Do You Know Your Flag?

In our nation’s history, there have been many instances when the flag has been displayed with no other representation such as an emblem, motto, or political symbol. Thus, the term “foul flag” was applied to describe the situation when the flag was not carrying any other flag. Historically, the custom was to not display the flag for some time unless it had a military order. This practice was started during the Civil War. The Union flag was often not displayed for over ten days because of the threat of attack from the enemy.


After the cessation of combat,

General Robert E. Lee gave the command to cease displaying the Union flag at all posts except those held by the adjutant general. These were called the “post-flags”. The reason given was the fear of the Union soldiers that they might attack the Southern States with the mistaken belief that they were United States soldiers. It was also believed that if the Union soldiers were permitted to return to their posts they would utilize and desert their units. Thus, it was necessary to eliminate confusion in the mind of the soldiers so that confusion at the posts did not exist.


When the United States became a nation,

the process of choosing the proper size of the flags was a difficult one. Certain ratios were required by law, and the combinations that exceeded the prescribed ratio were considered unacceptable. The difficulty in choosing the proper flag size resulted from the fact that all previous flags had the European proportion and the dimensions of flags were very similar. Thus, when the United States entered into a war, all previous rules regarding flag sizes did not apply.


During World War I,

when the Red Cross was growing in popularity as a symbol of brotherhood among the soldiers in various trenches, there was much discussion as to whether the red Cross should be used as the symbol for the United States Army. After much debate, the red cross was finally adopted as the official symbol. The American Red Cross was making larger than its proportions so that the ratio of the sizes did not favor any one specific group of people. As a result, the dimensions of our national flags had to be altered so that each group of citizens or the military had an equal proportion of the flag. In this way, the proportions of the flags were more evenly distributed.


When the Civil War was over and the United States had a government of its own,

the same laws that governed the use of the stars and stripes were applied to our national flags. Many times the Stars and Stripes would be incorporated into the designs of the flags we used. One popular combination that was used for quite some time was the use of the stars and stripes with the rough-texed American flags. Sometimes rough-texed American flags would be used with the Union Jack, which had originally been the top banner of the British Army. The United States used their Stars and Stripes as their official flag and it was this decision that helped the Stars and Stripes become such a prominent part of our history.


When the American Flag

was brought into widespread use as the national symbol many local, state, and federal laws were also created. In many instances, the United States flag was required to be flown at half-staff at all times. The reason for this was to keep the flag flown free of people’s hands who might pick it up and throw it into a building, on a highway, or otherwise damage it. This is why today when you see a half-staff flag you know that the union jack is missing and that it has been flown under the authority of a federal judge. It was the design of the half-staff flag that was the cause of the confusion concerning whether the flag should be allowed to be flown at all.

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