Regulation Flags

The Army of the United States basically had two colours per dismounted regiment, which were issued according to army-wide regulations issued 10 August 1861. From the Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, ¡86r.

'1436. The garrison flag is the national flag. It is made of bunting, thirty-six feet fly, the twenty feet hoist, in thirteen horizontal stripes of equal breadth, alternately red and white, beginning with the red. In the upper quarter, next to the staff, is the Union, composed of a number of white stars, equal to the number of States, on a blue field, one-third the length of the flag, extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top. The storm flag is twenty feet by ten feet; the recruiting flag, nine feet nine inches by four feet four inches. Colors of Artillery Regiments '1437. Each regiment of Artillery shall have two silken colors. The first, or the national color, of stars and stripes, as described for the garrison flag. The number and name of the regiment to be embroidered with gold on the centre stripe. The second, or regimental color, to be yellow, of the same dimen-Mons as the tirsl, bearing in the center two cannon crossing, w irh the letters U.S. above, and the number of regiment below; fringe, yellow. Each color to be six feet six inches tt\, and six feet deep on the pike. The

The national colour behind this captain appears to he that of the Governor's Foot Guard, a uniformed but strictly social Connecticut organization. Nonetheless, it shows the eagle finial which often topped the national colour, and the tassels. (David Scheinmann Collection)

The national colour is carried in action in i#6i. Xotc the eagle and streamers.

pike, including the spear and ferrule, to he nine feet ten inches in length. Cords and tassels, red and yellow silk intermixed.

Colors of Infantry Regiments '1438. Each regiment of Infantry shall have two silken colors. The first, or the national color, of stars and stripes, as described for the garrison flag; the number and name of the regiment to be embroidered with silver on the center stripe. The second, or regimental color, to be blue, with the arms of the United States embroidered in silk on the center. The name of the regiment in a scroll, underneath the eagle. The size of each color to be six feet six inchcs fly, and six feet deep on the pike. The length of the pike, including the spear and ferrule, to be nine feet ten inches. The fringe yellow; cord and tassels, blue and white silk intermixed.

Camp Colors

'1439. The camp colors are of bunting, eighteen inches square; white for infantry, and red for artillery, with the number of the regiment on them. The pole eight feet long.'

Each foot regiment was to have two camp colours, carried on the extreme right and left of the regiment by sergeants serving as general guides. In fact many of the actual colours violated regulations by having unique insignia on them. The 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, for example, had plain dark blue camp colours with a golden bee painted on a sk> blue oval; and the 95th Ohio Volunteer Infantry had scarlet silk camp colours with a golden wreath surrounding the unit designation, '95 OHIO'.

General Orders No. 4, 18 January 1862, said that 'camp colors ... w ill be made like the United States flag, with stars and stripes'. Surviving camp colours of the 128th New York Infantry were made in this style, with the number 128 on a dark blue cloth field, sewn onto the colour.

The star pattern in the canton of this national colour of the 18th US Infantry Regiment matches those made under a US Quartermaster

Department contract by Alexander Brandon, issued through the Yen York Quartermaster Depot in 1864. (West Point Museum Collections)

The star pattern in the canton of this national colour of the 18th US Infantry Regiment matches those made under a US Quartermaster

Department contract by Alexander Brandon, issued through the Yen York Quartermaster Depot in 1864. (West Point Museum Collections)

Manufacturers' variations

The description of the national Hag used as a camp colour, as well as both a garrison and regimental flag in the regulations, was vague in such details as the exact arrangement of the stars in the canton. Indeed, it did not even spell out if the canton were to be square or rectangular. A variety of styles of canton shapes and star designs were seen in actual practice, varying according to the Hags' makers.

One basic difference between Army national colours and ilags flown by civilians and non-military governmental organizations is that most Army national colours used gold stars while most other American flags had white stars. Apparently this came about when the Army switched to silver embroidery for its stars before the war; silver embroidery thread tarnished to an unsightly black, so gold was substituted for silvcr^hence the gold stars. Many private manufacturers during the war did embroider white stars on the cantons of the national colours they supplied under state contracts, but Army-issued national colours had gold stars, usually painted rather than embroidered.

Army-issued national colours were provided to regiments which needed replacement colours or did not receive presentation colours from their state government or local organizations. Army-issued colours were issued at the Quartermaster Depots in Philadelphia, New York, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Private contractors between May 1861 and October 1865 supplied the Philadelphia Depot with 8<jo national colours, the New York Depot with 917 national colours, and the Cincinnati Depot with 500 national colours.

National colours provided by the Philadelphia Depot apparently had the gold stars in their rectangular cantons arranged as a vertical double ellipse with an additional star in each corner. Some had a centre star, while some lacked this final star.

New York Depot national colours had the gold stars in a square canton arranged in five horizontal rows. Until 4 July 1863, when West Virginia was admitted as a new state and a new star was authorized for it, these had six stars in the middle row and seven stars in each of the two outer rows. After 4 July 1863 each row had seven stars. Although Nevada was admitted to the Union on 31 October 1864, no star was authorized to mark that state until after the war was over.

Apparently national colours supplied by the Cincinnati Depot had rectangular cantons with seven horizontal rows of gold stars. Each row except the bottom one had five stars, with four stars in the bottom row until July 1863, when it, too, acquired a fifth.

Most regiments, however, especially early in the war, were presented with national colours by some local group which had acquired them from private contractors. These colours were quite expensive by the standards of the day.

Pennsylvania's state inspector general asked for bids for making flags for the Commonwealth's troops from three local manufacturers. One, Horstmann, asked $160 for a pair of national and regimental colours, $35 for a cavalry standard, and $12 for a cavalry guidon. Evans & Hassall wanted $135 for a pair of national and regimental colours. $35 for a cavalry standard, and $22.50 for a cavalry guidon. Brewer wanted $110 for the infantry colours, $30 for the cavalry standard, and $15 for the guidon. (At this time a private soldier's pay was only $13 a month.)

On 27 November 1861 the adjutant general of Kentucky asked for quotes for making flags for the state's troops from both a local manufacturer, Hugh

Wilkins of Louisville, Kentucky, and Tiffany & Co. of New York City. Wilkins replied: will make infantry regimental colors for Si25 per set with the arms of Kentucky on each side of the standard and regular regimental flag stars and stripes with the number of each regiment in gold on each side and the same in the blue flag on a scroll under the coat of arms. Cavalry standards done in a like manner for S45.00 each, guidons for S10.00 cach. Artillery flags same as Infantry.'

Tiffany wired: 'Blue regimentals both sides Sioo.oo each in three weeks, with case, belt, and fringe. National stars and stripes $60.00 each in one week. Guidons embroidered name and number S25.00 pair in two weeks.'

Presentation national colours made by Tiffany went mostly to New York and some Connecticut units, although some were carried by Michigan units and at least one by an Indiana unit. Tiffany colours were embroidered with white stars in a square canton. Until July 1863 they were set in six horizontal rows, the middle two with five stars while the outer two had six stars. Starting in July 1863 the top three rows had six stars cach; the fourth row had five; and the bottom two rows had six. Unit designations on Tiffany colours were rendered in script letters.

Presentation national colours made by another New York maker, Paton & Company, used white silk appliqued stars set in five horizontal rows, the middle one of w hich had six stars w hile the upper and low er two had seven stars cach, in a square canton. The unit designation appeared in script letters.

Evans & Hassalt of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arranged the gold stars in the rectangular cantons of their national colours as a simple double ellipse of stars surrounding a single star in the centre, with one gold star at each corner of the canton. New Jersey regiments after 1863 received national colours made by this company.

Ilorstmann Brothers &; Co,, a general military equipment and uniform supplier from Philadelphia, also produced presentation national colours for Minnesota troops for a short time starting in late 1862, and for West Virginia's troops after that state's formation. These were made like the Evans & Hassall colours with a double ellipse of gold stars in a rectangular canton. Both Evans & f Iassall and I lorst-mann also produced national colours for Pennsylvania troops, hut these differed in that the state seal surrounded by stars was painted in the centre of the canton. The first national colours supplied by Ilorstmann to New Jersey used this same design, with the New Jersey state seal surrounded by stars in their cantons.

Maryland troops received national colours made by Sisco Bros., of Baltimore, with square cantons and, after July 1863, five horizontal rows of seven gold stars each.

