Our First Flag

Legends and history books talk about Betsy Ross and our flag. But the truth of the matter is that the first flag flown by either the Continental Army or Navy was the one accompanying this blog.

After Lexington and Concord, and after he was made commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, Washington wanted a distinctive flag that would be easily recognized and used by every unit in the Continental Army and Navy. Up until this time, the units in the Continental Army and the local militias flew the flags of their respective colony.

What was created at Washington’s behest became known as the Grand Union flag had 13 horizontal red and white bars. Each bar represented one of the rebelling colonies.

The Union Jack (the colors flown by British forces) was well known to all the colonists and was, in truth, a sop to the fact that they were, at least for the moment, still British subjects. So once the Continental Congress approved the flag, it became the standard.

On December 3rd, 1775, (248 years ago), in a commissioning ceremony on board the Continental Navy frigate Alfred (30 guns), Lieutenant John Paul Jones raised the Grand Union flag officially for the first time. The flag Jones raised was made by a Philadelphia milliner named Margaret Manny. We know this since she charged the cost of the cloth to the account used to disburse funds to convert the merchant ship Black Prince to the frigate Alfred.

Then, on January 2nd, 1776, the Continental Army flew the flag as its standard on Prospect Hill, outside Boston. At the time, the Continental Army was laying siege to Boston. Ultimately, the British evacuated the city and occupied New York, which they held for the remainder of the American Revolution.

The story of the Grand Union flag was short-lived. Many colonists objected to including the Union Jack in the flag, reasoning that it represented the very country with whom we were at war.

So, on June 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the Flag Act. The legislation stated – Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Since then, the United States kept to that original design, only adding new stars when new states joined the union.

Depiction of the original Grand Union Flag is Yaddah Hoshie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.