Sunday, September 3, 2017

STARS AND STRIPES | Sept. 3 – First Flown in Battle

This day was the first, in 1777, when the Stars and Stripes flag was flown in battle, at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware. 

Patriot General William Maxwell ordered the Stars and Stripes banner to be held aloft as his infantry and cavalry met British and Hessian troops. 

Alas, the rebels were rebuffed and they had to retreat to Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania, to rejoin General George Washington’s main army. 

Earlier in 1777, on June 14, the Continental Congress had resolved that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The national flag, was based on the Grand Union flag, a banner carried by the Continental Army in 1776 that also consisted of 13 red and white stripes but had a Union Jack in the canton. This flag was the same as the East India Company flag. 

Where did the new 1777 canton of stars on a blue background come from? By legend, Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross designed the stars and the original circle of 13 stars on a blue background. However, this legend is disputed on several grounds, one of which that it didn't surface until years later.

The legend may have been created to disguise the changing of the six-pointed stars to the five-pointed stars on General George Washington's coat of arms. While Washington was decidedly aristocratic in his love of his family arms, his allies tried to play this down to establish his democratic credentials. 

Washington's arms were a legacy from an ancestor who fought at the Battle of Crécy and was awarded with a knighthood, through Lawrence Washington, a one-time don at Brasenose College, Oxford, whose job was to ferret out dissidents under Charles I and who lost his comfortable parish living when Cromwell and his regicides toppled the old order. 

Rev. Lawrence Washington's wife sent their two sons to Virginia to make a better life for themselves than their parents could guarantee. 

In 1818, Congress stipulated that the 13 original stripes be restored and that only stars be added to represent new states. On June 14, 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the flag. In 1949, Congress designated June 14 as Flag Day.

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