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HISTORIC FLAGS

The GGRC Chapter is fortunate to have 20 of our country's historic flags in its possession.  The chapter frequently presents flag programs at events around the area.  Here is a description of the flags and their meaning.

George Washington’s Flag 1775:  This was the personal flag of the Commander-in-Chief during the Revolutionary War.  A reproduction of this flag flies today at Washington’ Headquarters at Valley Forge, PA.

George Washington flag
The First Navy Jack was flown by Commodore Esik O Hopkins on the Alfred, flagship of the Continental Fleet, in January 1776.  It has 13 alternating red & white stripes with an uncoiled rattlesnake & the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto.  It was first used as a signal to engage the enemy.  Beginning in 1977 the ship with the longest period of active service was to display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or inactive, then the flag passed to the next senior ship.  In 2002 all Navy ships began flying the First Navy Jack. First Navy Jack flag
Fort Moultrie Flag - The South Carolina Militia under the command of Colonel William moultrie repulsed a British naval attack from Fort Sullivan in Charleston Harbort on June 28, 1776. Many historians agree that this was one of the most decisive battles of the Revolution. The fort was later named Fort Moultrie in the Colonel's honor. Fort Moultrie Flag
Philadelphia Light Horse Flag - The flag of the first American armed force, the Philadelphlia City Cavalry. The Light Horse of Philadelphia was established alongside the Continental Congress, as the first Colonial troop without ties to Britain. They outfitted themselves and served the Colonies as a volunteer force under Congress. They remain today as the oldest of America's armed forces. They fought valiantly under this banner at the Battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. It was also the first flag to have featured the thirteen stripes, each representing a colony. Philadelphia Light Horse flag
Washington's Cruiser's Flag - There once stood an elm tree at the corner of Essex Street and Orange Street in boston, Massachusetts, under which a group of men calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty" met to protest the notorious British Stamp Act sometime during 1765.  From that time onward, the tree was popularly called the "Liberty Tree."  In 1775, the British seized Boston, cut down the tree and used it for firewood.  Flags bearing the symbol of the "Liberty Tree" almost immediately began to appear.  So it is no wonder that when, in the fall of that same year, George Washington outfitted a squadron of six schooners at his own expense, he fittingly used the symbol of the tree and his own personal prayer to the Lord with the phrase, "An Appeal to Heaven." Washington's Cruiser's Flag
Green Mountain Boys Flag - It was first used under Ethan Allen occurred on the morning of May 10, 1775, when they silently invaded the British-held Fort Ticonderoga; they demanded its surrender "In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." The captured cannon and mortars were transported across the snow covered mountains of New England, and their installation on the heights over Boston Harbor enabled Washington to force the British to leave that important seaport. On August 16, 1777, the "Green Mountain Boys" fought under General Stark at the Battle of Bennington.  It's green field represented their name and the thirteen white s tars a tribute to the thirteen colonies. Green Mountain Boys Flag
The Grand Union Flag- 1775: also known as the Continental flag, it is the first true U. S. Flag.  It combined the British Union Jack and the thirteen stripes signifying the Colonial unity.  The thirteen alternating red & white stripes represented the original colonies.  The use of the British Union in the upper corner indicated a continued loyalty, as Americans then saw it, to the government against which they fought. Grand Union Flag
The First Stars and Stripes; also called the Betsy Ross Flag.  It is the first official American Flag to be recognized internationally & is the flag that resulted from Congressional action June 14, 1777. Betsy Ross flag
The Bennington Flag: Used in the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, on August 16, 1777, by Vermont militia.  This flag was the first to lead American armed forces on land.  It flew over the military stores in Bennington, when General Stark’s Militia defeated a large British raiding force.  There are seven white stripes instead of the usual six & only six red stripes.  The original is preserved in the museum at Bennington, Vermont. Bennington flag
The Serapes Flag: Designed with 13 stripes alternating red, white & blue.  Captain John Paul Jones flew this flag in the famous 1779 battle between “the US Bon Homme Richard”& the British ship “HMS Serapis” in the North Sea.  After winning the battle & capturing the HMS Serapis, John Paul Jones’ ship sank & he transferred his flag to the HMS Serapis.  Thus his flag became known by that name.  Note too, that the stars in this flag have eight points.  It is the only flag with nonalternating stripe colors. Serapis flag
The Guilford Flag: This unusual flag was made with thirteen 8-pointed stars in a white field.  Historical records report North Carolina Militiamen at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, March 17, 1782, carried this flag.  You’ll note the stars are rather large & the 13 stripes in this flag are red & blue. Guilford flag
The Star Spangled Banner: Created by the Flag Act of May 1, 1795, adding 2 stripes & 2 stars for the new states of Vermont & Kentucky.  This was the flag carried by Meriwether Lewis & William Clark during their 1804 expedition into the Northwest Territory.  Francis Scott Key immortalized it during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 13, 1814 and the only flag to carry fifteen stripes. 15 star flag
The Bedford Flag: It is the oldest complete flag known to exist in the United States.  It is celebrated as the flag carried by the Bedford Minuteman, Nathaniel Page, to the Concord Bridge on April 18, 1775; the beginning of the American Revolution, but it was already an antique.  It was made for a cavalry troop of the Massachusetts Bay militia early in the colonial struggle for the continent that we call the “French & Indian Wars.  Standard of the Minutemen of Bedford, MA of 1775 the original size 27 “ by 29” of red damask silk with painted emblem and motto & silver fringe.  Originally commissioned to Cornet Page in 1737, then a royal subject of Kind George II.  On April 19, 1775, it was carried at Concord to represent the Bedford Minutemen.  Tradition says that the fringe from the original banner was used to trim a ball gown by Page’s great grand daughter, who coined the words “Giddy Girl” because she regretted losing the fringe from the flag.  The original flag is encased at the Library at the Library at Bedford, MA.  The flag’s painted device displays an armor-clad arm issuing from a cloud & brandishing an upraised sword, all framed by a silver border.  It also has a gilt ribbon scroll with the motto “VINCE AUT MORIRE” (Conquer or Die) Bedford flag
George Rogers Clark Flag.  This Flag was designed & used by the Regiment of Lt. Colonel George Rogers Clark to help capture Vincennes IN from the British during the American Revolution.  Colonel Clark instructed his men to reproduce the Flag in quantity, then mounted on poles, tree limbs (whatever was available) then March around the Fort at Vincennes.  Never exposing all of his 172 troops, at any time, to the British; the idea was to give the appearance of a large 1000 man American force.  Some of the men would pass in sight of the British, then duck out of sight then rush back to make another past, waving the banners. The trick worked as the British surrendered the Fort within two days. British commander Colonel Hamilton turned away, with a tear in his eye after asking Clark the question, “Where are all your men?”  Clark’s answer was “right in front of you”. 

One of the original flags is displayed at the George Rogers Clark’s Museum in Vincennes, IN.

The Genl George Rogers Clark Chapter of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution had adopted this reproduction flag as the Chapter’s Flag in 1990.  Genevieve Hill, wife of past Chapter President Joe Hill made the flag & gave the flag, as their gift to the Chapter.

George Rogers Clark flag
The 1818 Flag: Realizing that the addition of a new Star & a new stripe for each new state was impractical, Congress passed the Flag Act of 1818 which returned the flag design to 13 Stripes & specified 20 stars, one for each of the 20 states then in the Union.                                                                                                                       1818 flag
Confederate Stars and Bars: The first flag of the Confederacy.  Although less well known than the “Confederate Battle Flag”, the Stars & Bars was used as the official flag of the Confederacy from March 1861 to May 1863.  The pattern & colors of this flag did not distinguish it sharply from the Stars & Stripes of the Union.  Consequently, considerable confusion was caused on the battlefield.  The Confederate Battle Flag was popularized by the television series “The Dukes of Hazard” which featured the “General Lee” with the flag painted on the roof.  Many mistake this flag as the Confederate Stars and Bars.
Stars and Bars
Civil War Flag: During the Civil War, Union forces used four official flags- consisting of 33, 34, 35 & 36 stars  The 35 star U. S. Flag was flown most extensively during this time in our Nation’s history 33 star flag
The 48 Star Flag: On July 4, 1912, the U. S. Flag grew to 48 stars.  This flag was official for 47 years through two World Wars & the emergence of the United States of America as the leading nation of the world. 48 star
The 49 Star Flag: In 1959, Alaska achieved full Statehood, placing the 49th star in our Flag.  The 49 star flag was official for only one year, until July 4, 1960, when Hawaii achieved Statehood and the 50 star flag was born. 49 star flag
The 50 Star Flag became official on July 4, 1960 with the addition of Hawaii to the Union.  It has been the emblem of the United States for the many decades.  Today, the official flag of the United States of America is the most widely recognized symbol in the world.  It is the only flag to fly on another celestial body.  Our flag represents the values, traditions & aspirations that bind us together as a Nation of diverse individuals.  There were 27 changes to the US Flags since the 1776 – 13 stars The number of stars increased from 16 to the present day 50 Star Flag. 50 star flag



 
Genl George Rogers Clark Chapter, ILSAR