The United States of America has seen numerous battle flags raised across the span of its long and turbulent history. Below are the details of the top ten famous American Battle Flags that were raised by the various different forces at war with one another in the not-so-distant past:
The flag showed a swallow-tailed guidon featuring no stripes. It had a golden eagle sitting inside a silver wreath centrally on a plain magenta background. It was adopted by Major-General George Meade for the Army of the Potomac Head Quarters.
Containing one white cross positioned on the left side of a mostly red background, this flag was used during the siege of Vicksburg by the Confederate volunteers from Georgia. They were under the command of Brigadier General Alfred Cumming. This flag was one of the more famous white cross flags used by the Vicksburg Garrison in its struggle with the Union Army of the Tennessee.
Organized in the state of Maine in 1862, the 20th Maine Regiment became a part of the First Division of the Army of the Potomac. The regiment served in various locations during the War, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Antietam. It was at the Battle of Gettysburg that the Regiment saw the most action under the command of Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain.
This flag consists of a palm tree on a white background with a red star on top. The Company C was organized in 1862, with three other companies in Charleston, South Carolina. Part of the South Carolina 18th Artillery Battalion, it was also known by the names ‘Siege Train Artillery Battalion’ and the ‘Palmetto Guard’.
It fought in various battles during the war, including Fort Sumter, James Island and Battery Wagner. In 1864, the Guard was transferred to Pegram’s Battalion of Artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia. It fought its last battle as artillery at the Petersburg.
A lone white star sits atop a background of navy blue. The first recorded usage of this flag dates back to 1810 when a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for the Spanish provincial capital at Baton Rouge. The Rouge was soon captured and the Governor imprisoned. The Bonnie Blue Flag was then raised over the Fort.
Three days later, when the president of the West Florida Convention signed a Declaration of Independence, the Bonnie Blue Flag became the emblem of a new, albeit short-lived, republic.
The first version of the famed Polk Battle Flag was designed by Major-General Leonidas Polk. He intended to use it with his ‘1st Grand Division’ of the Army of Mississippi. He designed it so that it would not be confused with the Confederate Flag. The flag contained the red St. George’s cross, which was the symbol of the Episcopal Church. Polk was the Bishop of Louisiana. The flag saw battle action from Shiloh through the final surrender of the Army of Tennessee.
The Fourth Infantry Irish Brigade was commanded by General Meagher from 1861 until 1863. The unit’s first major engagement brought it much fame during the American Civil War. When the Union Army was battered during the Battle of Bull Run, the Irish Brigade held its ground. Even after its commander was wounded and captured, the Irish soldiers retreated in an orderly fashion whilst the soldiers in the Union Army were panicked and disorganized.
The rebels would always know when the attack by the Irish Brigade was on-way because the green flag with golden harp of old Ireland was always placed at the center, starkly visible for all to see.
The Battle of Fort Sumter was the start of the American Civil War. Fort Sumter’s Commander, Major Anderson, finally surrendered to the Southern forces under General Beauregard after three days of resistance. This 33-Star garrison flag that flew over the Fort is also referred to as ‘the flag that started the War’.
The Confederate Army of the Peninsula was under the command of Confederate General John Magruder. It was by the orders of General Magruder that the flag was designed specific to his instructions. The flag is divided into two triangles: one red and one white. It saw battle from 1862 up until the merger of the Army of the Peninsula with the reorganized Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
A famous Confederate Flag, it showcased the famous Southern Cross design on a sea of red. The design was suggested by Southern Congressman William Miles to General Beauregard, who took it to the army’s commander, General Johnston. The very first flag of the Army of North Virginia was made in September 1861. It was designed by Hettie, Jennie, and Constance Cary of Richmond.
During the American Civil War, many units had their own individual flags. Notable among these was the flag of the Second Kansas Cavalry Regimental Flag. This flag featured an eagle holding a ribbon in its beak. The ribbons on the flag show off the motto and identity of the regiment. The flag also features a number of battle honors stylishly featured around the central figure of the eagle.
This was the first flag adopted by the Confederate States of the United States during the American Civil War. It features two red horizontal bars with a white bar in between. On the left side of the flag, 13 white stars feature on a blue field. Although borrowing elements from the Union flag, the Confederate flag was distinctly unique. It was popularly known as the ‘Stars and Bars’ during the war. The flag was first used by the Army of Northern Virginia. It eventually came to be identified closely with the Confederate cause.