The Post of Honor: Who were the Color Sergeants, and Color Guards, and what were the Colors?

wis2ndflagThe National Flag of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers


"Yes, we'll rally round the flag boys, we'll rally once again, shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom:"







According to Civil War Army Regulations: "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 inches 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; cords and tassels, blue and white silk intermixed." After February 1862 also inscribed upon the colors of the regiment were the names of the battles in which the regiment "have borne a meritorious part."

During the civil war a "stand of colors" for a regiment consisted of two flags, the stars and stripes and a state flag or banner. These two were borne side by side on the march and in battle. They were each carried by a sergeant, called a "color sergeant,'' and were guarded by six or eight corporals, constituting what was known as the "color guard." It was a great honor to be chosen for either of these positions, yet dangerous; for the enemy took particular pains in battle to shoot down the colors. Each regiment had a color company or a color guard, whose assignment was to bear the colors intobattleand protect them. Each member of a color guard or company was selected for this position based on his courage and steadiness under fire, by the Regimental Commanders. The flags were carried by unarmed color sergeants, and accompanied by armed color corporals, who were instructed not to engage in combat unless the flags were in immediate danger of capture, The flags became the physical symbol of a units pride and courage, a rallying point in combat and the source of many heroic deeds in their defense.