Regimental Standard and Troop guidons

The organizational flag of a mounted unit has traditionally been referred to as the “standard”, as opposed to the “colors”, which are carried by dismounted units. The regimental standard (this one from the 1880’s) is the single most visible symbolic representation of the regiment. The standard and its accompanying set of national colors are displayed in the regimental commanders office and are carried to all regimental ceremonies and formations. When a new standard is issued, the old one is retired from service and should be placed in the Reed Museum. Many former standards are on display in the Reed Museum, the oldest one dating from 1861.


The 2nd Dragoons would have been issued one standard and one guidon per company when raised in 1836. The standard was blue with the U.S. coat of arms in color and the regimental designation on a red scroll. As prescribed in the 1834 General Regulations for the Army, the standard was silk, 27 inches hoist by 29 inches fly, with a yellow silk fringe. The standard was carried on a 9-foot lance tipped with a spearhead of essentially the same design used by the U.S. Army today.

Davis’ book…..described by him as “very deep blue.” He says the standard could be as old as 1836, based on its design, but there is no record of its issue. The number of stars (normally a clue in dating regimental flags of this period) is uncertain as some have disappeared. Davis says the standard of the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (now 3rd Armored Cavalry) is identical, except for color.

For the Civil War period, a watercolor by Davis of a flag then (1912) in storage at the Army depot in Philadelphia. The inscription on the scroll is SECOND / REGT U.S. / CAVALRY, with the T smaller and elevated. Dimensions at this time were the same as in 1834. This basic design was used until 1887.

The 1834 regulations described company guidons for cavalry as silk, 27 by 41 inches, with a swallowtail. From the hoist to the fork of the swallowtail was 15 inches. The guidon was divided horizontally, red over white. By regulation, the letters U.S. appeared in white on the upper half and the letter of the company on the lower. The guidon was carried on a nine-foot lance with arrowhead finial.

According to Randy Steffen’s The Horse Soldiers, 1776-1943 (Norman: U. of Oklahoma Press, 1977-79), vol. I, pp. 109 and 114, most guidons issued from the raising of the 2nd Dragoons onward were inscribed not only as prescribed in regulations but with the regimental number as well. He illustrates an example inscribed U.S. / A Compy on two lines in white Roman lettering on the red half and 2nd DRAGOONS in two lines in red Roman lettering on the white half.

From January 1862, guidons were in the same dimensions as before but in the form of the Stars and Stripes, with the stars painted in gold in two concentric circles and one star in each corner of the canton. In 1863, a general order directed that “there shall be inscribed upon the colors or guidons of all regiments and batteries in the service of the United States the names of the battles in which they have borne a meritorious part.” An 1878 order clarified that guidons would only bear the battle honors won by the company on separate service. An 1881 order directed that the company letter be placed in yellow on one of the white stripes.

The red over white guidon was revived in 1885.

Joe McMillan, 23 October 2000

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