flag of 33rd Ala. Infantry before conservation treatmentflag of 33rd Ala. Infantry after conservation treatment

Images of the flag of the 33rd Ala. Infantry Regt. before (L) and after (R) conservation treatment.

Flag: 33rd Alabama Infantry
Catalogue No. 86.3940.1
(PN10112, PN10218)

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Provenance Reconstruction:

According to the available documentation, this flag may have been issued in the spring of 1864 and bears characteristics similar to the other "Hardee pattern" flags issued to the division of Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, Army of Tennessee. According to W. E. Preston who served with Co. B, 33rd Alabama Infantry, the flag was issued at Dalton, Georgia around March 1864.

This flag was apparently captured by Captain J. H. Brown, Co. D, 12th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, on November 30, 1864 during the Battle of Franklin. However, some confusion exists as to the location and history of the flag for the next 76 years. In his report concerning the capture of flags (January 31, 1865) Major General J. M. Schofield notes that Captain John H. Brown was among the nine men who would bear their captured flags to Washington to be deposited in the U.S. War Department. The "Register of Captured Flags, 1861-65", Records of the Office of the Adjutant General, Record Group. No. 94, National Archives, lists number "245 Rebel Battle Flag captured by John H. Brown, Co. D, 12th Ky. Infantry."

On February 12, 1940, Clarence E. Dame of Malden, Massachusetts discovered the flag of the 33rd Alabama Infantry at a public auction featuring the effects of Augustus H. Heath. The flag was clearly marked as having been captured by Captain Brown at Franklin and presented to A. H. Heath. Through the efforts of Mr. Dame, a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society; Mr. Wesley H. Murry, Clerk of Committees of the City of Melrose; and the citizens of Melrose, the flag was purchased and returned to the State of Alabama. The flag was presented to Governor Frank M. Dixon during the National Convention of the American Legion in Boston, Massachusetts on September 22, 1940.

There are several possible scenarios which may explain Brown's delivery of a flag to both Washington (where he received the Congressional Medal of Honor) and to A. H. Heath.

  1. Brown may have captured two flags, delivering only one to Washington;
  2. Brown may have later requested the return or loan of the flag and then presented it to Heath; or1
  3. Brown captured one flag (No. 245), but managed to acquire another captured flag which he forwarded to Heath.

In the reports on captured flags following the Battle of Franklin, it is claimed that as many as 43 flags were captured. Of these, only seven were registered by the War Department. Brigadier General J. W. Reilly reported that the First Brigade of the Third Division, 23rd Army Corps had captured twenty flags in all, however, only nine were being forwarded as "many were torn up and sent home by the privates, and some others were lost." There are also accounts of flags being taken from the captors by officers. Perhaps Captain Brown acquired the flag of the 33rd in this manner. The flag also bears evidence of having been cut up for souvenirs.

This flag received conservation treatment and was prepared for display by Textile Preservation Associates, Inc. of Sharpsburg, Maryland in February 1995 (see conservation report).

Sources:
       Curator's Object Files, Civil War Flags, Alabama Department of Archives and History.
       Madaus, Howard Michael. The Battle Flags of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1976.
       U.S. War Department. American Decorations 1862-1926. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1927.
       U.S. War Department. War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.


1In 1905, the U.S. War Department returned all of the captured flags to the perspective states or other repositories, but flag number 245 was not accounted for at that time and has never been located. It is therefore quite probable that Brown requested the return of this flag and that the flag of the 33rd Alabama is flag number 245.

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Updated: July 26, 2007