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"Presenting the Colors" - by Don Troiani

Signed & Numbered Limited Edition Print & Canvas

Image size print: 27" x 20 1/4"

Edition size print: 350 signed and numbered

Issue price: $225 (when sold out call for current price and availability - 800-237-6077) By 1860, the long debate over how to defend the United States remained. Some still argued for a standing professional army with a trained officer corps, while others saw this as tyranny, remindful of the British regulars from the Revolutionary War era. As the debate raged, the militia system, backed by Constitutional guarantees and the Militia Act of 1792, was the cornerstone of defense. The backbone of these militia units was the company which typically consisted of one hundred men. The key component of the company was the citizen soldier who volunteered in times of emergency. Even more than the regiment itself the company had a more direct connection with the people at home whom the company were pledged to defend. Companies were typically raised from counties and towns large and small. Bigger cities contained enough men of military age to form numerous companies. Many of these men had grown up together or were even members of the same family.

Historian Edward Hagerman wrote that Southern men, in particular, adhered to a certain code of behavior and that they had to prove to their peers that they had the courage to act according to this code. Defending their homes was part of this code. Thus, when the time came to protect the several states that would form the new Confederate States of America, it was the volunteer company that first mustered into service. Some of these companies traced their lineage back to the early 1800s or earlier. Each state had militia districts based on the counties of that state; one district formed one militia regiment and their component militia companies. With the threat of slave uprisings of the late 1850s, in particular the John Brown Raid of 1859 in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, new volunteer companies, formed outside of the militia system, came into being. In some states the militia units, many of whom had fallen into use only for ceremonial purposes, regrouped and began serious military training. With South Carolina’s secession in December 1860, new volunteer more companies formed. As more states left the Union in 1861, more and more companies mustered to protect them. These new companies were often commanded by prominent local businessmen or attorneys some of whom had the financial means to equip their commands.

After a training period and before heading off to form into new regiments, the local company was often feted by the people of their town or county with a lavish picnic or bar-b-que. It was the social event of the ages and the capstone to that was the presentation of a flag to the company. These flags were made in one of several ways; sewn by local women and then sent to a professional sign painter for the addition of the unit nickname and a patriotic exhortation; made by a professional flag maker and paid for by subscription from the people of the community or by the women of the commander’s family. At some point in the celebration, the company formed into line with the captain and other officers in the foreground. Typically, one or more women then advanced to present the banner to the commander of the color sergeant and then gave a speech asking the men to never let the flag tail in the dust and reminding them that whenever they saw the flag that it would always be a reminder of home and the people to whom the company was sworn to defend. These speeches were covered at length by the local newspapers that often ran them, and the responses of the company, in their entirety.

With Tennessee being the last state to secede in June 1861, most of the company flags bore no slogans or unit designations although there are some exceptions. There was no shortage of flag presentations, many of which were done from April, 1861 onward even before the state left the Union. On May 11, 1861, a silk First National flag was presented to the Norris Creek Guards, which would become Company D/G of the 8th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, was presented by Miss Sallie Landers whose speech recalled the Tennesseans at New Orleans in 1851 as well as in the Mexican War. She stated, “As a testimonial of their confidence in your prowess and your inflexible determination to maintain the liberties of your selves, your children and your kindred, or perish upon the ensanguined fields of war, I, on behalf of the ladies of Norris Creek, present you this banner and with it invoke the blessings of God upon you…remember that your mothers, your sisters, your children, liberty and Christianity are the trophies for which you struggle.”

In August 1861, the banner was “promoted” to be the regimental banner for the 8th Tennessee Infantry. Bearing the slogan “Patience”, “Courage” and “Victory” in the canton, as well as the crossed cannon battle honor for taking Union guns at the Battle of Perryville, the banner flew over the regiment until it was captured in the Battle of Murfreesboro in December 1862. The men who fell and bled under its folds remained true to Miss Landers’ request.


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