Army Headquarters Flags

No special colours were authorized under the regulations for army headquarters. Yet there was a precedent for having a special flag for marking the headquarters of a commanding general; during the War for American Independence, George Washington's headquarters w-as marked by an all-blue flag hearing 13 five-pointed stars.

In fact, the first flag selected to mark the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, under General Orders No. 102, 24 March 1862, was a plain national flag. The national flag used by the army's headquarters in 1863, now in the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the US, Philadelphia, had four rows of seven stars over a last row of six stars in its canton. It w-as 4 ft. on the hoist by 54 ft. in the fly. It bears no unit designation or other distinctive marks.

Indeed, veteran John Billings later recalled that 'The stars and stripes were a common flag lor army headquarters. It was General Meade's headquarters till Grant came to the Army of the Potomac, w ho also used it for that purpose.' Therefore, on 2 May 1864

A colour-sergeant of the 141st Pennsylvania \ oluntccr Infantry Regiment sits in front of the regiment's national and regimental colours. The regimental colour tassel hangs over his right shoulder. (Ronn Palm Collection)

Headquarters Flag Army Tennessee

This infantry regimental colour conforms in overall design to those known to have been issued hy the .Yew l ori Quartermaster Depot. The regiment that received it u ould ha ve been responsible for getting the number tilled in properly. (Hcsf Point Museum Collections)

This infantry regimental colour conforms in overall design to those known to have been issued hy the .Yew l ori Quartermaster Depot. The regiment that received it u ould ha ve been responsible for getting the number tilled in properly. (Hcsf Point Museum Collections)

the army's final commander, Major-General George G. Meade, adopted a new headquarters flag. According to an army circular issued at that time, 'Hereafter the designating flag for these headquarters will be a magenta-colored swallow tailed flag, with an eagle in gold, surrounded by a silver wreath for an emblem.' Billings said the guidon was actually 'lilac colored'. It measured 4 ft, on the hoist by 6 ft. on the fly (sec MAA i7g, p. 25).

The Army of the Potomac's Artillery Reserve had its own flag, authorized in General Orders No, 1 jy, 30 April 1862. This was a 5 ft. by 6 ft. rectangular red flag with a white star in its centre. This was changed by General Orders No. 53, 12 May 1863, to a red swallow-tailed guidon, of the same dimensions as other corps flags, with a pair of white crossed cannon on its centre. Brigadier-General Henry J. Hunt, Army of the Potomac chief of artillery, apparently adopted a blue guidon with a red Roman letter A surmounting a pair of white crossed cannon for a personal flag in 1864. In October 1864 the Horse Artillery Brigade received a blue triangular flag with red crossed cannon, and the letters H above the cannon and A under them.

Other Army of the Potomac generals flew their own flags. The flag of the chief of engineers, for example, was a blue field, 4 ft. by 6 ft., with a red turrcted castle, the symbol of the Corps of Engineers (sec MAA 17Q, p. 28).

The Army of the James was created from the X and XVIII Corps in 1864. On 3 May 1864 its headquarters adopted a 6 ft.-square Hag divided horizontally into red and blue halves. A large five-pointed star in white was placed in the centre.

W hen Major-General Philip Sheridan received command of the Army of the Shenandoah he appears to have used a swallow-tailed cavalry guidon to mark his headquarters. The guidon was divided into horizontal halves, the top white and the bottom red. A red five-pointed star was placed on the top half, and a similar star in white on the bottom half. The guidon measured some 3 ft. on the hoist by 6 ft. on the fly.

Under General Orders No. 91, Department of the Cumberland, the flag for department and army headquarters was a national flag 'with a golden eagle below the stars, two feet from tip to tip'. The flag's size was 5 ft. by 6 ft. However, according to General Orders No. 62, 26 April 1864, the headquarters flag was to be a 5 ft.-square national colour; it bore the gold Roman letters 'D.C.' within the canton and a gold eagle clutching a laurel branch in its left claw and five arrows in its right. The motto 'E PLURIBUS UNUM' flew from its beak. The eagle was painted on the field no deeper than the canton. The placement of the eagle is slightly different on the reverse from the obverse.

The Department and the Army of Tennessee and the Army of the Ohio had very similar headquarters flags, both with blue fields and gold fringe, cords and tassels. The Army of Tennessee's flag had the corps badges of the XV and XVII Corps on a vertical background of red, white, and blue. The flag of the Army of the Ohio had the corps badges of the X and XXIII Corps, suspended from sabres, topped by an eagle which looked very much like the colonel's rank badge. It would appear that these two headquarters flags were adopted after they joined the forces under Major-General William T. Sherman in North Carolina in the dying days of the war.

The Military Division of the Mississippi apparently used a 5 ft.-square plain yellow flag as its headquarters flag. In early 1865 the badges adopted by the corps within the division were painted on it.

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