The War Flags Collection at the National Museum of American History

War Flags Collection

From the tiniest flag stitched into a smock to a 12-foot guidon that sits in a flat case, each piece in this collection has a story to tell. For the men who carried them into battle, their flag was a physical manifestation of their pride and courage, as well as their unit’s unique identity. For many, it was also a connection to the state and country they were fighting to protect.Check this

The collection includes the colors that regiments of infantry, cavalry and light battery — known as color companies and color guards — carried into combat. They were usually unarmed, and their members were chosen based on their courage and steadiness under fire by their Regimental Commanders. The soldiers were entrusted with protecting their flags at all costs, even to the point of death. The stories of the men who fought to preserve these flags are documented in the collections’ extensive research files. Literal bullet holes, bloodstains and in-the-field repairs speak to the ferocity of the war that these flags were part of.

Raise the Standard: Explore the War Flags Collection

Ninety years of display in labeled oak-and-glass cases have caused serious wear and deterioration to this fragile grouping, however. Beginning in 1989, a project has been underway to restore this important grouping by removing past harmful treatments and encapsulating them for preservation. This has allowed the Museum to re-integrate many of these historically significant pieces into their displays while making sure they are well conserved for generations to come.

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