Early Tennessee Flags

A number of different flags had unofficially represented Tennessee in battles and public gatherings since well before the Civil War.  Many of these were regimental flags designed by people with direct attachments to the soldiers going off to battle.


1861 design

One of the earliest proposals for an official state flag dates from 1861. It featured three horizontal bars of red and white, with a blue canton containing the state seal of Tennessee. The flag was proposed by Senator Tazewell B. Newman during a legislative session on April 25th of that year where the primary issue at hand was whether Tennessee should secede from the United States.  The proposal was referred to a committee for discussion, but it never received a vote, and the design was never formally adopted.


1897 design (courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum)

The Tennessee Legislature officially approved a state flag on April 30, 1897 in time to be displayed at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition being held that year in Nashville.  As described in House Joint Resolution 49, the flag would be red, white, and blue, with three diagonal stripes "to represent the geological lines of the State" and with Tennessee's nickname – "The Volunteer State" – along the central stripe. The number "16" occupied the leftmost stripe, to honor Tennessee’s place as the sixteenth state admitted into the United States of America.  The citizens of Tennessee never enthusiastically embraced the design, and it appeared rarely - if at all - at public events beyond the Centennial.

Early Tennessee Flags