Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dedmondt: "The Flags Of Civil War Arkansas"

[The Flags Of Civil War Arkansas by Glenn Dedmondt (Pelican Publishing Co., 2009). Softcover, photos, illustrations, index. 160 pp. ISBN: 9781589801905 $16.95]

Glenn Dedmondt is the author of flag studies for the Confederate states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama, but his latest book The Flags Of Civil War Arkansas is my first exposure to his work. Vexillology is not a subject I've studied at any great depth so I'll confine myself to a descriptive review of the book.

In terms of the book's general organization, the individual flags are presented under pattern headings. A brief narrative (anywhere from several paragraphs to several pages) is devoted to each flag and the unit carrying it. While the general background material often exhibits a decidedly ideological slant1, the rest of the text is annotated. The footnotes indicate a variety of source materials consulted, with the unit histories drawn largely from O.R. reports and Stewart Sifakis's Arkansas unit reference guide. Where possible, the circumstances of the construction and presentation of each flag is detailed.

The most striking feature of the book is its color flag artwork and photography, the presentation of which is enhanced by nice quality glossy paper. Dedmondt has carefully measured many of the surviving flags in person, meticulously recording the size and relative placement of numerous features. While a few artillery unit and naval flags were included, the vast majority are infantry and cavalry emblems -- company, regimental, and national.

The variety of flag patterns used by Arkansas units is immediately apparent. The first national and the St. Andrew's cross designs were common, but there were a number of individual patterns, as well. Others were designed by a high ranking officer and distributed to subordinate units. The Van Dorn flag [a crescent and scattered stars over a solid red field] is a remarkable design, and was issued to the units of the Army of the West. The most recognizable "Bonnie Blue" flags of William J. Hardee's corps (and, most famously, Patrick Cleburne's division) had a white "full moon" over a solid blue field, but John P. McCown's division employed a variant, a white St. Andrew's cross over the blue field.

Confederate Arkansans2 fought in all three main theaters under a variety of banners, and The Flags Of Civil War Arkansas is an attractively presented (and very affordably priced) visual and text record of those fighting emblems.

1 - Ex. (pg. 12) "...the U.S. ship Star of the West had illegally entered the harbor intending to resupply Major Anderson at Fort Sumter,..."
2 - The Union army's Arkansas regiments and flags are not covered here. It appears the author's next volume The Flags of Civil War Missouri is similarly exclusive. Regardless, I'll be especially interested in it's collection of State Guard flags.

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