UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 


 
REGIMENTAL COLORS & FLAGS OF THE UNION ARMY  •  1861-65
 

The Regular Army of the United States was tiny at the beginning of the Civil War: ten regiments of infantry, four regiments of cavalry and four regiments of artillery. Nine additional infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments and one artillery regiment were raised in 1861-62 but state militia and state volunteer regiments made up the bulk of the Union Army. These were raised and organized by the states, then taken into federal service. Initially many state militia and state volunteer regiments wore distinctive uniforms but as the war progressed the standard Regular Army uniform was adopted by all.

Each infantry regiment of the Army received a National Color and a Regimental Color. Regiments also had flank marker flags. Companies had general guide flags (guidons), most often of the Stars & Stripes pattern. As their name suggests, camp colors were used when a regiment was encamped and the silk colors were deposited in the regimental headquarters. Standards for cavalry regiments were the same but smaller. At the beginning of the war cavalry and artillery guidons were red and white with the regimental number over the company or battery letter but in 1862 a War Department order specified guidons patterned after the Stars and Stripes.

When an infantry regiment was drawn up in line formation, the position of the colors indicated the center of the line, the guidons indicated the disposition of the companies and the flank markers indicated the regiment's right and left flanks. The line was dressed by aligning the guidons and flank markers on the colors.

Images Added September 2018

Guidon, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry  •  Guidon, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery
 



 

REGIMENTAL COLORS

 

4th REGIMENT UNITED STATES INFANTRY

 

5th REGIMENT OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

 

5th REGIMENT WISCONSIN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

 

55th REGIMENT NEW YORK STATE NATIONAL GUARD

 

69th REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEER INFANTRY (1st REGIMENT IRISH BRIGADE)

Many regiments carried colors of the Regular Army pattern, as depicted above for the 4th US Infantry. The Regimental Color could vary in design depending on the manufacturer. The colors were made of silk, six feet on the hoist by six feet six inches on the fly (plus fringe) but here again there could be variations. The colors of the 5th Ohio and 5th Wisconsin illustrate variant designs for the national coat of arms. Stars were supposed to be white (silver) but since silver paint had a tendency to tarnish the National Color often had gold stars. The stars were applied in various patterns. At the beginning of the war many state militia and volunteer regiments had highly distinctive regimental colors, e.g. the Tricolor of the 55th New York State National Guard (militia). Its title—Gardes Lafayette—was adopted in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette's visit to the United States in 1824-25. One of the best known Union Army regimental colors was the green flag of the 69th New York Volunteers, a regiment made up of Irish Americans that formed part of the famous Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac.

 

CAMP COLORS

 

STANDARD DESIGN  •  34 STARS

 

VARIANT DESIGN  •  35 STARS

In January 1862 a War Department general order specified that regimental camp colors would be of the stars-and-stripes pattern. These flags were cheaply produced from lightweight bunting. Usually the stars were in rows but some camp colors had them disposed in the same pattern as the 1862 cavalry guidons. Dimensions were 18 inches at the hoist by 24 to 26 inches on the fly. Occasionally these generic camp flags were used as company guidons or regimental flak markers.

 
GUIDONS & FLANK MARKERS
 

GUIDON, COMPANY B, 2nd UNITED STATES CAVALRY

 

CAVALRY & ARTILLERY GUIDON   •  34 STARS

 

CAVALRY & ARTILLERY GUIDON  •  35 STARS

 

34-STAR GUIDON  •  COMPANY I, 6th PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEER CAVALRY (RUSH'S LANCERS)

 

34-STAR GUIDON
BATTERY
E, 1st MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER LIGHT ARTILLERY

 

34-STAR GUIDON
1st MAINE VOLUNTEER HEAVY ARTILLERY

 

COMPANY GUIDON 
24th REGIMENT NEW YORK STATE NATIONAL GUARD

 

COMPANY GUIDON 
94th REGIMENT OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

 

FLANK MARKER
37th REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

 

FLANK MARKER
125th REGIMENT OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY

At the beginning of the Civil War cavalry and artillery general guide flags (guidons) were of the pattern adopted in 1834: scarlet over white with the regimental number and the company or battery letter countercharged. These guidons were made of silk; dimensions were 27 inches on the staff by 41 inches on the fly. In January 1862, however, a War Department general order specified a stars-and-stripes pattern for guidons of cavalry companies and artillery batteries. The stars, which were painted on, were usually disposed in two concentric circles and in each corner of the blue canton. Because silver tarnished it was customary to use gold paint for the stars. These stars-and-stripes guidons were made with 34 and later 35 stars. They were issued without additional markings but unit designations were often added.

A number of infantry regiments used cavalry-style guidons but there were many variant designs, especially among the state volunteer regiments. Some were forked while others were rectangular or square and many bore unit designations. Some regiments adapted camp colors as guidons. Infantry guidons were mounted on staffs designed to be inserted into the barrel of the guidon bearer's musket.

Flank marker flags were also variable in design. Some states, like New York and Ohio, adopted a standard pattern for them; others were unique to particular regiments. Usually they were 18 to 24 inches square, though some were slightly rectangular. Some regiments used camp colors as flank markers. The usual practice was to mount flank markers on eight-foot staffs.



BACK to UNION ARMY FLAGS Page