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Keep the Flag to the Front - Part 9

Glossary and Explanation of Flag Types

Army regulations in 1861 provided for each regiment to have a stand of colors, consisting of both national and regimental flags.

Other flags might identify combined units, batteries, or headquarters, or be used to relay messages.

Flag Glossary

Colors: Another name for any flag.
Color bearer: The soldier carrying the flags.
Color guard: Usually a sergeant and five to eight corporals. The guard's job was to protect the color bearer.


National Colors

National colors is the flag of the United States, the standard red, white, and blue design still used today.

Regimental flag

The regimental flag identified the regiment. Usually it had a blue background with an eagle or coat of arms at its center. Artillery units had a yellow background with crossed cannon barrels at the center.


The guidon was typically a smaller, swallow-tailed flag used by the cavalry. Most looked like the National Colors but the cavalry also used regimental guidons.

Camp Colors

Camp colors were markers used to identify a regiment in camp and the two ends of a regiment in battle line. They were the same as the National Colors, but smaller.

Designating Flag

Designating flags were used to indicate combined units and military headquarters.

Signaling Flag

Signaling flags came in different colors and sizes to relay messages on the field.


Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Civil War, 1861-1865
  2. Rally 'Round the Flag
  3. Stories From the Front Lines
  4. The "Colored" Soldiers
  5. On the Border
  6. Chickamauga
  7. The Confederacy
  8. Save the Flags!
  9. Glossary and Explanation of Flag Types

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov