West Virginia Civil War Battle Flag Facts
Civil War Union regiments carried four types of flags: National U.S. Flag, National Regimental Flag, State Regimental Flag, and Guidons.
Most of the National Regimental and State Regimental flags had blue backgrounds and were large 6′ x 6′ so they could be seen at a distance through the smoke of battle.
On the way to the battle of Gettysburg, the 7th WV Infantry regiment stole a star from another unit’s National flag and attached it to their National flag. Thus, they were the only regiment that fought in that battle with the correct number of stars on their National flag, 35. (West Virginia had become the 35th state on June 20, 1863. The battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1, 2 & 3, 1863.)
The first West Virginia State Historian, Virgil A. Lewis said: “The most sacred relics that any state can possess are its battle flags.”
The only Confederate flag in the exhibit was captured by the 9th WV Infantry regiment during the Battle of Lynchburg in 1864.
The regiment’s flags were known as their “colors.” They were the symbolic heart of the regiment, the things that drew its members together. They were flown in the center of the line and were fiercely defended in action.
As a group, color bearers suffered the highest casualty rate and were awarded the most Congressional medals of Honor in the Civil War.
Some of the regiments whose flags are displayed in the exhibit fought at famous battles including the Second Battle of Bull Run, Vicksburg and Gettysburg.
Textile Preservation Associates, a Maryland firm, did the conservation work on the WV Civil War Battle Flags.