History Behind ‘Capture the Flag’

The fun neighborhood backyard game known as ‘Capture the Flag’ can trace its roots back to the Civil War battlefield.

Most of us have played the popular neighborhood backyard game ‘Capture the Flag’ as kids.  Some have even played as grown adults.  Capture the flag is a traditional outdoor game composed of two opposing teams with the objective to capture the other team’s flag.  But have you ever taken the time to reflect on the origin of the game?

Capture The Flag

It is believed that the game of capture the flag has roots to the battle field.  During a battle, soldiers knew that the war was over when the enemy’s flag was captured.  The amount of casualties or prisoners of war was not the determinant of the winning side; rather, the war was declared officially over only when the opposing regiment’s flag was secured.  During the Civil War, soldiers known as color bearers or color guards were appointed the duty of guarding the flag.  Some even risked their lives to save their regimental battle flags.  Color guards that successfully captured the enemy flag or protected their own flags were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Civil War Flag Bearer
A young Civil War Flag Bearer runs the flag across the battlefield to mark the start of battle.

Over the years, capturing the flag has been downplayed into a fun backyard version known as ‘capture the flag.’  Children have been playing capture the flag in the boy scouts and at camps for over 60 years.

Rules of Capture the Flag:

Capture the flag can be played either indoor or outdoor; however, playing outdoors usually provides more space (especially if you don’t want kids running in your house).  Once the boundaries and size of the playing field has been agreed upon, divide into two teams with separate ‘territories.’  Each team must designate a certain area of their territory for the ‘jail’ where captured opponents stay when they get caught.  Before the game starts, each team must hide their flag with at least some part of the flag being visible.  It does not have to be in clear sight, but you must be able to see some part of the flag from a certain spot.

Once the territory is set and the flags are hidden, the game officially begins when someone yells ‘start’ or blows a whistle.  Players from each team must enter the opponent’s territory to search for the flag.  If a player gets tagged while in the opposing team’s territory by anyone on the opposing team, they must enter jail.  The only way out from the jail is if someone on their team comes to rescue them by tagging them, in which case they have a free trip back to their territory.  When the opposing team captures the flag, they must transfer it back to their own territory without being tagged.  If they are tagged, they must drop the flag at the spot they were tagged.  The flag must remain there until the end of the game.

Remember, this game is meant to be a fun, neighborhood game so make sure to be safe.

Share This:

Collins Flags

We offer a variety of U.S. flags and poles to suit most every need. We proudly buy our U.S. flags only from American manufacturers who meet or exceed our demand for high-quality construction. Click for to see our large selection of U.S. Flags.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *