Flags have always been an essential part of wars and of countries. In olden days, when two warring parties began battles for the day, they’d fight solo—one-on-one, single combat. Both men would carry their respective flags with them. When one man fell, another from his side would step up and take charge of the flag. At other times, waving a white flag signaled surrender.
Traditionally, flags have held a revered place for militiamen, whether in battle or not, since they are seen as a physical extension of the nation-state.
The Flags in the Civil War
Although it’s one flag that many of us instantly think of when we say, “civil war,” there were a couple of others that went around that time. The flag of the United States also used to be slightly different, and went from 33 to 34 stars as Kansas was added to the mix. Here’s a fun fact: before a star was added for Kansas, a simple but profound “K” appeared on flags briefly. This was the Union flag, very much the state flag of today but with fewer stars.
There were other confederate flags, all of which were based on the state flag (red, blue, and white with stars and stripes) but also pointedly different. The most famous of these, of course, was the confederate flag that we all remember: the Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.
It’s important to understand that the opposing parties during the Civil War were regiments from various states. These soldiers, who had made alliances with other states, needed first and foremost to feel a certain degree of loyalty toward their own state. And that’s where flags came in.
It was the flags that represented the state in its essence and in its spirit. Great importance was heaped onto these regimental battle flags. The flags would be paraded, soldiers would kiss the flags, and other symbolic displays of affection were commonplace.
But these flags also had a practical purpose to them. While they helped to boost morale and give the soldiers a sense of identities, a sense of belonging, they also served a much more pragmatic purpose: direction. Battlefields are chaotic, confusing places. You can’t hear commands over the gunfire and clamor. You didn’t have radios back then. You couldn’t tell which regiment is which—unless you saw a very recognizable flag flying high from its mast.
Are you a History Buff?
If, like us, you too are interested in Civil War history and love how they sang “We rally ‘round the flag, boys” at that time, you can now buy one of these historicAmerican flags for display in classrooms, museums, and more. Get in touch with us today. You can also give us a call at (404) 409-9737.
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