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Destruction of Flags

Last modified: 2011-12-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: destroying flags | siege of metz |
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There have been many discussions about destroying a flag after a defeat. I found in:

a description of a painting (it should appear on the Web page but is currently 'under construction') called 'Le Siege of Metz':

'The commanding officer of the 1st regiment of grenadiers of the Guard, with the help of his soldiers, lacerates the flag of his unit, after learning the capitulation of the French army besieged in Metz on the 27/10/1870. Painting by Lucien Mouillard, Army Museum, Paris'

I don't know if this really happened but it is not impossible. The capitulation of Metz during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) is considered as one of the greatest shames of the history of the French army. The Marshal Bazaine, commanding the Rhine army, decided to lock himself, with the best of the French troops, in the city of Metz rather than fighting against the Prussian army. This fact accelerated the fall of the French Empire and the following loss of Alsace and Lorraine (until 1918). Bazaine was sued in 1873 (after the fall of the Empire, he also tried unsuccessfully to have a political role and to negotiate directly with Bismarck) and sentenced by a War Council to capital punishment. He was finally sentenced for life, escaped and died in Madrid in 1888.

Therefore I guess that the painting has a 'patriotic' meaning and that the real facts might have been exaggerated.

Ivan Sache, 12 December 1996

During the early stages of the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863, the 16th Maine Volunteer Infantry became surrounded by the Confederates and it became obvious to them that surrender was the only recourse. In order to prevent their regimental and national flags from being captured, they were torn from their staves and ripped into pieces and each man received one or more pieces of the flags. Most of these men were prisoners of war for the duration, being released from Andersonville prison in late 1864. Three of the pieces of the national color were later returned to the State of Maine and are now in the possession of the State Museum.

Dave Martucci, 12 December 1996