Civil War Flags
Battle flags was a term used for the flags carried by Civil War regiments. Both armies used flags, which they also referred to as colors, to locate their troops on the battlefield, in camp, and while on the march. Battle flags were used to guide soldiers in battle. Wherever the flags went, the soldiers followed. Flags led the charge or led the retreat. A regiment's flag was carried by a
Confederate regiments usually carried one flag of a particular design depending upon the army they served in. The Army of Northern Virginia battleflag was made of heavy cotton or wool in the shape of a red square with a St. Andrews cross of blue stripes and 13 white stars. The field was usually outlined in white cotton. The flags were marked with the number and state initials of the regiment. Some regiments even went so far as to put the names of battles in which they participated in on their flags, which they called battle honors. More battle honors on the flag meant more prestige for the regiment. Very few of Lee's regiments carried flags from their home state or flags of another design. This standard flag helped indetify friend from foe in teh thick of battle. Confederate armies in the west and deep south had flags with different designs. A common Confederate battle flag seen in the western army was made of blue wool with a white sphere in the center.
Union regiments in The Army of the Potomac were issued two flags, a national flag and a regimental flag. The regimental flag was made of blue silk with a painted eagle and banner on both sides that included the number and state of the regiment. Some regiments, including those from Pennsylvania, carried specially made flags that included the state coat of arms in the blue field and regimental designations painted in gold on the stripes. Smaller flags or guidons were used to designate the flanks or ends of each regiment. Because the flags were made of silk, they wore out very easily from daily use and battle damage. The numbers and stars were painted on the silk and often wore or faded out very rapidly. Worn flags were sometimes replaced and the old flags retired to the states for safe keeping. Some of these old flags, still bearing the scars of battle, survive today in state archives and halls of history.
The first flag of the 11th Pennsylvania ReservesThe regiment was officially designated the 40th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, but was also called the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, a regiment of the "Pennsylvania Reserve Corps". This flag is in the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.
(photo from Dr. Richard Sauers, Advance the Colors!, Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags , Capitol Preservation Committee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA, 1987)
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Ready To Read - Level Three
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Eye Witness Civil War
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National Park Service
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