Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Standards/Banners/Colors VI.

This is coolbert:

"A contributor to the New Statesman, writing in October 1973, affected to believe that 'all the stories of deeds of heroism in defence of military colours can only have been so much myth-making.'"

So much myth making??


From the American Civil War, there are numerous instances, perhaps too many to count, of courage of the most extreme sort displayed on the battlefield by those protecting the colors, and also by those attempting to capture the colors of the enemy.

A standout in this regard was Thomas Custer. Twice winner of the Medal of Honor. On both occasions, capturing Confederate colors.


"Capture of flag on 10 May 1863."


"2d Lt. Custer leaped his horse over the enemy's works and captured 2 stands of colors. having his horse shot from under him and receiving a severe wound."

Custer IS ONE OF ONLY SEVERAL ARMY COMBAT SOLDIERS TO TWICE WIN THE MEDAL OF HONOR!! [called the Congressional Medal of Honor [CmoH] at the time.]

The actions of Thomas Custer can only be described as foolhardy? NOT by the standards of the time? Thomas Custer of course is the younger brother of the famous George Armstrong Custer. Both George and Thomas perishing at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The behavior of Thomas Custer was NOT an anomaly?

Just from the state of Pennsylvania, heroic efforts were evidenced over and over by soldiers protecting the colors, preventing capture by the enemy!

"Among all the duties assigned to infantrymen during the Civil War, the job of color bearer was perhaps the most honored, yet most deadly upon the field of battle."

"Benjamin Crippen the color sergeant for the 143rd PA Volunteers was one of these bearers. During the fighting on the first day of Gettysburg, Crippen kept turning around as the regiment retreated, shaking his fist at the Confederates and daring them to take his color. Crippen paid for his bravery with his life and Confederate General A.P. Hill expressed sorrow at seeing him killed".

"At the battle of Fredericksburg, during on of the tragic assaults on Marye's Heights, the entire color guard was decimated. Colonel Henry I. Zinn of Carlisle grabbed the falling state color and cried 'Stick to your standard boys! The Hundred and Thirtieth never abandons its standard!' Moments later a bullet struck the colonel in the skull. He was carried to the rear with the color and died in about thirty minutes. During the battle, 32 bullets hit the flag."

"Sergeant Hiram Purcell of the 104th PA. At the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, color sergeant James Slack was seriously wounded Purcell surged forward to grab the falling state color. Carrying both the state and national colors, he ran for the rear. He was struck by bullets in the thigh, arm and neck but managed to save both of the colors. Purcell survived his wounds and was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions."

Dig this stuff too! Controversy stirred up decades after the end of the war! Action on the part of President Cleveland that actually cost him a re-election.

"Cleveland [President Grover Cleveland] . . . had not fought in the Civil War . . . Furthermore, he had offended many Union veterans by returning captured Confederate battle flags to the South."

[Cleveland, as had Theodore Roosevelt Sr. [father of the famous President Teddy] had BOUGHT a replacement!]

According to the eminent historian Shelby Foote, a Great Compromise was struck between the northern and southern states in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Southerners admitted that it was probably a good thing that the Union was preserved [and it was!]. Northerners on their part admitted that the southerners had fought with bravery and courage [and they had!!]. Recriminations were set aside and a consensus was agreed upon by participants that was to the benefit of everyone. Allowed healing to proceed with “all due speed”.

The return of captured Confederate battle flags was seen by President Cleveland as being part of the healing process? Union war veterans were indignant - - YES! But a higher purpose was served?! It would be interesting to know exactly what the motivations of Cleveland were, if such could be determined.




Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home