Our Banner in the Sky Frederic Edwin Church Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Our Banner in The Sky is a patriotic and allegorical oil paint over paper that was created by Edwin Church. Church was responding to The Battle of Fort Sumter, also known as the bloodless battle. This was the first civil war that happened 11th April, 1861 when the Confederate attacked Fort Sumter.

The confederates demanded The Union, led by Major Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter. When Anderson and his men refused, Confederates were the first to fire the shots thus the beginning of first civil war. However, Anderson’s men became outnumbered and with no enough weapons, they surrendered by raising a white flag together with the American Flag. The Confederates did not stop attacking and continued to shoot the American flag. Anderson and his men sang Yankee Doodle and saluted the flag to show their loyalty.

The Symbolism in Our Banner in the Sky

At first, Church created an oil sketch of the flag during the war. His style of writing was unique as seen from the way he depicted the American flag as a transitory arrangement of the sky, stars, heaven, and the clouds ostensibly held in the air by the tree with no leaves. As seen from Our Banner in the Sky painting, the American flag is created with a setting sun flowing in the wind on a tree that has no leaves as the flag pole. The Bald Eagle, America’s national bird, is represented by a bird soaring above the flag.

The painting represented the patriotism and the support Edwin Church and his audience had for the Union. The vibrant and blended colours of the setting sun represent America’s flag in the cloud with its colours Red, White, and Blue depicted. The Northern star in the painting is the brightest star to represent the guiding light of the Union. The perfect blending of the flag and the setting of the sky indicates the harmonious balance existing between the Union and nature.

By creating the American flag in a heaven like illusion, Church was representing the higher power that guided the Union during the battle. Church was sending a political statement using this painting to defend the Union. The painting was widely shared among the Northerners, where he came from. The technique used by Church was the traditional landscape method which used nature to communicate the deeper meaning far from what meets the eye. In his case, Church was creating a concept of the nineteenth century that Americans would relate to in terms of destiny, progress, and identity.


When the war was over and Major Anderson had surrendered, Church’s flag became a national symbol. Many of his supporters and the Union commissioned Church to create a chromolithograph of the oil sketch into a perfect painting. The northerners enthusiastically embraced this painting and resonated with its message. The allegorical painting is privately owned by Daniel J. Terra and located at Terra Foundation for American Art.

Our Banner in the Sky in Detail Frederic Edwin Church