Kay Jorgensen

The Women at Home During The Civil War

A letter from Ralph Branson (son of Herschel L. and Florence Branson) of  Stockton, California to Paul Branson, Orlando, Florida, dated July 22, 1972 states as follows:

"Did you ever hear of the Civil War Flag made by the early family members?  I saw it while in Chicago for the first time, also took some pictures of it.  It is being donated to the Chicago Museum of Civil War Historical Items under the Branson family name. Will send a copy of the description as written by my mother. It was quite interesting to me. I had never heard of it until about 2 years ago. I do not have the address of the museum now but will forward it at a later date in case some family members should at some  time be in the Chicago area and could actually see it."

written by
Mrs. H. L. Branson
Johnsonville, Ill.

In the spring of 1861 the Southern States decided to secede from the Union and at once President Lincoln declared war and called for volunteers to protect and preserve the United States.

When the call reached Wayne County there was great excitement. All the loyal men hurriedly met to make plans to go to Mt. Vernon to enlist. But first, they must decide how their families should be cared for and protected during their absence.

They agreed that those with some physical disability and the few physicians should remain to protect and defend the homes and families if it should be necessary. Also, the crops must be put in for food and it would require some who were able bodied to organize the young boys and girls and plant and care for each farm.

At this time, many of the community sympathized with the Southerners and they called a meeting and organized a society called "The Knights of the Golden Circle" to act as spies against the Northern men, and hinder them in every way possible and to give assistance to the Southern Army. To do this they drove off horses and mules and also hogs and chickens. Some of the hogs were butchered and sent south to the Southern Army for food. The chickens were used mostly for banquets for the Knights and their families at their frequent and regular meetings. They often burned barns and other small buildings on the Northern men's farms.

To combat this marauding society, the Union League was organized. A meeting was called at the home of Syria J. Branson and by unanimous vote he was elected to be captain of the League.

Carefully, they made their plans to put in crops on every farm, to use all boys and girls old enough to work to cultivate the crops, care for each family and livestock, and to provide for any who needed help in any way.  Every man's work was assigned to him and weekly meetings were held for reports. Their meetings were often rudely interrupted by the Knights, so then they met secretly. A few of the older boys were to act as lookouts and see if trouble was coming. One night a meeting was to be held in an empty cabin in the woods.  But one of the boys overheard plans of the Knights to surprise them and mistreat them. So the meeting place was changed and when the Knights surrounded the cabin and fired a few shots, they gave orders to surrender. They got no response and closed in on the cabin, which to their surprise was empty. About this time another meeting was called at the Syria J. Bransons home to decide how and where they were to get a flag. The wives of the enlisted men and the League members offered to furnish the material and make the flag. They were all skilled in weaving flax, wool and cotton.

They decided on the amount of each color needed and each brought wool and flax and picked the wool, washed it and made wool rolls for spinning, also prepared the flax. The spinning wheel and the flax wheel were put into use.  When sufficient wool yarn was ready, they dyed red for the stripes and blue for the field. From the white, 34 stars were cut and applied on the field.

The blue was cut from beneath the stars and edges overcast. These stars were arranged in rows at top and bottom of the field each had seven stars.  The row through the center had just six stars. The stripes were sown by hand. The flag was begun the second week of April 1861 and completed April 21st 1861. That night another son was born to Syria J. and Sarah J. Branson and was named Herschel L. Branson. The family referred to the flag and him as twins.

The women who made the flag were the Atteberry sisters, Mrs. Syria J. Branson, Mrs. Wm. Branson, Mrs. John Keen, Mrs. Phoebe Keen, Mrs. A. K. Atteberry, wife of Dr. Atteberry, their brother, also Mrs. Aylsbury Gregory, Mrs. Frank Woods, another Mrs. Mary Gregory, Mrs. Jonathon Bozarth, and Mrs. Rebecca Reed, another Atteberry sister. It was used at all league meetings afterwards and all celebrations and rallies as the victorious soldiers returned home at the close of the war.

When the League disbanded, this flag was given to their Captain Syria J. Branson for preservation and care. At his death in 1892 the flag was given to Herschel L., Branson and through the years he cherished this flag as a memorial of the struggle that preserved our country as one nation, indivisible and indestructible.

Now this beloved and cherished flag is in my possession and I, Florence Branson, will care for and preserve it as a momento of the patriotism and loyalty of the members of the Union League and their wives of Wayne County, Illinois.

During the years of the Civil War the League members guarded, supported and protected the families of all the enlisted men, while the peace and unity of our nation was threatened and challenged by foes within our own borders.  When the Confederated were defeated and slavery abolished, our nation was again united. The proud United States of America, indivisible and indestructible, with all her 34 stars shining undimmed on the blue field of Old Glory ... The Star Spangled Banner. Long may she wave over the home of the free and the Land of the Brave!

Mrs. H. L. Branson
Johnsonville, Ill."

March 30, 2001
Copyright ©  Jan 1999-Present  D. Williams;
All rights reserved.
Last rev.
Tuesday, 24-May-2016 21:11:21 EDT