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"What happens after you lose colors/eagle?" Topic

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1,132 hits since 9 May 2018
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Korvessa09 May 2018 9:41 p.m. PST

I am interested in the answer for all the major combatants.

What happens when the regiment loses its colors/eagle in battle?
Are they issued another one?
Right away or do they make them wait a bit?
Do they go without for awhile?

Korvessa09 May 2018 9:54 p.m. PST

While I am at it, what happens when the war is over?
For example, the Swedes captured many Russian colors at Narva – did they have to give them back when they lost the war?

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2018 1:13 a.m. PST

Great questions. Wish I could contribute but look forward to the answers. Certainly the French hang on to countless captured standards to this day. The Eglise of Les Invalides and La Musee de l'Armee is evidence of that. Most other captured standards that I have been lucky enough to see, are still held by the victors eg British and the Russians from 1812.

Artilleryman10 May 2018 1:23 a.m. PST

Firstly, once colours are captured they rarely go back to the original owners. For example, there are myriad military museums in the UK which have French Eagles and colours while you can see British, Austrian, Russian and Prussian colours in similar establishments in France.

For the units that lost them, there was of course the great shame to be suffered. The colours would be replaced but the length of time before they were would vary from country to country especially if the monarch had to be the one to present them and the units were on campaign. A basic rule of thumb would be 'as soon as possible at a moment of peace'.

I am sure others can come up with specific instances.

kustenjaeger10 May 2018 2:33 a.m. PST


As Artilleryman noted, it depends.

As an example the British 2/69th Foot lost one colour at Bergen in 1814 and the other at Quatre Bras in 1814. Similarly one of the other regiments that smuggled out a tattered colour at Bergen continued to use it until it was replaced in 1815.



bsrlee10 May 2018 4:00 a.m. PST

In some cases a unit had to wait until they captured someone else's standard to be allowed a new one of their own – may have been 7 Years War (?). Presumably they could carry the National flag but not a Regimental flag (for nations that had 2 standards in a unit, like Britain).

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP10 May 2018 4:07 a.m. PST

In the US there is still controversy over captured Civil War colors. Some have been given back to the state they were captured from and some haven't.

Camcleod10 May 2018 8:05 a.m. PST


Definitely, most were not given back.
See the Swedish Flag collection for various Russian colours taken at Narva:

Also in relation to new issues of colours.
The Prussian 10th Regt. lost their colours at one of the battles in early 1814. They only received their new ones in late 1815.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP10 May 2018 8:35 a.m. PST

It would be interesting to know what units who had lost their colors used until their new ones were issued. The colors were not merely for decoration. They had an important role to play during maneuvering the unit and also in combat. They would have needed something in their place.

Oliver Schmidt10 May 2018 8:43 a.m. PST

I found a reference that in 1813 the colour sections of the infantry of the Prussian Freikorps von Lützow used a musket with bayonet, "carried high in the right arm", instead of the colours, which they did not have.

I think for alignment, the colours aren't so important. At least in the French and Prussian regulations of the period, soldiers aligned with their neigbours, not on the colours. Are there any complaints from the period that the lack of a colour was causing problems for manoeuvering the unit ?

The Prussian Füsilier battalions officially received colours as late as 1815, after the campaign. Until then they did without colours, and did it seem to have had problems; nor had the reserve and Landwehr battalions raised in 1813 and 1814. In 1815, the Prussian Landwehr regiments, of three battalions each, received only one colour per regiment.

Oliver Schmidt10 May 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

As for the Prussian 1. Schlesisches Infanterie-Regiment [No. 10 in the army lists], it was granted two new colours already on 3rd June 1814, as they had lost their colours "without their guilt" (having been cut off and forced to surrender by superior numbers). Manufacturing, painting and delivering of the colours took more than a year.

After the 1815 campaign, a few Prussian regiments who had performed badly at Ligny and did not yet have colours or standards, first were denied to receive new ones like the other regiments. But finally, benevolence prevailed and they also received their colours.

So probably, if a Prussian unit would have lost its colours under dishonorable circumstances, it was an option that they would not receive new ones. Depending on the mood of the king …

itchysama10 May 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

There is at least a single note of flags in the Napoleonic period being returned.

In the 1812 campaign, Prussians captured the only Russian flag lost in the 1812 campaign at the Battle of Echau (July 1812).

That flag was returned in 1823 with an exchange for a Prussian flag captured by the Russians during the 7 Years War.

Le Breton Inactive Member10 May 2018 10:08 a.m. PST

Russians of the period 1801-1815 used 2 flags per regular army battalion : in the first battalion a flag with a "white" cross and a "colored" one, and in 2nd and 3rd battalions two "colored" cross flags.

If you lost a flag, you went without it until a meritorious service resulted in the award of a new flag. This could be a long time.

If you lost two from one battalion, a flag would be transferred from a battalion that still had two.

If the regiment lost four or more flags, then a "plain banner" could be used, so that each battalion had 1 flag. Color of this was unspecified, but might be in the color of the "colored cross" flags or in the battalion distinctive color.

2nd battalions formed of only 3 center companies still had flags.

Combined grenadier battalions, jäger battalions and 4th (recruit) battalions did *not* have flags.

For especially meritorious service, an award of one or more special "Saint George" flags could be made.

In general, for any given unit at any given time, their flag "status" was rather unique – but fortunately there are rather good records for the changes.

Before the period, the usage was based on 1 flag per company. Shortly after the period, the usage was reduced to 1 flag per battalion

The cavalry was similar.

Martyn K10 May 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

Calpe Miniatures have an excellent page on the Saxon Flags around 1813 and how they were replaced – a long, confusing, and not totally resolved story.

Here is a link to the page.


LtJBSz Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2018 1:04 p.m. PST

From Arnold's "Napoleon's Triumph" the 55th Line lost its Eagle at Heilsberg, "Soult and St. Hilaire interviewed a Capt. Vivien, the senior surviving officer regarding the lost eagle. After listening to Vivien's report and noting that the regiment lost 27 officers and 700 men killed and wounded Soult told the Capt to tell the men that he was satisfied with their conduct. He promised to intercede with Napoleon on the regiment's behalf the next time the emperor reviewed the unit. In the event Soult's pledges proved empty. French regiments were not supposed to lose their eagles regardless of circumstances. There were a handful of exceptions, but Heilsberg was not one of them. Consequently, during the final days of the campaign, the shattered 55th was punished by being sent to occupy the Baltic port of Pillau, a backwater assignment far from the glory fields where the emperor would distribute medals and promotions."

Dn Jackson11 May 2018 2:36 a.m. PST

As far as I know, all Confederate colors captured during the Civil War that were held by the Federal government were returned to the states in the early 20th century as part of the reconciliation between north and south. Those that could not be identified as belonging to a particular unit were sent to Virginia. Those held by northern states or in private hands were not returned.

Flags during the ACW were important for maneuvering, identification, and morale. I've found one account of a southern unit that lost it's flag at Gettysburg. It was issued another one that day from the supply train, and lost that one two days later during Picket's Charge.

LtJBSz Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 3:35 p.m. PST

Which Southern regiment lost those 2 flags?

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