Hugh Wilkins, Louisville, Kentucky, produced national colours for Kentucky troops and, apparently, units from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio as well. These were unusual in that a light or sky blue was used for the square cantons. The gold stars were arranged in six horizontal rows, five in the top and bottom rows and six in the other rows.

i private of the I'etcran Reserve Corps, formed from men no longer capable of active field service but still capable of serving, holds one of the Corps' nti tional colours. (Ronn Palm Collection)

service but still capable of serving, holds one of the Corps' nti tional colours. (Ronn Palm Collection)

Regiment Flag With Eagle Finial

Gilbert Hubbard & Co., Chicago, Illinois, made national colours for units from Wisconsin. Its first ones had the state seal as well as stars in the rectangular cantons. However, replacement colours made until July 1X63 had gold stars in six horizontal rows with six in the top, bottom, and two middle rows and five in the second and fifth rows.

Regimental colours were also issued through the three basic quatermaster depots. Between May 1861 and October 1865 the Philadelphia Depot purchased 765 regimental colours; the New York Depot, 1,021 regimental colours; and the Cincinnati Depot, 564 regimental colours.

Many of Philadelphia's regimental colours came from Horstmann and Evans & t lassall. These colours bear the US coat of arms on the eagle's breast over a three-piece red scroll painted with a raised centre section and under a double curve of stars: the top row had 11 stars, the bottom row 13 stars.

New York's Depot had a variety of suppliers including A. Ertle, Paton & Co., and A. Brandon. They had a large, but somewhat unrealistic eagle under two rows of stars, 18 in the top row and if> in the bottom.

Cincinnati's Depot had several contractors who provided regimental colours of various qualities.

.-In officer holds a rtic-

torn national colour bearing three battle honours for engagements in the Army of the Potomac. Note the axehead which tops the stave.

.-In officer holds a rtic-

torn national colour bearing three battle honours for engagements in the Army of the Potomac. Note the axehead which tops the stave.

John Shillcto of Cincinnati turned our well-painted eagles with detailed feathers and realistic heads, I lis first colours had 21 stars in the top row over 13 stars in the bottom, ending at the tail of the motto scroll. His post-July 1863 colours had 20 stars over 15 stars in two rows which extended below the ends of the scroll.

Another Cincinnati supplier, Longly & Bro., turned out eagles which were poorly painted, with ill-defined feathers and a 'black eye' on each eagle's head. Until July 1863 the top row of stars on these flags had 21 stars, over 13 stars in the bottom row; after that date they bore 21 over 14 stars, the latter touching the trails of the motto scroll. The motto scrolls from both makers had lower centre sections.

Hugh Wilkins' regimental colours featured eagles with down-turned heads, as well as another design which had the eagle perched on a US shield in the centre of a circular clouded perch. Both had five-piece red motto scrolls.

Both national and regimental colours, save those presented by local groups and locally made, were issued without regimental designations in the stripe or motto scroll. It was up to each regimental colonel to have the regimental designation put on each colour.

To return to the 1861 Army Regulations: 'Standards and Guidons of Mounted Regiments '1440. Each regiment will have a silken standard, and each company a silken guidon. The standard to bear the arms of the United States, embroidered in silk, on a blue ground, with the number and name of the regiment, in a scroll underneath the eagle. The flag of the standard to be two feet five inches wide, and two feet three inches on the lance, and to be edged with yellow silk fringe.

'1441, The flag of the guidon is swallow-tailed, three feet five inches from the lance to the end of the swallow-tail; fifteen inches to the fork of the swallowtail, and two feet three inches on the lance. To be half red and half white, dividing at the fork, the red above.

■1 colour-sergeant holding his battle-torn Bag. The regiment is unknown. (Ronn Pstlm Collection)

On the red, the letters U.S. in white; and on the white, the letter of* the company in red. The lance of' the standards and guidons to be nine feet long, including spear and ferrule.'

Modifications to the i86j regulations appeared soon after thev were published. The first changed the guidons issued to mounted units. According to General Orders No.4, issued t8 January 1862: *i. Under instructions from the Secretary of War, dated January 7, 1862, guidons and camp colors for the Army will be made like the United States flag, with stars and stripes.'

Mounted units wanted to fly a version of the US national flag. I lowever, not even the modification of January 1862, which gave them a guidon version of the US flag, was enough for many such units; instead, they often flew the whole US flag. Indeed, a message from the commander of the Army of the Ohio, dated 3 June 1862, to Brigadier General Thomas Crittenden noted: 'The general yesterday observed one of the batteries in your division carrying a large flag

This national colour used in I irginia in iS6t displays a different star pattern from that usually employed- There h ere no dear national regit la tions on the arrangement of stars.

