Introduction

The regimental or battery set of colours was more than simply a unit designation, issued for the ease of a commander in identifying his units in the field. It was the very sy mbol of the regiment; it was its heart, the thing that drew its members together. As such it was fiercely defended in action, where it flew in the centre of the line, drawing enemy tire upon its carriers.

Each regiment received its colours in one of its first formal ceremonies, which itself was almost an initiation into the world of the soldier. On 12 November 18(11 Pennsylvania's governor Andrew Cunin, accompanied by staff members, took the train from his capital city of Harrishurg to the county seat of Chester County to present a set of colours to the newly formed <)7th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Arriving shortly after noon, the state officials were met by the entire regiment, which then escorted them to the city's court house. Following a speech introducing the governor and his return

The typical flag Kentucky regiment at presentation ceremony of 11 Camp Brucc, near national colour, here to n Cynthinnit, Kentucky.

speech to local citizens, the officials had dinner. Then, about three, they all met at the 97th'£ training camp located on the county fair grounds.

There, according to the regiment's historian: 'The Regiment was formed in column by division closed in mass in front of the stand, on the north side of the Fair buildings. The people had crowded around the reserved space w ith such eagerness as to render it difficult for the guard to clear sufficient room for the reception committee and those who were to take part in the proceedings.

'When all had been arranged, the Governor came forward, uncovered, holding the staff upon which waved the beautiful stars and stripes of the flag he was about to entrust to the keeping of the regiment, as its banner, around which to rally when led forth into the performance of w hatever duty an imperiled country might demand, and, in these words consigned them

This national colour of (he id Battalion, 18th L S In fun try Regiment has its stars arranged in the canton in the manner of flags made by Evans and Hassall, Philadelphia. (West Point Museum Collection)

This national colour of (he id Battalion, 18th L S In fun try Regiment has its stars arranged in the canton in the manner of flags made by Evans and Hassall, Philadelphia. (West Point Museum Collection)

to the Regiment. . . .1 Curtin spoke at great length, ending with this peroration:

'It is the flag of your lathers and your country. It will be yours to hear i( in the thickest of the light and to defend it to the last. Upon its return, it will have inscribed upon it the record of those battles through which you have carried it, and will become a part of the archives of Pennsylvania; and there it will remain, through all coming time, a witness to your children and your children's children of the valor of their fathers. With a full confidence that in your hands this banner will never be disgraced, I entrust it to your care and for the last time bid you farewell.'

In camp, the regimental colours flew over the unit headquarters as a guide post to members and outsiders alike. In combat, it was drawn into the very centre of action where, in obedience to millions of words like those spoken by Governor Curtin at thousands of" presentations, it was fiercely defended. Take, for example, the 38th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Antictam. There the regiment was one of dozens which stormed Confederate positions in the now famous Cornfield. According to the 1865 History of the Penny sivania Reserve Corps, *A most singular fatality fell upon the color bearers of this regiment. Sergeant Henry W, Blanchard, who had carried the regimental colors through all the storms of battle in which the regiment fought, was a most remarkable man. Born in Massachusetts in 1832, he was about thirty years old. Me had the most complete control of his feelings; in the fiercest hours of battle, was always perfectly calm, never shouted, cheered or became enthusiastic, but steadily bore up his flag. At the battle of New Market cross roads, when every color-bearer in the division was either killed or wounded. Sergeant Blanchard received a wound in the arm, he retired a few minutes to have his wound bandaged and then returned to his place. At Antietam he was so severely wounded that the flag fell from his hands, and he was unable to raise it; Walter Beam, a private, seized the banner to bear it aloft, and almost immediately fell dead, pierced by rebel bullets; another private, Robert Lemmon took the flag from the hands of his fallen comrade, a companion calling out to him, "don't touch it, Bob, or they'll kill you," the brave boy, however, bore up the banner, and in less than a minute lay dead on the ground; the colors were then taken by Edward Doran, a little Irishman, who lying upon his back, held up the flag till the end of the battle, and for his gallantry was made a non-commissioned officer on the field.'

Few things were more disgraceful than losing one's colours in battle, and extreme sacrifices were often made to save them. For example, the 1st Delaware Infantry Regiment were also at Antietam where they were stopped by overwhelming enemy fire, suffering heavy losses. They were driven back, caught between fire from enemy troops in their front and from reinforcements who confused them for Confederates in the fog of battle. Despite tremendous lire, according to the regiment's historian: 'On the ground, a few yards in advance, where the line was first arrested, lay a large number of our men, killed or wounded, and among them lay the colors of the regiment, one of which was held by Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson, who was wounded. Major Smyth, Captain Rickards, Lieutenants Postles, Tanner, and Nicholls, Sergeants Dunn and McAllister, with several other non-commissioned officers, rallied a large number of the men for the purpose of returning to the original line, recovering the colors, and holding the position, if possible.

'They sallied gallantly to the front under a terrible tornado of shot, and held the position for a considerable time. . . . W hen the regiment retired from the field both colors were brought with it, one by Lieutenant C. B. Tanner and the other by Sergeant Allen Tatem, one of the color-guard.'

The generally acccpted jargon for the elements of flags and their components is used throughout this book. The canton is the square or rectangle placed at the top of the flag next to the pole or staff". A border is the flag's edging, when rendered in a colour different

Howard Michael Madaus, one of America *s lending experts on Civil U'ar lings, holds an authentically reconstructed national colour of the id H/scons/n Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which he from that of the field. The main part of the flag is the field. The hoist is the side of the flag next to the staff, w hile thefly is the opposite side of the flag. The flag is shown with the hoist on the left and the fly on the right; this is the obverse or front of the flag; The side seen when the hoist is on the right and the fly on the left is the reverse, or rear. When speaking of measurements, however, flag dimensions arc often referred to as being, for example, six feet on the hoist (i.e., along the staff), by five on the fly (i.e., parallel to the ground). The staff'itself is the stave; the metal object on top of the stave, usually a spearhead, an axehead or an eagle, is the fittial. The metal cap at the bottom of the stave is the ferrule. Many flags have cords and tassels hanging from the finial; collectively, these arc simply referred to as cords.

carried at the r-zjrVj anniversary recreation of the battle of First Bull Run. He w ears an authentically reconstructed i86i W isconsin uniform.

carried at the r-zjrVj anniversary recreation of the battle of First Bull Run. He w ears an authentically reconstructed i86i W isconsin uniform.

Select Bibliography

Bcalc, James, The Battle Flags of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, Penna, July ist, 2d & 3d, 1863, Philadelphia, 1885 Billings, John D., Hardtack and Coffee, Glendale,

New York, 1970 Official, Atlas to accompany the Official Records..,,

Washington, DC, 1891 1895 Madaus, H. Michael, 'McClellan's System of Designating Flags, Spring-Fall, 1862'; Military Collector & Historian, Washington, DC, Spring 1965,

PP1-13

Madaus, Howard M., 'The Conservation of Civil War Flags: The Military Historian's Perspective'; Papers presented at the Pennsylvania

The national colour behind this captain appears to he that of the Governor's Foot Guard, a uniformed but strictly social Connecticut

Capitol; Preservation Committee Flag Symposium, ig8y, Harrisburg, 1987 Phillips, Stanley S., Civil War Corps Badges and Other Related Awards, Badges, Medals of the Period, Lanham, Maryland, 1982 Sauers, Richard A., Advance The Colors!, 1 Iarris-burg, 1987

Todd, Frederick P., American Military Equippage, Vol II, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

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