Flags were an important part of the soldiers’ lives. Officially, they were used to align and rally troops and to identify units amid the smoke and confusion of battle. But to the men, it was more than a mere field marker. To them, it was something to be cherished, something to die for. It symbolized what they were fighting for, and was a record of their service. Each tear in the fabric was a reminder of a past battle, and the men were proud of the holes and the patches. They carefully painted the name of each battle they participated in on the flag. There was no greater glory than to capture the enemy’s flag; there was no greater disgrace than to lose one's own. Many flags were stained with the blood of the men who died defending them.
At Pea Ridge, the war was not yet a year old. Many of the flags, and the men who carried them, had not yet received their baptism in fire and blood. In March, 1862, the flags were still fresh and bright. The war would change them, as it did the men and the nation.