The Origin of Old Glory-----our American Flag
It is the story of freedom, liberty, and equal justice under law. Our flag has gone through the evolution of our ideas and of our free institutions. The flag is our symbol, our emblem for our ideas, our faith, our laws.
In our early days, when we were 13 British colonies, the banners borne by the Revolutionary forces widely varied.
The local flags and colonial banners displayed on land and sea during the first months of the American War for Independence carried the various grievances that the colonists had against the Mother Country.
The first public reference to the flag was published on March 10, 1774. A Boston newspaper, the "Massachusetts Spy", ran this poem about the flag:
"A ray of bright glory now beams from afar, Blest drawn of an empire to rise; The American Ensign now sparkles a star, Which shall shortly flame wide through the skies."
In the summer of 1775, when George Washington had been appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces for the defense of American Liberty, the Continental Congress was still corresponding with King George to present their grievances. However, by the fall of 1775, the revolting citizens chose a flag that reflected their feeling of unity with the Mother Country, but expressed their demand to obtain justice and liberty.
In Taunton, Massachusetts, a flag was unfurled in 1774 which carried the British Jack in the canton, and had the words "Liberty and Union" printed on it.
The famous Rattlesnake Flag carried by the Minutemen in 1775 showed 13 red and white stripes with a rattlesnake emblazoned across it, warning "Don't Tread On Me."
In 1775, the banner that flew over Fort Moultrie displayed a crescent on a blue field with the word "Liberty" printed in white. When this flag was shot down by enemy muskets, a brave sergeant named Jasper, nailed it back to the staff at the risk of his life.
The Pine Tree Flag which flew over the troops at Bunker Hill in 1775, displayed the pine tree symbol of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was a white flag, with top and bottom stripe of blue, and it showed a green pine tree with the words "Liberty Tree--An Appeal To God."
The first flag to represent the Colonies at sea was raised by John Paul Jones from the deck of the Alfred on December 3, 1775. One month later, George Washington displayed the same design and named it the Grand Union Flag. That was on January 2, 1776. It has thirteen alternate red and white stripes and a blue field with the crosses of Saint Andrew and Saint George on it.
After July 4, 1776, the people of the colonies felt the need of a new flag-- one that would be a national flag, an emblem of unity and independence. The Continental Congress acted:
"Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate with red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field."
The significance of the colors was defined thus;
"White signified Purity and Innocence; Red, Hardiness and Valor; Blue, Vigilance, Perseverance, and Justice."
Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Continental Congress, is credited with having designed the American Flag.
Betsy Ross, the flag maker in Philadelphia, is credited by historians of that period with having made the first flag and having suggested that the stars be five pointed. Betsy Ross's Philadelphia home at 239 Arch Street is a national shrine, and the flag flies on a staff from her third floor window. Betsy Ross' grandson, William J. Canby, wrote in 1857 that he vividly recalled, as a boy of eleven, being told the story by Betsy Ross herself, his 84 year old grandmother.
He remembers: "It is not tradition, it is a report from the lips of the principal participator in the transaction, directly told not to one or two, but to a dozen or more living witnesses, of which I myself am one, though but a little boy when I heard it..... Colonel Ross with Robert Morris and General Washington called on Mrs. Ross and told her they were a committee of Congress, and wanted her to make a flag from the drawing, a rough one, which upon her suggestions, was redrawn by General Washington in pencil in her back parlor. This was prior to the Declaration of Independence. I fix the date to be during Washington's visit to Congress from New York, in June, 1776, when he came to confer about the affairs of the Army, the flag being no doubt, one of these affairs."
There is in the National Archives of the Navy an order to be sent to Elizabeth Ross of Philadelphia, "for making ship colors" for 14 pounds, 12 shillings, and 2 pence.
The Marine Committee adopted on June 14, 1777 the theme of the red and white striped Union Flag of Holland, to be the flag of the thirteen United States of America. Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University, recorded in his diary the resolution passed by Congress in 1777.
"The Congress have substituted a new constella of thirteen stars instead of the Union in the Continental Colors."
THE FLAG FIRST FLOWN IN BATTLE
On August 2, 1777, British and Indians attacked Fort Stanwiz, at Rome, New York. The fort was defended by Colonel Peter Gansevorrt with 600 men. Lt. Col. Melton arrived at the fort with ammunition and supplies to defend the fort. He brought newspapers with the account of the newly enacted flag resolution.
Amid great excitement, soldiers gave up their white shirts, one of the wives at the fort donated her red flannel petticoat, and Captain Abraham Swartwout's blue coat was donated to provide the blue field for the Union.
In the Battle of Guildford Courthouse, March 25, 1781, is the first time that the Stars and Stripes were carried by the North Carolina Militia of the American Army in the Revolutionary War. It had thirteen eight-pointed stars.
A bronze historical marker close to the Detroit Riverfront identifies the spot where the American Flag was first raised along the Great Lakes, on July 25, 1791.
When George Washington transferred his army from Boston to New York, he carried the Grand Flag with him, and raised it over his headquarters.
On April 24, 1778, John Paul Jones wrote, "Following the first naval victory, I hoisted the American Stars."
Flag Day celebrates the birth of our Flag as of June 14, 1777. We continue to celebrate Flag Day on June 14th annually. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a national observance for Flag Day. Harry Truman signed the measure into law.
The great passion for Liberty was expressed in Scripture. The admonition in Lev. XXV: X (25:10) is inscribed on our Liberty Bell. "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
Our own George Washington proclaimed Liberty, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
"Woe to them that decree unjust statutes and to those who continually record unjust decisions to deprive the needy of justice, and to rob the poor of My people of their rights..." Isaiah 12:1-2
Our Framers and Founders understood that our rights are derived from our Creator, the Great Legislator of the Universe. John Adams, our Second President, said it well:
"You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws, rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."
Biblical References "Ensign/Ensigns"
Numbers 2:2 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: "The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family."
Isaiah 5:26 He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily!
Isaiah 11:10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
Isaiah 11:12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah.
Isaiah 18:3 All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it.
Isaiah 30:17 A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.
Isaiah 31:9 Their stronghold will fall because of terror, at sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic.
Zachariah 9:16 The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.
Psalm 74:4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs.