Moments in History

Let Your Flag Fly

Today is Flag Day in the US. It’s a day where we commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our symbol of national unity. However, flags as a national identifier are a relatively new phenomenon. Flags were originally meant to communicate on the battle field.

Flag-like battle standards were used in antiquity to communicate to various groups of troops during battle. The positioning of the battle standard would mean different things, and in the melee would be a point of reference for soldiers. The bronze flag found in Iran shown above was most likely used this way.

Flags were also used to communicate at sea and even across land. Semaphores were used for ship to ship communication before wireless communication. A semaphore line could allow for swift communication across a kingdom, and France became one of the biggest users of this system of flags used for communication. Then they developed the white flag.

Today, as you drive around and see your nation’s flag flying, imagine what it would have meant 200 years ago to see it. It was a form of communication before field radios, walkie talkies, and telegraph systems.

[Image Credit: Public Domain]