By STACI L. GEORGE – Times Staff Writer
July 2, 2004

Oftentimes within thick Civil War battle smoke, the brightly colored flags were the only things seen by the Union and Confederate soldiers, Michael A. Dresse said in his “Advance the Colors” lecture, Thursday evening, in Gettysburg Middle School’s auditorium.

“No matter what the design, battle flags were deeply revered,” said Dresse, author of five books on the Civil War—two recent ones which focus on battle flags and color-bearers.

“Color-bearers must be good leaders…must be brave and dedicated,” he said.

His presentation focused on answering two important questions:

n What sort of mystique did these banners hold that caused ordinary men to perform almost superhuman deeds?

n Why did men vie for the honor of carrying them when death or serious injury were almost always the inevitable result?

On his quest to answer the two questions for his audience, he quoted historical texts, shared stories, and illustrated his points with slides.

One story in particular was that of an 18-year-old flag-bearer recruit with the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was hit by a shot fired during a heavy exchange. He fell to the ground and was presumed dead, yet he was still clutching the flag.

Minutes later, he stood up, and without saying a word, he and his flag got back in line. He was later given the Medal of Honor for his courage, Dresse said.