Posted By Norman Gasbarro on June 14, 2011
On 12 April 1861, the American flag that was flying over Fort Sumter was lowered and the fort was surrendered to Confederate forces, thus beginning the Civil War. At the time of this surrender, the official flag had only 33 stars. This flag was in use from 4 July 1859 to 3 July 1861. The 33rd state was Oregon. The picture of the Fort Sumter Flag is from Wikipedia.
The flag changed three more times before all hostilities were finally ended. Officially, the new flag could not be used until 4 July. After the admission of Kansas as the 34th state, the second Civil War flag was official on 4 July 1861. West Virgina, which “seceded” from Virginia during the war, was admitted as a separate state and the 35-star flag became official on 4 July 1863. The 35-star flag was used at the surrender at Appomattox in April, 1865. Finally, Nevada was admitted and the 36-star flag was made official on 4 July 1865. This 36-star flag was in use during the early years of the reconstruction period.
It was considered improper to display a flag representing a new state until 4 July.
No official arrangement of stars was approved for any of the Civil War era American flags. A representative flag design from each of the time periods is shown below. Graphics are from Wikipedia and are in the public domain because they were released by the designer.