Civil War Flags
Before discussing civil war flags, we need to make a brief intro regarding flags in general and their purpose. Flags were used since the beginnings of history. Flags serve a wide variety of purposes and convey a shared history feeling. They symbolize the people and the national pride, affirming the group’s identity. They also build morale and pride and represent the honour of the group. In time all military formations have carried flags and colors. In battle, flags served as rallying points when the formations were broken. Soldiers gathered around the flag to regroup, attack or retreat.
Flags marked specific individuals, locations and functions. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, both Northern and Southern troops went to war with their own civil war flags and colors. The women of the unit’s hometown made flags for their men; as a result many companies had their own flag designs that distinguished them from the others. Most regiments had 10 companies and, obviously a big number of flags. Soon officers became aware of the danger of having so many flags and measures were taken to reduce their number.
Thus a federal regiment had two flags, the American and the regimental civil war flags. A system of flags and badges was introduced by Union Army Major General Joseph Hooker to make the identification of different commands easier. The civil war flags played a very important role on each and every battlefield as they were the heart and soul of every regiment. As a result they were protected at a huge cost in flesh and blood. A usual command during the civil war was for the men to close on colors, to gather around the civil war flags when the groups were disorganized. When the advance faltered, the colonel would give the order „Advance the colors” in order to inspire his people to follow their sacred civil war flags.
To understand the importance of the flags and colors you should know that a large percentage of Medals of Honour were awarded to people for their actions involving civil war flags. It was actually a great honour to be the flag bearer but, unforytunately, the mortality rate for color bearers was quite high as the aim of the enemy was to shoot that person and capture the flag of the opposing force.
Many of these civil war flags have been preserved due to the actions of Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee who have about 390 civil war flags for the state of Pennsylvania in their custody. The design of the civil war flags was similar to that of the National flag, the Stars and Stripes which was enacted into law on the 4th of April 1818. Yet, this act established the basic pattern of the flag as we know it today without defining the arrangement of the stars.