Posts Tagged ‘color bearer’

American Civil War Folklore or Legend, the story of Confederate Color Sergeant George Dance [Black History MMXI. Part xvii.]

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

by Ann DeWitt

Our heritage and ideals, our code  and standards
—the things we live by and teach our children—
are preserved or diminished by how freely
we exchange ideas and feelings.
~Walt Disney

George Dance (back row, position 9 from left) Photo: Moore County Tennessee Genealogy

George Dance (back row, position 9 and extreme left flank of the line) Photo: Moore County Tennessee Genealogy (1914)

Humanitarian H. K. Edgerton Demonstrating Civil War Color Guard Stance similar to George Dance (Photographer Unknown)

21st Century Humanitarian H. K. Edgerton reenacting a Civil War Color Bearer stance, similar to that of 19th Century Confederate Color Sergeant George Dance (Photographer Unknown)

Initially serving as a Color Bearer, George Dance, pictured in the 1914 picture above,  was promoted to Color Sergeant of the 8th Tennessee Regiment in the Confederate States Army. Even in today’s terms, the appointment of Color Sergeant is a military honor. On the battlefield during the American Civil War, troops depended on the Color Guard as their 19th Century rendition of today’s Global Positioning System (GPS).

In the book, It Happened in the Civil War, Michael R. Bradley, an American author, states:  “When the noise of battle made it impossible to hear orders, soldiers followed the flag.  As men went down, the gaps were filled by closing in on the colors.”  So why was George Dance, an African-American chosen to serve in the Color Guard?

Look at the 1914 picture directly above,  most of the men in the 8th Tennessee Regiment were of average height.  However, George Dance stood over six feet (6′) tall. Author Michael Bradley adds, “The taller the men who carried the flag, the better the emblem could be seen. But the flag was also the object of intense gunfire from an enemy and was the objective of counterattacks.”  Even though, George Dance accompanied Regiment Surgeon Dr. S.E.H. Dance to war with the 8th Tennessee Regiment, George Dance’s stature and ultimately his valor elevated him for a promotion to Color Sergeant.

To understand if African-Americans fought for the Confederacy in the 19th Century, one has to likewise understand the military structure within the Confederate States Army or the Union Army.  Michael Bradley reminds us that  the 19th Century Confederate battle flag with the Saint Andrews Cross “was not only a symbol of pride and honor, it was the focal point of a unit in battle” during the American Civil War.

For more information about African Americans who served with the Confederate States Army, visit

This article is sponsored by The Street Life Series Youth Edition. Contact email:

Peel Back the Sticker and Reveal the Names of Black ConfederatesPeel back the sticker and reveal the names of African-American men who served in various capacities with the Confederate States Army (Black Confederates) during the American Civil War.

Recommended Reading:

  • It Happened in the Civil War by Michael R Bradley
  • Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story by Ann DeWitt and Kevin M. Weeks