RARE CIVIL WAR FIELD HOSPITAL FLAG

$8,950.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 88-141

The subject is complex! At the time of the Civil War, there was no prescribed design, size, or material for hospital flags. At first, both sides used simple red or yellow rectangles. Army of the Potomac March 24, 1862, General Orders No. 102 reads: The Hospitals will be distinguished by a yellow flag. Department of the Rappahannock June 19, 1863, General Orders No. 53 Repeated General Orders No. 102 Army of the Potomac. Army of the Cumberland/Department of the Cumberland December 19, 1862, General Orders No. 91 Hospital and Ambulance read: Depots will be distinguished by a yellow flag, 3 feet square for the hospitals and for the principal ambulance depot on the field of battle 2 feet square. The same order was repeated on April 25, 1863, by the Department of the Cumberland. And finally, Adjutant General's Office, War Department January 4, 1864, General Orders No. 9 reads: Hospitals will be distinguished by yellow flags with a green "H" in their centers, larger for General Hospitals, SMALLER FOR FIELD HOSPITALS. A smaller yellow flag bordered with green for ambulances. Army of the Cumberland and the Department of the Gulf April 26, 1864, says: Field and General Hospitals flags will conform to the General Orders No. 62 announced by the War Department.

So, prior to General Order No. 9 of January 4, 1864, a solid yellow flag was used to designate the hospitals. With GO 9, the following sizes were established: General Hospital Flag: 9 ft X 5 ft with a 24-inch tall green "H". Post and Field Hospital Flag: 6 ft X 4 ft with a 24-inch tall green "H". Ambulance and Guidon Flags: 14 inches X 28 inches with a 1-inch green border. The guidon flags "lead" the way to the field hospitals.

The rare hospital flag offered here for sale we would call pre-pattern or pre-General order No.9 and therefore dates before January 1864. However, in talking to authorities on the matter it is clear that even after January 1864 all variety of sizes of hospital flags were produced for a variety of special purposes. This rare flag was until recently the property of D. Edward Burka.  "Brig. Gen. Edward Burka died Jan. 9, 2021. He was 90.... As a doctor in the medical corps, he voluntarily entered the Airborne-Special Forces, where he became a master parachutist. In 1958 and 1959, he was a jumpmaster at Wiesbaden Air Force Base in Germany. From 1979 to 1983, he was the U.S. Army’s Deputy to the Surgeon General for Mobilization, responsible for planning logistics for the evacuation of U.S. cities in the event of a nuclear or biological disaster. He was also an avid collector of and expert on U.S. medical military insignia, uniforms, and instruments."  Records indicate that this particular flag and associated items were purchased in the 1970s from Norm Flayderman & Co. The flag was described by Dr. Burka in his notes as being used to designate a smaller off battlefield hospital tent or commandeered house for example. The flag was one item from a grouping of things including a kepi and military regulation hospital steward's jacket worn by Paul Bridger of the 72nd PA. Bridger was with the regiment at "The Angle" at Gettysburg July 3. 1863. These 2 other items were sold to a respected mid-west Civil War dealer. The flag at the time of this sale was still in the hands of the Burka family.

The yellow field rectangular flag is made of a fine linen perhaps blended with wool. It is very light but also durable. It measures 36-inches in length and 25- inches in height. It has a sleeve for a pole that is 2 1/2 inches wide. On either end of the sleeve are leather tabs, now petrified, that facilitated the attaching of the flag securely. There are no holes or tears but about 10, not unsightly, spots of staining which could be human blood! The large one piece "H" centered on the yellow field, obverse and reverse, is green dyed cotton of a heavier material than the field. This measures 11-inches by 6 inches with the width of the bars of the "H" 2-inches. It shows fading but still has a strong color.

A virtually identical configured flag appearing to be of the same size can be seen in illustrations in 2 volumes of the series by William C. Davis, Rebels & Yankees Thunder Bay Press.  In The Commanders of the Civil War page 193 and in The Fighting Men of the Civil War page 187. In both cases this type flag attached by a sleeve to a guidon type pole as commonly used by infantry, artillery and cavalry with the ubiquitous brass heart finial. This suggests that the flag was intended to be "movable" not attached to a fixed in ground pole reserved for a larger flag.

The flag is professionally mounted and framed. The UV resistant glass that covered it not long ago was cracked in transport and is now removed. A very rare Civil War flag.  [pe] [ph:L]

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