Exhibit | Aug. 3, 2021

American Civil War: U.S. Army Signal Flag

This star flag, displayed in the Museum, is a rare item. This flag is only one of two known to exist today in which all five points have been adorned with battle names. This special flag was awarded only to Signal Corps officers who distinguished themselves in combat. In the late 1850s, Albert J. Myer, an Army doctor, invented a method of communication using line-of-sight signal flags. Employed widely during the Civil War, the Myer flag system became the origin of the Army Signal Corps. Using various positions of the flag to represent letters of the alphabet, soldiers would wave them to send messages to other units. Union and Confederate soldiers became proficient in the Myers' system, known as wigwag. Soldiers had to be in an elevated location to be seen. Since the system is visual, messages could be intercepted and this forced encryption.