It’s curious to our modern sensibilities the importance American Civil War soldiers attached to their battle flags. Congressional Medals of Honor were given to soldiers of the Twenty-Ninth Massachusetts and New York Cameron Highlanders who captured the flags of some of the Rebel units attacking Fort Sanders.
One of those captured flags belonged to the Thirteenth Mississippi, whose flag bearer, according to Union memoirs, was unceremoniously relieved of the banner and kicked back down the Northwest Bastion’s outer slope into the ditch below.
Yet, not seventeen months later, the Thirteenth was allegedly losing another battle flag at Sailor’s Creek in Virginia. I say allegedly because this claim was preceded by that of another veteran of the regiment who asserted in a historical journal after the war that he had secreted the selfsame flag under his shirt rather than surrender it.
And, somehow, the Mississippi state archives has yet another Thirteenth battle flag which Jess N. McLean photographed for the cover of his history of the regiment. Obviously the importance of these flags was somewhat overrated, considering how rapidly they reconstituted themselves over and over again.