View Full Version : Guidons for bayonets

07-23-2006, 02:37 PM
Hi there folks.
you guys in the states may be able to help out here due to having better resources.

i am after making a couple of guidons for a couple of our bayonets.
could anyone advise on what the 8th ohio's would look like?

many thanks

07-23-2006, 02:57 PM
I'd like to see proof that they were ever even used.

The regimental markers I have seen look like this...


Notice they are on poles, NOT bayonets.

Still, I would like to see if they did use them on bayonets as I really don't know the answer to that and have wondered for a while myself.


07-23-2006, 11:13 PM
I have seen period photos and descriptions of guidons on standard poles or on short poles designed to be dropped into the muzzle of the guide's musket, but I have never seen, read, or heard of one designed to be attached to a bayonet. However, the origin of infantry company/artillery battery/cavalry troop guidons was a sergeant's sash attached to a pole or, as is quite likely the source of your question, a bayonet. I suspect what you have in mind may be an old practice from the Napoleonic wars or even earlier.

As far as I know, the Civil War Regular Army as a general rule didn't bother with guidons and such. When falling in with their arms (i.e., with their muskets instead of falling in on the stacks), they often oriented on a corporal who was holding his musket straight up with the butt near shoulder height and bayonet fixed. I'll bet, though, that the heavy artillery regiments that Grant pried out of the Washington fortifications and used as infantry in '64 had guidons, right along with their frocks, dress hats, brass, shoulder scales, and who knows what else, which the survivors of the first l'enfant perdue charges got rid of in short order.

07-24-2006, 12:29 PM

I have always thought this was the case. I have never seen a written example of a guidon on bayonets in a memoir or historical treatment or an original in existence either. I had a feeling they are a reenactorism.

Anyone else with info on guidons out there?


You should also realize that guidons were 20 inches or more in size and this would be much larger than a bayonet (which is why they are on a pole in the picture above). Plus the pole in the photo above is much higher in the air than a rifle and bayonet with a guidon would be at shoulder arms. It is that high so the whole regiment can see it.

It also seems to me that in the drill books, companies did not have guidons, regiments did. And regiments did for two reasons. 1) to align themselves upon as the general guides who carry them would set the line, and 2) so generals could see where one regiment ended and another began on the field. That is another reason why a small flag on a bayonet is too small and too low to be seen properly.

I guess what I am saying is forget this bayonet guidon stuff. I think I am justified in saying so historically, too. A guidon on a bayonet is just not proper.

...unless anyone has beter info than I have on this!

Warner Todd Huston

07-24-2006, 02:56 PM

Infantry battalions and regiments used two flags, referred to as Right and Left General Guides (as were the two men who carried them). These flags marked the right and left of the line, respectively, and examples may be seen in the image posted above.

Individual companies did not use these marker flags (from whence we get the name guidon; IE: 'guide on').

Most general guide flags of the civil war (for Federal service) were of silk, and made as small versions of the national color. The stars were painted in gold pigment oil paint, and many times, but not always, the name of the regiment or battalion was painted on the center stripe. Examples of these same flags from the state of Maine may be seen here:


The use of small guide flags or guidons designed to slip over a bayonet is a reenactorisl that began with the 125th series of reenactments, when larger units were formed and began to drill and deploy as their original counterparts did. The National Regiment, followed by the UO Battalion, produced these types of colors and used them in the field. From that point on, many units have copied the practice.

Although it looks neat, and certainly saves space, the concept is, as I said, a reenactorism and should be relegated to the dustbin.

BTW, the general guides which carried these marker flags were NOT young boys, per se. They were selected from men with exceptional bearing and courage, and proven abilities. They, liked the color guard, were required to march ahead of the line to keep it's alignment, while facing a deadly foe, unarmed. Many of them paid a terrible price for duty faithfully executed, and it is a dis-service to them and their memory to see young boys being given the marker flag for "something to do" during a reenactment.

A good example of the courage and use of these markers may be found in Thomas W. Hyde's excellent book "Following the Greek Cross", in his chapter on the 7th Maine's actions at Antietam.

Trusting this is of some small use, I remain,


Tim Kindred

07-24-2006, 03:03 PM
Thanks to Tim for confirming my suspicions that bayonet guidons is a reenactorism!

Though I did know that only bttns or regiments used them and NOT single companies, his reference to Thomas hyde's book was appreciated.


07-24-2006, 03:42 PM
very much appreciated info here ladies and gents

any info on what the 8th ohio's "guide" would look like would be most helpful as i can make a couple. we already have our company colors (for camplines) but to be "proper" and maintain the authenticity would be great if i could knock one up. just the basic colour/layout would be appreciated.

thanks again

bob 125th nysvi
07-24-2006, 08:22 PM
In many European Armies the Sargents carried pole weapons (read spears) until the Nappy wars not guns, so in all likelyhood the guidon, if derived from the sargents sash wound up on a spear before a bayonet.

If I remember correctly once they handed the sargents guns they handed the guidons to someone else.

Bob Sandusky
Co C 125th NYSVI
Esperance, NY

Rob Weaver
07-25-2006, 05:30 AM
There was also an old style marker, or "camp color" made of wool bunting, about 18 - 20" square, which contained the regiment's number and state in blue, on a white background. These, like the silk guides, were on 8' poles.

