Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Pennsylvania’s Civil War Flags

Posted By on February 15, 2012

A good explanation of the design and use of battle flags used during the Civil War is found in Civil War Harrisburg, a book published by the Camp Curtin Historical Society and noted in a prior post on this blog.  Essentially, all state military regiments that were assigned to U.S. army units were required to carry national colors.   There were separate requirements for infantry regiment flags, artillery regiment flags, and cavalry regiment flags.  Although there were specifications for the size and design of these flags, they were not always followed by the state regiments – particularly if the state regiments were part of the state militia or emergency forces that were under the control of the governor.

Pictures of Pennsylvania’s Civil War regimental flags can be obtained from several on-line sources:

The primary source for these flags is the web site of the Capitol Preservation Committee which maintains Pennsylvania’s collection of Civil War flags.  The search page for these flags is easy to use but it is very helpful to know the numerical designation of the regiment to enter in the search box.

Click on picture to enlarge.

The search page, as shown above, is easy to use.  Simply type the regimental number in the box and click “Search.”  In the example below, “150th” is tpyed in the search box.

Click on picture to enlarge.

Two flags are shown in the result:  the national colors and the state colors.

By clicking on the flag picture, it will open in a new window and it can be saved to disk (right click and save).

A secondary source on these Pennsylvania flags can be found at Steve Maczuga’s Pennsylvania Civil War Project/Pennsylvanians in the Civil War.  This source has been previously noted several times on this blog.  For the original post on Maczuga’s web site, click here  Since that original post of 4 January 2011, Maczuga has slightly modified the format to make the searching more user friendly.  Searching can now be done with a portion of a surname rather than requiring the complete surname.  The results are the same in that a “page” is shown with the flag and a brief description of the individual’s military service.  A search was done for “Wister” (Col.  Langhorne Wister) who served with the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry.  A list of all the persons with “wister” as part of their surname comes up and an opportunity is given to see the complete record.  One click and the following result is produced:

Click on picture to enlarge.

When only the soldier’s name is known, it is easier to use Maczuga’s site.  When the regimental numerical designation is known (and nothing else) it is easier to use the Capitol Preservation Committee site.  The resulting flag picture is the same, although the Capitol site gives the volume and page of the picture as a reference (from Dr. Richard Sauers, Advance the Colors, in two volumes) and a very brief history of the regiment.

The actual flags can be viewed at the Capitol in Harrisburg by calling for an appointment.  717-783-6484.

Finally, an on-line article (“The Colors of the Blue:  Union Battle Flags of the Civil War”) from The Bugle, the official journal of the Camp Curtin Historical Society is a free download.  Click here.  The article was published in fall 2009.



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