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The Story of Our Flag - The First Prototype

This piece is an excerpt from The Story of Our Flag By Addie Guthrie Weaver (1898). The purpose of this is to show you the writings from actual history and the various viewpoints these writings took. Keep a watch for links throughout the text to other pieces discussing various aspects of the writing and even links at the bottom to other articles. Enjoy this historical reading.

The history of our flag from its inception, in fact, the inception itself, has been a source of much argument and great diversity of opinion. Many theories and mystifications have gone forth, mingled with a few facts, giving just enough color of truth to make them seem plausible. It is for the purpose of clearing away the veil of doubt that hangs around the origin of the Stars and Stripes that this book has been written.

The Continental Congress in 1775 was very much disturbed over the embarrassing situation of the colonies, and after Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army, it showed its independence by appointing a committee composed of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison and Mr. Lynch to create a colonial flag that would be national in its tendency. They finally decided on one with thirteen bars, alternate red and white, the “King’s Colors” with the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George in a field of blue. The cross of St. Andrew then, as now, was of white, while the cross of St. George was of red. The colonies still acknowledged the sovereignty of England—as this attested—but united against her tyranny. This was known as the “flag of our union”—that is, the union of the colonies, and was not created until after the committee had been to the camp at Cambridge and consulted with Washington. It was probably made either at the camp at Cambridge or in Boston, as it was unfurled by Washington under the Charter Oak on January 2, 1776. It received thirteen cheers and a salute of thirteen guns.

It is not known whether Samuel Adams, the “Father of Liberty,” was consulted in regard to this flag, but it is a well known fact that he was looking forward, even then, to the independence of the colonies, while Washington, Franklin and the others still looked for justice,— tardy though it might be,—from England.

Two days later, on the 4th of January, 1776, Washington received the King’s speech, and as it happened to come so near to the time of the adoption of the new flag, with the English crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, many of the regulars thought it meant submission, and the English seemed for the time to so understand it; but our army showed great indignation over the King’s speech to parliament, and burned all of the copies.

In a letter of General Washington to Joseph Reed, written January 4, he says: “We are at length favored with the sight of his majesty’s most gracious speech, breathing sentiments of tenderness and compassion for his deluded American subjects. The speech I sent you (a volume of them were sent out by the Boston gentry) was farcical enough and gave great joy to them without knowing or intending it, for on that day (the 2nd) which gave being to our new army, but before the proclamation came to hand, we hoisted the Union flag, in compliment to the United Colonies, but behold it was received at Boston as a token of the deep impression the speech had made upon us and as a signal of submission. By this time I presume they begin to think it strange that we have not made a formal surrender of our lines.”

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