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Union Signal Corps Battle Flags

The distinctive "star" flag conceived and ordered by A.J. Myer as a mark of bravery under fire has had some recent discussion on the web site of the "Signal Corps Association, 1860-1865" (posted on the Discussion Forum) and I thought perhaps others might want the documentation information I just posted:

Just to ensure we have the information posted here on the web site, Myer's original order (General Orders No. 24, Headquarters Signal Corps, Alexandria, Va. March 19, 1862, signed by Wm. S. Stryker, Adjutant, "by order of Maj. A.J. Myer")can be found in the OR, Ser. 1, Vol. 51, Pt. 1, p. 555). The follow-up modification order is General Orders No. 3, Office of The Signal Officer, Washington, D.C., February 7, 1863, signed by order of Maj. A.J. Myer by W.R. Hartshorne, First Lieutenant and Signal Officer, and can be found in the same volume on p. 983. It states that "while the issue of battle-flags to officers distinguished in battle will be continued, the numerous battles have rendered so many changes necessary [i.e., multiple awards had exhausted the number of star-points] that hereafter the flags will be retained in the office and decorated at the end of the war with the battle names ordered for each and then issued." It goes on to state that "2. During the war officers named for battleflags[sic] will carry and use a common signal flag with a plain star. 3. Officers now having battle-flags of silk are requested to deposit them in the office of the Signal Officer for safe-keeping. 4. It is the wish of the Signal Officer of the Army [i.e., Myer] that worthy officers shall receive at the close of the war this memento of the corps and of the battles in which they have served."

The latter order presents the usual problems of interpretation -- does "this memento" refer to a decorated "plain flag" or a silk one? Were "named flags" in use at the time of the order intended to be replaced and the original returned to Headquarters? It may also indicate that flags bearing stars with named battle(s) were issued prior to 7 Feb 63 or in 1865-ish. (Extant flags identified as having been "used" at Gettysburg may therefore have been used contrary to the 7 Feb 63 order or actually have been released or "returned" "after the war." I would be inclined to the former explanation, but that would represent a five-month delay in following orders.) In battle art or re-enactment, one would have to be careful of the date to know whether to represent a star battle-flag with or without a battle name. Within our Association, I personally liked the explanation that John Schultz gave a young trooper, that we honor and respect the demonstrated bravery of the original bearers by NOT using named flags in reenactments. Again, I suppose, we could think of exceptions.

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Union Signal Corps Battle Flags
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