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin

Scott Harrington
07-25-2006, 02:55 PM
The Rowdy boy is wrong. The NR at the 125th series did not use 'bayonet' guidons as stated by Mr. Kindred. I personally was involved in the process so should know.

There were many types of guidons used during the Civil War. The NR at that time used two variants.

1) A guidon attached to a 6-7' pole, two for left and right general guide.

2) A guidon attached to a doweled rod placed down the barrel of the musket for the left and right general guide.

I have personally seen both types, mostly displayed in the Albany Flag collection. In addition I have seen variants in several museums, and even in the attic of the NY Historical Society!

My personal belief is they were used consistently because it was important for the Colonel to know the ends of his lines. I have several accounts of their use, not only on the drillfield but also the battlefield.

In addition, two extra markers were used, either to designate the color company or the 'first' company to align on during a battalion maneuver.

I have 'discovered' a unique image of the 5th NY Duryee's Zouaves using both sets.

For further information, contact Steve Hill, the noted flag historian / recreator - he can provide photos of actual guidons. In fact, he created the ones for the NR during the 125th series.

As to whether they were actually attached to bayonets, I do not know. Research task.

In addition, there were also camp colors (usually small national flags on cotton) placed on small sticks to designate the camp area. Very rarely seen today and probably rarely used then.

There is an excellent period manual on the guidons, will send to anyone interested.

Take care, mind the horses, stay away for the artillery and have a good time.

Also be correct with your facts.

Scott Harrington
5th NYDZ
Co. C

Scott Harrington
07-25-2006, 03:23 PM
Reasearch Task somewhat completed.

Lord's 'Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia'
pg 117

Guidon Carrier
Brass, 4 3/4 inches long, with one end to hold guidon staff and the other to affix, on a caliber .58 musket, by means of a locking rink, exactly like a triangular bayonet.

Not quite a 'guidon on a bayonet' but a 'guidon on a bayonet-like attachment' that attaches just like a bayonet.

Scott Harrington
5th NYDZ
Co. C

07-25-2006, 05:14 PM
I STILL see no bayonet guidon being used. That invention in Lord's not-with-standing.
(By the way, there were all KINDS of crazy little inventions then. It doesn't mean that they were heavily or commonly used! How many guys ACTUALLY wore the armored shirts throughout the war?)

07-25-2006, 10:46 PM
one of the best **** articles ive seen on this subject!!!

07-26-2006, 01:48 AM
WOW! Great article. Thanks for it.

I notice no bayonets were used, though.


07-26-2006, 10:02 AM
guys your missing the point.

im trying to find out what it would look like when it was marked up to the 8th ohio volunteer infantry.

would it be the same as their colours but a smaller version? or a navy blue background with crossed rifles with 8th ovi on it?

Scott Harrington
07-26-2006, 12:08 PM
I think the best way here is - uh -uhh -uhhh - RESEARCH.

Check out this site. Actually very nice, didn't know there were that many Ohio units and also Ohio African American regiments. Learn something new every day!


Call them up and I bet an expert there could really be helpful.

A quick check showed that there seems to be several basic types. National swallow shape is quite common, then the square National, and some nice flank markers in bands of red, white and blue. One set was solid red square with unit labelled on it.

Good luck on this. And ask the curator if they have the elusive bayonet attached type.

Scott Harrington
5th NYDZ
Co. C

07-26-2006, 04:18 PM
Dear Sir ,
I have seen several infantry guidons or camp markers in museums and indeed the 23rd Illinois Vol Inf (Chicago's Irish Brigade ) , is emerald with a gold harp . Whether these were attached to poles or bayonets I do not know , however, I believe there is a line drawing in BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR showing an Army of the Potomac unit on the firing line and I think it showed a file closer with a guidon / marker on his bayonet. Perhaps it is a reenactorisn like "firing by the drum " et. al. but research goes on , eh ? Thanks
all for the old flag,
David Corbett , 10th ILL. Vol. Inf.

Scott Harrington
07-26-2006, 04:53 PM

Great bit on the Irish guidon. Nice site but hard to browse.

Attached below is the 'harp' guidon.

Scott Harrington
Co. C

07-26-2006, 06:40 PM

Do you have any relative sizes on these?

The size would say a LOT if it was supposed to go on a bayonet.

It seems bayonet mounted ones are not correct, but a dowel rod or plug of some type of a configuration was used in the musket, along with the flag pole variety.

This is a great thread, I really want to thank eveyone for contributing. It has helped me a lot.

07-27-2006, 06:34 PM
thanks folks much appreciated
apologise if i seemed a bit short fused in my last post. research resources in the UK are limited when it comes to researching something like teh ACW

07-28-2006, 08:11 AM
Dear Sir ,
Upon further research the Irish Brigade of Illinois ( 23 rd Illinois Vol Inf. camp marker is 30 X 20 inches so obviously was not placed on a bayonet .
Just ot keep the ball rolling , look at ECHOES OF GLORY : ARMS AND EQUIPMENT OF THE UNION , page 291 . A zouave is shown with a marker flag in the muzzle ( not on the bayonet ) , of his musket. It appears to be tied to something , perhaps the wooden dowel rod previously mentioned in another post .
all for the old flag,
David Corbett