Jump to Navigation

Eighth Kansas Battle Flag

A Story of a Battle Flag and Its Bearers

The date is September 19, 1863. The battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, has already begun. The Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment is formed in line of battle in the center of Colonel Hans Heg’s brigade of Union infantry. The brigade was ordered forward and so the Eighth Kansas led the advance through dense woods all around them. The crackling and roar of musketry could be heard to their left, informing the men of the regiment that battle was imminent. As the long line of dusty blue uniforms peaked over a small rise, an opening volley of musket fire was unleashed directly into their front. Many fell as the roar of musket fire began to open and increase in ferocity. Acting color bearer for the regiment, Corporal Charles O. Rovohl, fell with the flag in hand. Two men of the regimental color guard began to drag him to the rear when Rovohl stated: “My life is nothing- keep, the flag, to the front.”[i]

The Eighth Kansas Infantry Regiment suffered heavily at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. Over the course of two days of fighting, the regiment had lost 243 men of its 406 aggregate; totaling 65 percent loss in two days of battle. The regiment’s color guard particularly suffered. After Corporal Rovohl fell, Corporal Will Wendell took the national flag from the dying man’s hands. Shortly after, the remaining color guard erupted to claim seniority and the right to carry the national colors. Wendell, however, refused to relinquish the colors and carried the flag for several hours until he himself was wounded in seven places and collapsed. When Wendell was finally carried off the field, he was taken past the regiment’s commander, Colonel John Alexander Martin, and inquired: “Colonel, have I done my duty today?”[ii] Of the nine-man color guard, four were killed, three were severely wounded, and only two escaped unscathed. Corporals Charles Rovohl, Will Wendell, Charles Morgan, and Benjamin Sprouse were those who succumbed to their wounds caused by that day’s terrible events. Corporal George Matthews was severely wounded in the breast, while Corporal Alan Bozarth was wounded in the thigh. Only corporals John Binger and Hugh Turner came away without injury.[iii]

The regimental state flag of the Eighth Kansas Infantry was also lost. The pole was shot away just beneath the bottom of the flag; making it impractical to carry. The flag was then taken to the rear and placed in an ambulance for the rest of the engagement. Captain James Love of Company K, who was severely wounded and later captured, reportedly saw the flag days later in a procession of Confederate troops in Atlanta, Georgia.[iv] An official report of Brigadier General Evander MacNair’s Confederate infantry brigade states that they captured two stands of colors; one of which had belonged to the Eighth Kansas.[v]

The national flag of the regiment was turned in to Kansas Governor Thomas Carney on April 5, 1864, with great fanfare after the regiment’s re-enlistment as veteran volunteers. After their re-enlistment, the regiment ordered a new pair of regimental standards that replaced the original set.[vi] This flag is believed to be the very one that Corporals Rovohl and Wendell died defending at Chickamauga. Onlookers of the time described this flag as bullet riddled and shredded. In 1905, this flag, along with the state’s collection of battle flags, were turned over to the care of the Kansas Historical Society. The Kansas Museum of History’s battle flag collection includes this tattered survivor of battle among 62 other flags from the Civil War and Spanish American War.

This flag cannot be unfurled due to its fragile nature. To be displayed for the people of Kansas to view, it must first be professionally conserved. If you wish to see this banner, and many similar banners in person, then please consider donating to Save the Flags! This fund supports the efforts to save flags such as this and relies solely on donations.

(Select each image to enlarge)

Eight Kansas Infantry

Eight Kansas Infantry

Eight Kansas Infantry









Eight Kansas Infantry

Eight Kansas Infantry



















iMcFarland, Bill. “Keep the Flag to the Front” Essay. Keep the Flag to the Front: the Story of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry, 147-149. Overland Park, Kansas: Leathers Publishing, 2008.

iiMcFarland, Bill. “Keep the Flag to the Front” Essay. Keep the Flag to the Front: the Story of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry, 147-149. Overland Park, Kansas: Leathers Publishing, 2008.

iiiMartin, Colonel John Alexander. “The Battle of Chickamauga.” Newspapers.com. Freedom’s Champion, October 22, 1863.

ivHolt, John. “The Flag of the 8th Kans.” Newspapers.com. The National Tribune. September 12, 1907.

vUnited States War Records Office. 1880. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. page 502. Washington D.C.: Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

viOffice of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas. (1868) 1896. Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Reprint Edition. Vol. 1. Topeka, Ks: The Kansas State Printing Company: J.K. Hudson, State Printer.


Battle Flags Series:

Entry: Eighth Kansas Battle Flag

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2024

Date Modified: April 2024

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.