Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "petticoat flag" in the Civil War

In my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness, Jimmy Rawlins and his band of rebel bushwhackers are helped by several female civilians, who provide food, shelter, and even weapons to help the Cause. This was quite common in Civil War Missouri and other regions under Union occupation. A letter dated December 13, 1862 from William Strachan, Provost Marshal for Palmyra, Missouri, gives details of one such incident. He had brought charges against Misses Lizzie Powell and Maggie Creath.

Strachan wrote to General McNeil:

". . .these young ladies had taken a carriage of Armstead Botts, of Monroe County, driven to Hannibal, and brought out under the protection of the petticoat flag a quantity of gun caps, some 50,000, and other essentials to the guerrillas.

"Miss Creath made quite a sensation in Monroe County traveling with one Clay Price, a noted captain of guerrillas, dressed in rebel colors and a brace of rebel pistols ornamenting her taper waist. Their influence, being young ladies of large talking propensities, was particularly pernicious, they openly declaring that they acknowledge the authority of no Government but that of "Jeff Davis, the noblest and wisest man that ever graced a presidential chair."

"Their cases were submitted by me to Colonel Grantt, provost-marshal-general, and he advised their banishment from the State, but gave me no written order to that effect. The manner of their detention has been on their personal parole that they would abstain from writing and talking treason. They remained at the house of Elder Creath without guard, and Miss Powell has since been allowed the liberty of Hannibal, her native town, at your order."

My, my! "A brace of rebel pistols ornamenting her taper waist." That's enough to send any young rebel's heart racing!

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Never underestimate the power of a determined woman, Sean. What a corset - a brace of pistols! But then, a girl had to protect herself in those days.

    Didn't women play a large part in the 'Underground Railroad' as well?

  2. Well, it seems that feminine supporters of the rebel cause were treated with gentility by at least some northerners. This is a fascinating and slightly humorous account of the situation ... especially since not all rebel-supporting women were treated as humanely.


Got something to say? Feel free! No anonymous comments allowed, though. Too many spammers and haters on the Internet.