This national colour used in I irginia in iS6t displays a different star pattern from that usually employed- There h ere no dear national regit la tions on the arrangement of stars.

the regular army. But the volunteers seemed to be a law unto themselves, and, while many flags in existence today bear names of battles inscribed by-order of the commanding general, there are some with inscriptions of battles which the troops were hardly in hearing of.'

Tabic A: Luit Designations instead of a guidon, as ordered. The general desires to know why the orders on this subject are not carried out.'

Battle honours

Shortly after the guidon revision order was issued a practice that had been standard for many years before the war was made official. Regiments and batteries were allowed to indicate their service in battle on their colours. As stated in General Orders No. 19, 22 February 1862: 'It has been ordered that there shall be inscribed upon the colors or guidons of all regiments and batteries in the service of the United States the names of the battle in which they have borne a meritorious part.' The order went on to say that 'It is expected that troops so distinguished will regard their colors as representing the honor of their corps—to be lost only with their lives—and that those not yet entitled to such a distinction will not rest satisfied until they have won it by their discipline and courage.'

This privilege was soon abused by a number of volunteer units which put the names of battles in which they had played the most minor of parts onto their colours. According to John Billings, a veteran of the 10th Massachusetts Artillery, in the Army of the Potomac, 'Originally battles were only inscribed on (lags by authority of the secretary of war, that is, in

Unit designations on national colours were placed on

one of the horizontal stripes, often the seventh one

from the top. However, this system was far from

universal, as seen by the selection of representative

national colours which have survived and are listed

below. When the stripe is indicated it is counted

from the top dow n. When letters

or an abbreviation

follow the number or capital letters, such as '2d' or

'RF.Gt', the small letter was usually raised parallel

with the top of the larger numbers and one or two

dots placed under the small letter

Unit designation




7th stripe


2nd MICH. INF.

7th stripe

2d Wisconsin Infantry

7th stripe



7th stripe



7th stripe


13th ILL.

7th stripe

1 ¡¡th REGt Kv VOLs

8th stripe

15th REGt WIS. VOLs.

7th stripe

15th REGt IND. VOLS.

9th stripe

18th Michigan Infantry.

7th stripe


5th/7th stripes



4th/6th stripes




7th stripe

40th REGt N.J. VOLS.

7th stripe

46th Rcgt. MASS. MILITIA

7th stripe

46th REGT. O.V.I.

3rd stripe

46th Ohio V.V.I.

Centre of canton

51st REG'T P.V.V.

Top stripe

56th Regiment,/

5th/7th stripes


60th REG'T O.V.U.S.A.

7th stripe


8th stripe


76th OHIO

7th stripe

154th Rcgt. NYSV (in script)

7th stripe

"I'His was not always the fault of the troops who carried the colours; it was often unclear what unit was authorized what battle honour. Some commanders published lists of battle honours that could be placed on flags, some simply ordered every unit present at any given battle to put the honour on its flag. Even some governors issued orders to their state units to put specific honours on their battle flags.

Asa result of this confusion, on 7 March 1865 the Army of the Potomac issued its General Orders No. 10 which listed every volunteer unit in the army along with a list of battles that could be placed on its colours. However, the Army of the Potomac appears to have been the only large organization within the Union forces to attempt to standardize battle honours and, by the time it did so, many of its older units had already been mustered out, their battle flags now-hanging in state capital buildings.

Finally, according to the 1861 regulations: "The ambulance depot, to w hich the wounded are carried or directed for immediate treatment, is generally established at the most convenient building nearest the field of battle. A red flag marks its place, or the way to it, to the conductors of the ambulances and to

Flag Eagle Finial Civil War

the wounded who can walk.' General hospital flags were in fact yellow, with a large green Roman letter H on the field, and smaller yellow flags with green borders were generally used to mark the way from the firing line to field hospitals. This w as standardized by General Orders No. y, 4 January 1864, w hich called for a yellow general hospital flag 5 ft. by g ft. in size with a Roman letter 11, 24 inches tall, on its field. Post and field hospitals had the same flag although only 5 ft. by 9 ft. in size. Rectangular guidons 14 inches by 28 inches edged with one-inch green borders were ro mark ambulances as well as the route to field hospitals.

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