The flag was “invented” in a time known only as “antiquity” as a battlefield tool to help identify and control the movements of the troops by the generals. In those days, the warring factions gathered all the soldiers they could muster, assembled them into groups and then met face to face and fighting hand to hand until one side prevailed.
The generals who were strategically placed to watch and give orders to the men on the battlefield soon lost track of their army in the inter-mixing of armies which resulted from the nature of their style of fighting. The “boots on the ground” had no idea of what to do or where to go, other than to keep fighting. The generals had very little idea about how many men remained in their army, or who was winning. Someone came up with the idea of attaching a piece of cloth or metal to a pole for the soldiers to carry as identification, and the battle flag was born.
These flags were improved as time went on so that not only the armies could be identified, but also the groups making up each army. During battle, the troops were taught to rally round the flag in order to maintain the army’s force.
These flags became so important to leading the fighting forces, that a progression of flag bearers was used in order to keep the flag moving and visible in front of the fighting troops. The importance was known by the opposing side in a battle, and the prime targets for those in an advancing army were the flag bearers. These brave men had possibly the shortest lifespan of any other member of the army at the time. The flag led the charge, and was not allowed to fall to the ground, if at all possible. When the man carrying it was killed or wounded, the next man took it and continued with the charge.
The flag of our nation was and is a flag that has been used and followed on the battlefield since the days of our Revolutionary War. Many proud American soldiers have fallen while carrying it into battle. Many more have fallen under the order of “Follow the Flag.”
There was a time when a war on our own soil required young and not so young men to make a decision as to which flag to follow in a great war. On one side, there was the U.S. flag, and on the other, the flag of the Confederacy. Both were used as battle flags in the first fighting. Almost immediately, there was confusion on the battle field. On the field of battle, it was almost impossible to determine which flag was which because of the colors and designs being so close to each other. The soldiers of the Confederacy requested a different flag to fight under and to readily recognize in the confusion of battle.
Their request was answered with the Confederate Battle Flag. Although it was never adopted as an official flag by the Confederacy, it was used by the troops on every battlefield until the end of the war.
Shortly after our War Between the States ended, the industrial revolution brought in changes that made the battle flag obsolete as a communication device. First it was telephones, then radios, and now cell phone technology. The flags of many wars are still around and are still to be honored.
Regardless of which army these flags represented, there were men who carried them and gave their lives leading the way for their brothers in arms to follow. They are not “just rags.”
Now, does everyone understand why veterans stand and salute the flag when it passes?
Robinson, a Vietnam veteran and member of American Legion Post 143, writes a weekly column on veterans issues for the Times-Georgian.