Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Congress was not so quick to adopt the Stars and Strips. It took time and political movements to get the flag approved and it flying all over the thirteen colonies. This piece of a 1898 book describes how it all took place.
It is easily understood how on account of the meager resources of Congress and the unsettled condition of affairs generally, together with the fact that legislative action was extremely slow and tedious, that Colonel Ross should expedite matters by defraying the expense of this first order for our national colors. There is little, if any, doubt but that Washington on December 24th, Christmas Eve, in 1776, carried the starry flag in making that perilous trip through ice and snow across the Delaware, leading his sturdy, but poorly equipped troops. How inspiring to look back to that night when the Massachusetts fishermen so skillfully managed the boats that the whole army was safely landed and in line of march at four o’clock on Christmas morning. The story of how they plodded on through ice and snow, surprising and defeating the Hessians and capturing a thousand men and their ammunition and equipments, ¡s well known. This was the battle of Trenton. which changed the whole aspect of the war, even causing Lord Cornwallis to disembark and again start in pursuit of Washington, whose cause he had so lately declared lost. It is fitting here to speak of that friend of Washington. Robert Morris, one of the committee that originated our national colors, the great patriot who after the battle of Trenton went from house to house, soliciting money from his friends to clothe and feed this glorious army, which had fought so well.
Congress was very slow to act, and did not seem able to command even the meager resources of the different colonies. It lacked the centralized government which gives it such strength to-day. Considering the grave questions affecting the life and liberty of the people, it is not strange that the flag or any definite action regarding it, was not given prompt consideration. To indicate how slow Congress was to act in regard to the flag, we have only to refer to the Congressional records, which show that the resolution for its adoption was dated over one year after it was actually created, by the committee of which Washington was chief: that is on June 14, 1777. However, a month previous to this, Congress sent Betsy Ross an order on the treasury for £14. 12S. 2d., for flags for the fleet in the Delaware River, and she soon received an order to make all the government flags. The first flag was made of English bunting, exactly the same as those of to-day, excepting that our bunting now is of home manufacture.
There seems to be no question but that these colors, the stars and stripes, were unofficially adopted immediately after the completion of the first flag, the latter part of May, 1776,and that they went into general use at once, so far as it was practicable under the conditions then existing. Washington had the first flag created at this time, it was satisfactory, and he immediately instructed General Putnam to have the colonels prepare their colors—the colors that had just been approved, and which we know to be our flag of to-day.