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Wilson’s Creek, Missouri

Posted 10/05/2022

It is my sincere hope this will be first of many essays accompanied by related images
of flagstaff hardware used during the War Between the States, or as some call it, the
Civil War. My essays are intended to provide relevant background to each essay’s
showcased finials, such as spades, spearpoints, eagles, halberds, and other war period
flagstaff hardware from museums, private collections, and ground recovered pieces.
Please look for updates to the information pages about twice a month!

In the “ Sketch of the Charleston Light Dragoons” by Edward L. Wells, the book opens
with this statement, “It is a good rule, that every writing, however simple, should be held
to “show cause” why it ought not be burned, instead of being read.” (Wells, 1888) I most
certainly hope, you will find the subjects interesting enough, that you don’t find yourself
having wished you burned the writing before reading it!

Finial Style: Spade Style Finial #1

Location Housed: National Park Service, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Measurements: 4.79” X 2.55”

Recovery Location: On the battlefield

Finial Attribution: Unknown

Photograph Attribution: National Park Service, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Additional Information: In the National Park Service [NPS] collections of artifacts at the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, this  broken spade flagstaff finial is found. The images were furnished by the NPS at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. The recovery information at the NPS states; ”The former owner's records state it was "Found on the Sharp Farm by Lena Steele (John Young), 1885-1910.  The Sharp Farm was located on the Wilson's Creek battlefield and was the site of the rout of Colonel Franz Sigel's Union brigade.  It's likely that the finder was either Jonathan Young (1880-1971), who lived in the township where the battlefield is located, or his wife Lena Steele, whom he married in 1902.”

Finial Style: Spade Style Finial #2

Location Housed: Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky

Measurements: 108.75[entire staff] X 2.75” 

Recovery Location: Returned to the State of Kentucky

Finial Attribution: Second [2nd] Kentucky Cavalry

Photograph Attribution: Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky

Additional Information: The second finial is located in the Kentucky Historical  Society [KHS] in Frankfort, Kentucky. The finial is identified at the KHS as a possible Philadelphia Depot issue, however, at the time of the battle at Wilson’s Creek, it doesn’t appear the Union was issuing flags at the depot. (Quartermaster, 1928) This finial remains on the original staff of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, [Union]. 


Finial Style: Spade Style Finial #3

Location Housed: Private Collection

Measurements: 6.55” X 2.59” X .83” opening to receive a flagstaff.

Recovery Location: Unknown

Finial Attribution: Unknown

Photograph Attribution: Charles Harris

Additional Information: The third finial is complete and is in the collection of the author. The piece is reported to have been in an estate in Loudoun County, Virginia. The piece appears to have been an early ground recovery. In the lines and inner portion of the piece, there can be seen a green residue indicative of a brass cleaner that was probably used to remove the original patina. This finial appears on page 23 of the book I wrote.

At an old house place in central Mississippi, the spade portion of this style finial was recovered by a detectorist while searching for Civil War artifacts. 


Finial Style: Spade Style Finial #4

Location Housed: Pennsylvania Battle Flag Collection, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Measurements: 5.75” X 2.75”

Recovery Location: Returned to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1865

Finial Attribution: One Hundred Seventh [107th] Pennsylvania Infantry, regimental color [1985.197].

Photograph Attribution: Author,  Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee

Additional Information: The third finial is also in one piece, and is found in the Pennsylvania Civil War flag collection in Harrisburg. The finial is on the staff that carried the Regimental flag of the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry.


Finial Style: “T” Bar Style Finial #5

Location Housed: Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State Historical Museum

Measurements: 8.25” X 4” X 1.125”

Recovery Location: Returned to the State of Iowa 1861

Finial Attribution:  First [1st] Iowa Infantry, National Flag

Photograph Attribution: Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State Historical Museum

Additional Information: The fourth finial, with the cross bar is that of the First Iowa Infantry, National flag.


The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri

  It is often said by some that battles are won and lost long before the soldiers take to the battlefield and begin the deadly task of trying to take the  others’ lives. So it was with the  Battle of Wilson’s Creek, also known by Confederate forces, the Battle of Oak Hill fought in southwest Missouri on August 10, 1861. Through a series of events that began approximately three months earlier in  May of the same year, the stage for the battle of Wilson’s Creek had already been set, and was being “won or lost” based on these events, and actors involved. 

  The governor of Missouri, the military forces of the Federal Union, the Missouri Volunteer Militia, and the Missouri State Guard, the generals, all began to paint a picture of war long before August 1861.

Key Individuals Included:

The governor, Claiborne Jackson, feigning neutrality while conspiring with the Confederacy, and who had rejected an offer by then President Lincoln for troops to be called up to support the Union effort to stifle inroads by the Confederate states Generals  such as Sterling Price, a Mexican American war hero and previous governor. His anti-slavery sentiment was overridden by his stronger belief in states’ rights. Governor Jackson appointed Price as the general over the Missouri State Guard. The Union had hard-nosed and experienced General Nathaniel Lyon, who was killed early during the battle, and replaced by Colonel Franz Sigel, a German immigrant, who proved later to be a much better recruiter of German speaking immigrants to the Union than  he was a military leader. All these people, events, and places began to formulate who would walk away from the field a victor in August 1861. Experience would play a major role.

  Conflict had already manifested itself in May, when fearing hostilities, union troops forced the surrender of the Missouri Volunteer Militia. Protest escalated as the prisoners were marched through the streets of St. Louis, resulting in the killing of innocent civilians. There was a June meeting between many of the key players from both sides that was intended to quell the hostilities, and maintain neutrality. However, strong opposing views were expressed, hands were tipped, and wheels set in motion that obviated any chance of piece through neutrality. 

  Soldiers from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and several other places participated in the battle resulting in almost 600 deaths total on both sides, over two thousand wounded, and another 200 or so missing.

  To some, apparently, such as the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, the battle in Missouri didn’t seem to matter as much to him as what lead up to the battle. In President Davis’s “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, “ volume one, Davis pens twelve pages [ 416-428] of writing about the cause of the Missouri conflict, without ever mentioning the battle name. (Davis, 1881)  In volume two of the same writing, on page 50, President Davis speaks of the Wilson’s Creek battle, without mentioning the battle name,  “Detached conflicts with the enemy had been fought by the small forces under Generals Price and McCulloch, but no definite result had followed.” In 1881, it appears President Davis wanted to explain “causes” rather than victories, and losses.

  However, to a family in Muscatine, Iowa, the second battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, was the most important thing in their lives at the time. The son of Harrison Norman, a grocer, who, according to the 1860 census, lived in Ohio, but was in 1861 in Iowa, had an 18 year old son named Shelby Norman, who, just months earlier, before the August battle, enlisted in the First Iowa Infantry, Company A. In the Iowa Adjutant report, Norman was described as one of the first to enlist in Iowa at the onset of the war. The Adjutant describes Norman as a “fair haired boy” who was the first Iowa soldier killed in the Civil War, at Wilson’s Creek, shot in the head and dying instantly. 

  After the war, a Grand Army of the Republic [GAR] hall was opened in Muscatine, Iowa, and was named for Shelby Norman.  Also, after the war, the state of Iowa erected a Civil War Soldiers monument on the grounds at the state capitol, where an infantry soldier stands in bronze represented as Shelby Norman. 

  The First [1st] Iowa Infantry was one of the first regiments raised in Iowa after President Lincoln called for troops after the shelling of Fort Sumter. With an excess of 950 men in the regiment, their only fight was at Wilson’s Creek. The regiment was a ninety day regiment which mustered out of service just days after the August 1861 battle. The 1st Iowa’s reported  loss in human life at Wilson’s Creek was 13 killed, 14 wounded and 4 missing. 

  After the August  battle at Wilson’s Creek, Dr. Orsino A. Williams, of the Missouri State Guard wrote a letter to his brother-in law. Dr. Williams seems to be quit a character. In his letter, he seems to be very irate for being connected to a war that was just a few battles old at the time. Dr. Williams writes in his letter, a copy of which was furnished for this writing by the Missouri State Museum in Jefferson City, “Springfield Mo. Dear John--- I suppose ere this you have had correct information in regard to the fight. So, I will say nothing of it. I am not in good health nor in very good spirits. I can see no end to this infernal war. My appointment may send me to any part of the state so I do not know when I will see you---or Springhill. I want you to get my business in as good a shape as you can—if possible to collect---let no one loose---tell Dr. Sheuman if he does not pay that bank debt if ever I get back I will start a boot factory in his posterior extremity. So enough about business matters. I saw all the boys not long ago they were all in good health. Did not know or care where they were going---Springfield presents rather a gloomy appearance, every house nearly has been converted into a hospital. The wounded are generally doing well. There has been a great many amputations, I have taken off a good many legs and arms---until I am sick and tired.” Williams closes the letter, “give my love to Mary & the little ones, respects to enquiring friends and tell my enemies to go to hell.” (Williams, 1861) It is reported that Dr. Williams was arrested at one point during the war and taken to California, Missouri. It is also reported that Dr. Williams was a surgeon with General Joe Shelby. 


Charles Harris, Images

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, State Historical Museum, Des Moines, Iowa

Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky

Missouri State Museum, Jefferson City, Missouri 

National Park Service, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flag Collection, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Ronn Steele, Editor

Tom Myers, Editor



(Wells, 1888)

(Quartermaster, 1928)

(Davis, 1881)

(Williams, 1861)

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