governor Harris, for the state of Georgia, by Senator Hoke Smith – an old battle-flag, full of bullet holes and still showing signs of blood-stains.
Accompanying the flag, which is magnificently mounted on a large, heavy white silk back-ground, is the following letter:
“This small flag, which belonged to the Thirty-Ninth Georgia Volunteers, was obtained by me during the winter of 1907, from a sister-in-law of Capt. Forbes, whose name appears on the cross. I secured it for the purpose, and with the desire, of returning it to its rightful owners, and now, through the courtesy of Senator Hoke Smith, I am presenting it to the State of Georgia, that it may be properly preserved.
“Mrs. D.I. Bushnell, The Highlands.”
The flag, like which there is none in the state collection, is about 24 inches long by about 18 inches deep. It was made of a red flannel and from the corner extends a white cross, also made of flannel, and extending a goodly way across and down the body of the flag.
On the cross-bar of the white cross is written the following: “Captured from the 39th Ga. Vols. in battle of Lookout Mt. Nov. 24, 1863, by Capt. W.A. Forbes, A.A. insp’s. Gen. 2d Div. 12th A. Corps.”
The relic will be preserved among the collection now in the possession of the state. Capt. “Tip.” Harrison, who is an authority on war relics, and perhaps the best posted man in the state services on war history, says the flag is an unusual one, and he could not tell just why its design was as it is. He says the regiment from which it was taken was first commanded by Col. J.M. McConnell, who died in service, and later was commanded by Col. J.F.B. Jackson
The two previous articles were found and provided by my friend Greg Biggs, the leading War Between the States vexillologist. Thanks Greg!
The second existing battle flag began to be issued to the Army of Tennessee in January 1864. This rectangular flag was based on the square Army of Northern Virginia battle flag. It has a red wool bunting field, blue bunting St. Andrew's Cross with thirteen white stars (appliqued 3 3/4" stars on both sides) in the blue arms of the St. Andrew's Cross. A fimbration is 2 1/2 inches wide and inserted into the field. The unit designation is in the top quadrant in 5" letters on both sides and in the bottom quadrant is the state designation. All white material was made from cotton fabic. The staff side has four pairs of wool ties evenly spaced. The size was originally 39" by 52". (Description by Textile Preservation Associates.) This flag was manufactured by the Augusta Clothing Depot by contract to . Greg Biggs has found telegrams in the Confederate Citizens and Business Files on microfilm at the National Archives that detailed the trail of the flags manufacture in Augusta then to the Atlanta Depot then to Dalton for issuing. The regimental designation was probably sewn on after the battle flag was issued. This battle flag has a pretty amazing history which will be told in later paragraphs and letters. It is currently on display at the Whitfield-Murray County Historical Society in Dalton, Georgia.
Webmaster's Note: The following letter was written to the Dalton Citizen in August 1887 by S.P. Greene about the regimental flag pictured about. The letter gives an excellent portrait of the last days of the regiment and some of the soldiers.
The Old Flag
Forth Worth, TX, August 1887
Comrades, it is now more than 22 years since the old 39th stood in line and answered to roll call as Confederate soldiers. Not one of us can ever forget that dark day in April 1865. Then with hearts filled with sadness and despair, we marched into that old field in N.C. and there we stacked those arms with which, through confrontations untold, through freezing cold and scorching heat--amid shot and shell of a hundred battlefields--we had for four long years battled so devotedly for the liberties of our beloved Southland. It was indeed a bitter day, yet in our humiliation we had the proud consciousness that we had done all that man could do, and that we laid down our arms only at the command of our beloved chieftain, Joe Johnston, given when he saw that further effort was worse than useless--then, and not till then, did we yield up those arms, dropped a silent tear into the grave of our Confederacy, and turned our steps toward our desolate homes, and there, with souls still unconquered, rallied all the energies of our manhood and began the struggle of providing bread and meat for our almost starving families.
That struggle has scattered us far apart from the Atlantic to the Pacific so that now when the bugle sounds the roll call, some of us are so far away and submerged in that struggle that we cannot answer to the roll call in person; but, comrades, we are with you in spirit with undying love--our souls are knitted together as firmly now as when at Baker's Creek we stood shoulder to shoulder-a single regiment- and received the charge of a whole Division of Federals; as when in the Battle of Chattanooga, we singly twice charged and routed several Federal brigades; as when at New Hope, we sprang as one man into the death hole and reestablished the broken Confederate lines; as when on that dreadfull day in Nashville, we stood alone amid the wrech and rout of army with unbroken ranks and answered back the trumphant cheers of the enemy with a true Rebel yell, while General Pettus shouted, "Men, for God's sake, rally on McConnell's old regiment."; as when next day with fragments of our own and another regiment--scarse 600 men in all--we stood in hollow square and for 14 hours held at bay 5,000 Federal Cavalry and gave Hood time to rally his broken army. Men who stood together through scenes like these, and a hundred others in which they ever did their duty to each other and to the cause for which they fought, must ever be a brother near and dear. I say ever did their duty, for we can stay, we have a right to say, and say with pride--the old 39th never failed to come up to the full measure of its duty. There is not one blot on her escutcheon-not one page of her history would we hide from review.
Duty here deprives me of the great pleasure of being with you but I send you, by the hand of our comrade, Capt. John H. King, something I know you will be happy to regain "Our Old Regimental Flag."
When I received orders to form the regiment for surrender, I could not find it in my heart to give up the old flag to the enemy, so I took it from the staff, wrapped it around my body under my clothing, and carried it out and have ever since preserved it among my choicest treasures. I send it to you now just as it was then, all rent and torn, by shot and sheel and begrimed by the smoke of battle, a living proff of what the regiment which followed it has done. I know you will cherish it as I have done.
Comrades, the war is long since over and we are all peacable citizens of the United States--true and loyal to the government of our fathers, the more so now that those great principles for which we fought have regained the ascendancy in the councils of government, and many of those noble and gallant men who then met us on the battlefield as enemies, now stand with us as friends and brethren. It in no way detracts from our loyalty that we should cherish the memories and associations which cluster about this tattered banner- memories and associations born in those days which tried our souls.
I trust you will all be spared to meet again next year, and that I will have the happiness to be with you. And now in spirit I grasp each of you by the hand and pray that the Lord our God will bless and keep you in health and prosperity.
Webmaster's Note: D Company was given a presentation flag when it was sent off to war by its people. These type of presentations were often done with much fanfare. Bands played, speeches were made by local officials, and this was usually the point the unit marched off to war. Having a record of such an event is really special. Especially when it is a company flag. The following article was provided to us by Greg Biggs. The article appeared in the Atlanta Southern Confederacy, March 13, 1862.
"Dade County has sent a gallant company of "curly maple" riflemen, called the "Invincibles", to Camp McDonald. The officers are James W. Cureton, Captain; M. Dearsberry (sic), 1st Lieut.; Francis Danile (sic), 2nd Lieut.
On Tuesday, previous to their leaving home, Miss Mary Mann, a beautiful mountain girl, presented the company with a handsome flag, delivering an eloquent address-the gallant captain replied.
Col. Robert Tatum, who has two sons in the company, also made an encouraging speech in his own peculiar style, that always reaches the hearts of his hearers."