A look into why Civil War soldiers placed so much importance on the flags of their regiments
The devotion to a flag was not merely an emotional matter. Men would sacrifice their lives defending a regimental flag simply to protect it from being captured by the enemies. Clearly, Civil War regimental flags played a vital part in the outcomes of Civil War battles and it is important to note why.
1. Flags were valuable morale builders
Civil War armies on both sides of the battles were organized by regiments from particular states and regions. Soldiers tended to feel their first loyalty toward their regiment – similar to that of local sports teams. Each state regiment typically carried its own flag into battle. Soldiers tended to take a great deal of pride in their flags, in which case they were treated with reverence. Many ceremonies were held as a sort of morale builder so the soldiers knew what/who they were fighting for.
2. Flags helped with drawing practical battle lines
Among all the smoke of the battles and noise around, the lines of battle tended to become very unclear. Flags were used as a visual rallying point, of which soldier were trained to follow the flag. Because the regimental flags had genuine strategic importance in battle, certain soldiers, known as the color guards, were designated to hold and guard the flags. Being a color bearer was considered a mark of great distinction.
3. Protecting the regimental flag was of great importance
The Civil War produced countless tales of regimental flags being protected during the battle. Many stories were told of common soldiers protecting the flag if/when the color bearer became injured or died in battle.
Flags still hold great importance today. Take a moment to think about the flag(s) that represent you and why they are important. Now practice honoring those flags.