THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE FLAG
BY EVA MARCH TAPPAN
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY EVA MARCH TAPPAN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Riverside Press CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.
I. THE FLAGS THAT BROUGHT THE COLONISTS 1
Flags under which the early colonists sailed—The English "ancient flag"—The "meteor flag," "Union Jack," or "King's Flag"—Endicott cuts the cross from the English flag—The militia object to the cross on the flag—A flagless fort—Dr. Cotton's decision.
II. THE PINE-TREE FLAG AND OTHERS 8
Flags common among the colonists—The New England Alliance—The pine-tree flag and coins—Flags of the militia—The red coat flag.
III. LIBERTY AND LIBERTY POLES 14
The demand for liberty—Opposition to the Stamp Act—Oliver hanged in effigy—The Liberty Tree in Boston—The liberty pole in New York—The Albany plan—The snake design.
IV. THE LAND OF MANY FLAGS 20
The Bedford flag—Flags at the beginning of the Revolution—Sergeant Jasper saves the flag—The rattlesnake on the flag.
V. WHEN WASHINGTON WENT TO CAMBRIDGE 27
The Philadelphia Light Horse Troop—The army at Cambridge—The backwoodsmen—Indians offer their services—General Putnam unfurls a scarlet flag—The Liberty Tree.
VI. THE "GRAND UNION FLAG" 32
The "Grand Union Flag"—Possible sources of the design—First raised in Somerville—Flags on sea and land—Flag hoisted over the Alfred by John Paul Jones—Franklin's letters of marque.
VII. THE FIRST UNITED STATES FLAG 39
The flag of the United States as decreed by Congress—The Betsy Ross flag—Significance of the Colors—Captain Jones put in command of the Ranger—The "quilting party"—The Drake strikes her colors to the Ranger—The United States flag is saluted by the French—The flag goes down with the Bon Homme Richard.
VIII. FLAGS ONE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE 48
The Fort Stanwix flag—Pulaski's banner—The first Fourth of July celebration—General use of "thirteen"—Copley's delay to paint in the flag—A Nantucket skipper carries the flag to London—The last battle of the Revolution—The New Haven peace rejoicing.
IX. THE FLAG OF FIFTEEN STRIPES AND FIFTEEN STARS 56
The flag of fifteen stripes and fifteen stars decreed by Congress—Worn by "Old Ironsides"—Leads against Tripoli—Seen at Constantinople—Among the Indians of the Louisiana Territory—"The Star-Spangled Banner"—Marking the birthplace of Washington.
X. THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER 63
Congress decrees the present flag—No law for the arrangement of the stars—The manufacture of bunting—Flags for the navy—Flags for the War Department—"Old Glory."
XI. THE FLAG IN WAR 70
The flag at Chapultepec—The surrender of Fort Sumter—The flag raised again at Fort Sumter—The Arizona flag of the Rough Riders.
XII. THE FLAG IN PEACE 77
Perry opens Japan to the world—Raising the flag over the legation in Sweden—Hauling down the flag in Cuba—The flag at the North Pole—The flag on Westminster Palace.
XIII. HOW TO BEHAVE TOWARD THE FLAG 85
FLAG ANNIVERSARIES 90
SELECTIONS The Star-Spangled Banner Francis Scott Key 93 The Flag in the Darkness Benjamin Harrison 95 A Song for Flag Day Wilbur D. Nesbit 96 The Flag goes by Henry Holcomb Bennett 98 What the Flag stands for Henry Cabot Lodge 100 Union and Liberty Oliver Wendell Holmes 101 Your Country and your Flag Edward Everett Hale 103 The Home Flag Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 104 Old Flag Hubbard Parker 105 Britannia to Columbia Alfred Austin 107 Makers of the Flag Franklin K. Lane 109 Our Flag Margaret Sangster 112 Our History and our Flag William Backus Guitteau 113 The American Flag Joseph Rodman Drake 115 The Flag of our Country Robert C. Winthrop 116 America Samuel Francis Smith 117
THE LITTLE BOOK OF THE FLAG
THE FLAGS THAT BROUGHT THE COLONISTS
More than three hundred years ago a little sailing vessel set out from Holland, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and followed down our coast from Greenland. Its captain, Henry Hudson, was in search of a quick and easy route to Asia, and when he entered the mouth of the river that is named for him, he hoped that he had found a strait leading to the Asiatic coast. He was disappointed in this, but the Indians welcomed him, the mountains were rich in forests, and the ground was fertile. "It is the most beautiful land in all the world," declared the enthusiastic navigator.
Henry Hudson was an Englishman, but he sailed in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, and soon the flag of this Company was well known along the Hudson River. It was the old flag of Holland, three horizontal stripes, of orange, white, and blue, with the initials of the Company on the white stripe. Hudson had not found a new route to Asia, but he had opened the way for the fur-trade. In a few years the Dutch had established trading-posts as far north as Albany. They had also founded a city which we call "New York," but which they named "New Amsterdam." So it was that in 1609 the Dutch flag first came to the New World.
Nearly thirty years after the voyage of Henry Hudson, a company of Swedes made a settlement on the Delaware River. This had been planned by the great Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. "That colony will be the jewel of my kingdom," he said; but the "Lion of the North" was slain in battle, and his twelve-year-old daughter Christina had become queen. That is why the loyal Swedes named their little fortification Fort Christiana, and over it they raised the flag of their country, a blue banner with a yellow cross.
In course of time the Swedes were overpowered by the Dutch, and then the Dutch by the English; so that before many years had passed, the only flag that floated over the "Old Thirteen" colonies was that of England. This was brought across the sea by the settlers of our first English colony, Jamestown, in Virginia. Moreover, they had the honor of sailing away from England in all the glories of a brand-new flag made in a brand-new design. The flag of England had been white with a red upright cross known as "St. George's Cross"; but a new king, James I, had come to the throne, and the flag as well as many other things had met with a change. James was King of Scotland by birth, and the Scotch flag was blue with the white diagonal cross of St. Andrew. When James became King of England, he united the two flags by placing on a blue background the upright cross of St. George over the diagonal cross of St. Andrew; and he was so well pleased with the result that he commanded every English vessel to bear in its maintop this flag, "joined together according to the form made by our own heralds," the King declared with satisfaction. It was the custom at that time to call "ancient" whatever was not perfectly new, and therefore the flag used before James became king was spoken of as the "ancient flag," while the new one became the "King's Flag" or the "Union Jack." This change was made in the very year when the grant for Virginia was obtained, and therefore the little company of settlers probably sailed for America with the "King's Flag" in the maintop and the "ancient flag" in the foretop.
On land, among the colonists, sometimes one flag was floated and sometimes the other. In Massachusetts the red cross of St. George seems to have been much in use; but before long that red cross began to hurt the consciences of the Puritans most grievously. To them the cross was the badge of the Roman Catholic Church. Still, it was on the flag of their mother country, the flag that floated over their forts and their ships. The Puritan conscience was a stern master, however, and when one day John Endicott led the little company of Salem militia out for a drill, and saw that cross hanging over the governor's gate, the sight was more than he could bear, and he—but Hawthorne has already told the story:—
Endicott gazed around at the excited countenances of the people, now full of his own spirit, and then turned suddenly to the standard-bearer, who stood close behind him.
"Officer, lower your banner!" said he.
The officer obeyed; and brandishing his sword, Endicott thrust it through the cloth, and, with his left hand, rent the red cross completely out of the banner. He then waved the tattered ensign above his head.
"Sacrilegious wretch!" cried the High Churchman in the pillory, unable longer to restrain himself, "thou hast rejected the symbol of our holy religion!"
"Treason, treason!" roared the Royalist in the stocks. "He hath defaced the King's banner!"
"Before God and man, I will avouch the deed," answered Endicott. "Beat a flourish, drummer!—shout, soldiers and people!—in honor of the ensign of New England. Neither Pope nor Tyrant hath part in it now!"
With a cry of triumph the people gave their sanction to one of the boldest exploits which our history records.
Endicott was one of the court assistants, but he was now removed from his position and forbidden to hold any public office for one year. He was fortunate in being permitted to retain his head.
Endicott had been punished, but the Puritan conscience was not yet at rest, and now many of the militia declared that they did not think it right to march under the cross. The whole militia could not well be punished, and the commissioners for military affairs were as doubtful as the honest militia men about what should be done. "We will leave it to the next General Court to decide," they said, "and in the meantime no flags shall be used anywhere."
This seemed a comfortable way to settle the question, but unluckily there was a fort on Castle Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor, and when an English vessel came sailing in, its captain refused to pay any attention to a fort without a flag. Then the officer in command rose to his dignity and made the ship—maybe with the aid of a ball across her bows—strike her colors. The captain complained to the authorities that the commandant of this flagless fort had insulted his flag and his country. The authorities were just a bit alarmed. To insult a flag and a country was a serious matter. "What shall we do to make amends?" they queried. "Let the officer who proffered the insult come on board of my vessel and say in the presence of the ship's company that he was in fault," replied the captain. This was done, and the sky cleared.
But the troubles of the colonists were by no means over. The mate of another vessel declared with considerable emphasis that these people were all rebels and traitors to the King. Surely the thought of such a report as this going back to England from a tiny colony clinging to the edge of the continent was enough to alarm the boldest. Discussions were held, and Dr. John Cotton was appealed to.
A canny man was this Dr. John Cotton, and he decided that inasmuch as the fort belonged to the King, it was proper that it should display the King's Flag, whatever it might be,—"while vessels are passing," he added shrewdly; but that, as for the militia, each company might have its own colors, and not one of them need bear a cross. So the great tempest passed by.
THE PINE-TREE FLAG AND OTHERS
In some of the colonies at least, the people must have led a rather somber life, with little pleasure, much hard work, and much discomfort; but they fairly reveled in flags. The Indians in their warfare preferred to hide behind trees rather than to flourish banners, and the white men soon learned to follow their example. Nevertheless, it always seemed to the minds of the colonists a little irregular and out of place not to carry a flag of some sort when they were setting out on an expedition.
Probably we do not know one in twenty of all the designs for banners that entered the fertile minds of these colonists, but they were so numerous that if they had all been displayed at the same time, they would have almost hidden the settlements. Not all colonists were as afraid of a cross as were the good folk of Salem. In Newbury, Massachusetts, a certain company of foot rejoiced in a flag of vivid green. In the upper corner next the staff was a square of white containing a red cross. The kindly councilor, who had ordered the flag to be made in England "with all convenient speed," evidently had some sense of humor, for he wrote at the end of his letter to the company, "The number of bullets to be put into your colors for distinction may be left out at present without damage in the making of them." Another flag, belonging to a company of Massachusetts cavalry, seems to have been something quite out of the common, for it was of damask and silk and adorned with silver fringe. A real artist must have used his brush upon it, for the bill read, "For painting in oyle on both sides a Cornett on rich crimson damask, with a hand and sword and invelloped with a scarfe about the arms of gold, black and silver"; and for all that gorgeousness, generously painted "on both sides," the charge was the moderate one of L5 2s. 6d. This was made for what was known as the "Three County Troop," composed of cavalry from Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties in Massachusetts, and was probably used in King Philip's War.
Now, wherever a discoverer planted the sole of his foot, he took possession for his sovereign of all the land in sight and all the land which joined that land. Naturally, the claims of the colonies soon conflicted. The good folk of New England made an alliance to defend themselves against the Dutch, Swedes, and French. They managed to be good allies for forty years without a flag. Then came one brilliant enough to make up for the delay, and sent to them across the sea by no less a man than King James II himself. This was of white with a St. George's cross of red. In the center of the cross was a golden crown and under it the King's monogram in black. A few years later matters in England had changed. King James II had proved to be a very poor sort of sovereign, and it was made clear to him that for his health and comfort—possibly for his head—it would be wise for him to leave the country. This he did in alarm and at full speed, tossing the royal seal into the Thames on his way. It is small wonder that New Englanders preferred a new flag. The only marvel is that they waited so long a time before getting it. When it was finally chosen, it proved to be red with a white canton or union cut by a red St. George's cross into four squares. In one of these squares was the representation of a pine tree. This representation can hardly have been a work of art, for one historian says unkindly of it that it "no more resembled a pine tree than a cabbage." Evidently the brave colonists were not artists. Nevertheless, even if the good folk of Massachusetts could not draw a pine tree, they were fond of it, and their General Court decreed that it should be stamped upon the coins minted in that colony. Now it was the right of the King to coin money, and when Charles II heard that the ambitious colonists were making it for themselves, he was not pleased. "But it is only for their own use," said a courtier who favored the colonies, and taking a New England coin from his pocket, he showed it to the King. "What tree is that?" demanded the aggrieved monarch. "That," said the quick-witted courtier, "is the royal oak which saved Your Majesty's life." "Well, well," said the King, "those colonists are not so bad after all. They're a parcel of honest dogs!" Perhaps they were, even if their likenesses of pine trees could not be distinguished from cabbages and oaks. Hawthorne's story, "The Pine-Tree Shillings," is written about this inartistic coinage.
So the story of the flags went on. Besides the English flag every little company of militia had its standard. One flag bore a hemisphere in the corner in place of a pine tree, and another bore nothing but a tree. The colonists did not trouble themselves about being artistic or choosing colors of any special significance; if the ground of the flag was of one color and the cross or whatever other figure was chosen was of another, they were satisfied. Charleston, South Carolina, had a specially elegant flag—blue with a silver crescent—to use on "dress-up" days. After a time even the Indians were sometimes furnished with flags, for one kindly governor gave them a Union Jack as a protection. He presented them also with a red flag to indicate war and a white one as a sign of peace; and probably the fortunate Indians felt with all this magnificence quite like white folk.
In 1745, when that remarkable expedition of New Englanders—which had "a lawyer for contriver, a merchant for general, and farmers, fishermen, and mechanics for soldiers"—set off to capture Louisburg from the French, they sailed proudly away under a flag whereon was written in Latin, "Never despair, for Christ is our leader." It was on this same expedition that a new flag was hoisted, the like of which was never seen before. An officer discovered that a battery on the shore of the harbor was apparently vacant. There was no flag flying from the staff and no smoke rising from the chimney. It looked as if that battery might be taken easily. On the other hand it was also quite possible that this was a ruse and was meant to decoy the colonists within. The officer concluded to run the risk—of losing the life of some one else. Holding up a bottle of brandy before the thirsty gaze of an Indian, he said, "If I give you this, will you creep in at that embrasure and open the gate?" The red man grunted assent, crept in, and opened the gate. Then the officer and twelve men took possession. Soon a message went from the officer to his general as follows: "May it please your honor to be informed that by the grace of God and the courage of thirteen men, I entered the royal battery about nine o'clock, and am awaiting for a reinforcement and a flag." Sometimes the colonists were wanting in the grace of patience, and this was one of the occasions. A soldier, tired of delay, decided that, although he could not provide reinforcements, he could provide a flag; so up the staff he clambered with a red coat in his teeth. He nailed it to the top of the staff, and it swung out in the wind, much to the alarm of the citizens, who sent one hundred men in boats to recapture the battery. The hundred men fired, but the brave little company kept them from landing and held their position till the general could send help.
LIBERTY AND LIBERTY POLES
After the middle of the eighteenth century there was much talk among the colonies of liberty. It is possible that not all the people were quite clear in their minds what that "liberty" might mean; but whatever it was, they wanted it. England required nothing more of her colonies than other nations required of theirs. The colonies asked nothing of England that would not be granted to-day as a matter of course. The difficulty was that the mother country was living in the eighteenth century, while the colonists were looking forward into the nineteenth. A demand for liberty was in the air. The pole on which a flag was hung was not called a flag pole, but a liberty pole.
Most of the flags on these liberty poles bore mottoes, many of them decidedly bold and defiant. When the Stamp Act was passed, the wrath of the people rose, and now they knew exactly what they wanted—"No taxation without representation." The stamped paper brought to South Carolina was carefully stowed away in a fort. Thereupon three volunteer companies from Charleston took possession of the fort, ran up a blue flag marked with three white crescents, and destroyed the paper. New York's flag had one word only, but that one word was "Liberty." Portsmouth, New Hampshire, had a banner inscribed "Liberty, Property, and no Stamps." In Newburyport, Massachusetts, there was a regular patrol of men armed with stout sticks. "What do you say, stamps or no stamps?" they demanded of every stranger, and if he had a liking for a whole skin, he replied emphatically, "No stamps." One wary newcomer replied courteously, "I am what you are," and was uproariously cheered.
In going from one colony to another, it was not uncommon for a man to get a passport from the sons of Liberty to attest to his standing as a "Liberty man." When the stamps made their first appearance, Boston tolled her church bells and put her flags at half-mast. Indeed, a new sort of flag appeared in the shape of an effigy of Oliver, the stamp distributor, swinging from the bough of a great elm which stood by the main entrance to town. The Chief Justice ordered this image to be removed. "Certainly," replied the people politely, "we will take it down ourselves this very evening." So they did, but they laid it upon a bier and marched in a long procession through the old State House. Here, in the Council Chamber, the Governor and his Council were deliberating. Shouts came up from below, "Liberty, Property, and no Stamps!" and "Death to the man who offers a piece of stamped paper to sell!" "Beat an alarm," the Chief Justice commanded the colonel of the militia. "But I cannot," replied the colonel, "my drummers are in the mob." The procession marched on, burned the effigy in front of the distributor's house, gave three rousing cheers, and went home. In New York, when the rumor spread that a ship laden with stamps was approaching, all the vessels in the harbor put their colors at half-mast.
When every distributor of stamps had resigned his office, there was another outburst of banners. Charleston, South Carolina, hoisted a liberty flag, surmounted by a branch of laurel. The tree in Boston on which the effigy of the stamp distributor had been hung had become an important member of colonial society. It had been formally named the "Liberty Tree," and the ground under it was called "Liberty Hall." Banners were often swung from its branches, and notices were nailed to its trunk. Fastened firmly to the trunk was a tall liberty pole, and whenever any one caught a glimpse of a red flag waving from the top of the pole, he knew that the Sons of Liberty were to hold a meeting. When the Stamp Act was repealed, the Liberty Tree was the very center of rejoicing. At one o'clock in the morning, the church bell nearest it was rung joyfully. At the first rays of dawn, the houses about it, even the steeple of the church, all blossomed out with banners, and at night the tree itself was aglow with lanterns. In New York a liberty pole was set up with a splendid new flag on which was inscribed, "The King, Pitt, and Liberty." It almost seemed as if "liberty" meant having whatever sort of flag might suit one's whim.
This New York pole had rather a hard time. British soldiers cut it down twice, and when a third pole was raised, sheathed with iron around its base, they managed to cut that down also, although it bore the legend, "To His Most Gracious Majesty George III, Mr. Pitt, and Liberty." The city authorities would not risk planting another pole on city land, and thereupon the Sons of Liberty bought a piece of land for themselves, and marched up in brilliant procession; first a full band, playing with all its might, then six horses, made gorgeous with bright ribbons, drawing from the shipyard a fine new pole, sheathed in iron two thirds of its length. It was escorted by the Sons of Liberty in full numbers. Three flags floated over the little procession, but their mottoes were not so impressively loyal as the earlier ones. These read, "Liberty and Property." Nevertheless, "liberty" did not yet mean separation from the mother country; it meant only freedom in making some of their own laws; and what was known as the "Union Flag" did not refer to any union of the colonies, but rather to the union of Scotland and England. This flag, the regular flag of England, was red, with the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew on a blue field forming the Jack.
Once, however, more than twenty years before the Revolutionary War, there had been some talk of a union of colonies, beginning with the suggestions of the most far-sighted man in America, Benjamin Franklin. In 1754, when war between France and England was on the point of breaking out, there was a meeting at Albany of delegates from several colonies. They had come to see if they could make sure of the aid of the Six Nations of Indian tribes; and here the sagacious Franklin brought forward his plan for a union. His scheme was for the colonies to elect a Grand Council, which should meet every year in Philadelphia, to levy taxes, enlist soldiers, plan for defense, and, in short, to attend to whatever concerned all the colonies. Whatever affected them separately was to be managed by the colony interested. This Council was to have much the same powers as our Congress of to-day; but there must be a place in the scheme for the King, of course; so Franklin proposed that the King should appoint a president who should have the right to veto the acts of the Grand Council. This was the "Albany Plan." Franklin was much in earnest about the matter, and had a cut made for the Pennsylvania Gazette picturing a rather unpleasant device, a snake sliced uncomfortably into ten parts, the head marked "NE," for New England, and each of the other pieces with the initials of some one of the other nine colonies. With the motto, "Unite or die," this work of art appeared for a number of issues at the head of the Gazette; but many years passed before the colonies began to make any practical use of the wisdom of Franklin in 1754.
THE LAND OF MANY FLAGS
When Paul Revere galloped through the villages of Middlesex, calling "for the country folk to be up and to arm," there was not much spare time for collecting flags, and probably when
"The farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard wall,"—
they did not trouble themselves to flourish a flag before they shot. Yet, if we may trust a family tradition, at least one flag waved over the plucky farmers. It seems that for a long while one member or another of the Page family of Bedford had been accustomed to carrying the colors of the militia, and therefore when the alarm was given and Nathaniel Page started for Concord, it was as natural for him to seize his flag as his gun. Moreover, this story has the bunting to back it up, for the Bedford flag remained in the Page family until presented to the town a century after the close of the war. It is rather a pity that it did not come a little sooner, for an old lady of Page descent confessed that in her giddy girlhood she had irreverently ripped off the silver fringe to make trimming for her ball dress.
The Revolution was fairly on, and two months later, the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. Possibly the colonists thought of spades rather than standards when they were throwing up the fortifications, and yet I fancy that to these flag-loving fighters a battle without a banner would have seemed like an undignified riot. Some writers say positively that no flag was to be seen—rather a difficult statement to prove. The daughter of one of the soldiers declared that her father helped hoist the standard known as the "New England Flag." "He called it a 'noble flag,'" she said. "It was blue with the red cross of St. George in a white corner, and in one section was a pine tree." The artist Trumbull, who painted the picture of this battle now in the Capitol at Washington, made the flag red instead of blue, but both were familiar colonial flags, and there is no reason why both should not have waved over the famous hill. Tradition says that one flag bore the motto, "Come if you dare." General Gage is said to have had difficulty in reading it, but maybe that was because of its audacity. Some verses written soon after the battle say that
"Columbia's troops are seen in dread array, And waving streamers in the air display";—
but, unluckily, the poet forgot to mention the color of those "waving streamers." In Savannah, after the battle, but before any news of it could have arrived, the independent Georgians hoisted a Union flag and suggestively placed two pieces of artillery directly under it. New York chose a white flag with a black beaver thereon. Rhode Island had also a white flag, but with a blue anchor instead of a beaver, and a blue canton with thirteen white stars. Her motto was "Hope." Connecticut meant that there should be no mistake in the whereabouts of her regiments, for she gave them flags of solid color: to the first, yellow; the second, blue; the third, scarlet; and so on with crimson, white, azure, another shade of blue, and orange. For a motto Connecticut chose "Qui transtulit sustinet"; that is, "He who brought us here sustains us." Massachusetts chose for her motto "An Appeal to Heaven." Charleston had a blue flag with a white crescent in the upper corner next to the staff and inscribed upon her banner the daring words, "Liberty or Death." Later she adopted a rattlesnake flag. Her troops wore blue and had silver crescents on the front of their caps, inscribed with the same motto. It is small wonder that timid folk were alarmed and whispered to one another, "That is going too far; it looks like a declaration of war." This blue and silver flag was planned by Colonel Moultrie. When Fort Moultrie—which received this name because of his brave defense—was shelled the following year, the anxious folk in the town watched with troubled faces, for it was doubtful whether the little fort with its scant supply of ammunition could sustain the attack. Suddenly the crescent flag fell from its staff. A groan ran through the crowd—Colonel Moultrie had struck his flag! "Forward!" cried one among them, and they marched to the water's edge to fight for their homes. Within the little fort one William Jasper, a sergeant, saw that a ball had cut down the flag and it had fallen over the rampart. "Colonel," he said to his commander, "don't let us fight without a flag." "What can you do?" demanded Colonel Moultrie, "the staff is broken." Sergeant Jasper was a man of few words and many deeds. He leaped through an embrasure, walked the whole length of the fort in a heavy fire from the ships, caught up the flag, brought it safely back, and fastened it to a sponge-staff. Then, in the midst of cheers,—in which I fancy the British also joined,—he fastened the rescued banner upon the bastion. The following day the Governor came to the fort, asked for Sergeant Jasper, presented him with his own sword, and gave him hearty thanks in behalf of his country. Then he said, "I will gladly give you a lieutenant's commission," but the honest man refused. "I am only a sergeant," he said. "I don't know how to read or write, and I am not fit to keep company with officers." Colonel Moultrie then gave him a roving commission, and he often made some little trip with half a dozen men and returned with a band of prisoners before any one realized that he had gone. The wife of Major Elliot presented the regiment with a pair of beautiful silken colors, which were afterwards carried in the assault upon Savannah. The standard-bearers were shot down; another man seized them, but he was also shot; then Sergeant Jasper caught them and fastened them on the parapet, when he too was fatally wounded by a ball. "Tell Mrs. Elliot," he said, "that I lost my life supporting the colors she gave to our regiment." A tablet in honor of the brave sergeant was long ago placed in Savannah.
The rattlesnake as an emblem seems to have been somewhat of a favorite among the colonists. Besides Franklin's snake of the many initials—which, indeed, might have stood, or coiled, for any sort of serpent—there was the one borne by Patrick Henry's men when they forced the Governor of Virginia to pay for the powder which he had carried away from the colonial magazine. Then, too, there was a third variety of snake, the one that stretched itself across a colonial naval flag and proclaimed—from the top of the mast—"Don't tread on me." On another flag the rattlesnake appeared coiled in the roots of a pine tree and ready to strike. The Culpeper Minute Men of Virginia had a coiled snake on their flag. In the winter of 1775 there appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal an article setting forth the propriety of choosing the rattlesnake to represent America. The style of the article and its keenness are like Franklin, but there is no proof that he was its author. Whoever did write it notes that the "rattler" is peculiar to America; that the brightness of its eyes and their lack of lids fit it to be an emblem of vigilance. It never begins an attack and never surrenders, never wounds till it has given warning. The writer had counted the rattles on the naval flag, and found them to be exactly thirteen, the number of the colonies. He had also noted that the rattles were independent of one another, and yet most firmly united; and that while one rattle alone is incapable of producing any sound, the ringing of the thirteen together is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living. Whether Franklin wrote this or not, let us at least be thankful that these arguments did not prevail, and that on the flag of the United States there are stars and not serpents.
WHEN WASHINGTON WENT TO CAMBRIDGE
Washington, chosen commander-in-chief, set out on June 21, 1775, on his eleven-days' ride to Boston. From Philadelphia to New York he was escorted by the Philadelphia Light Horse Troop. It was an escort worth having. Their uniform was "a dark brown short coat, faced and lined with white; high-topped boots; round black hat, bound with silver cord; a buck's tail, saddlecloths brown edged with white, and the letters 'L.H.' worked on them. Their arms were a carbine, a pair of pistols and holsters; a horseman's sword; white belts for the sword and carbine." Officers of the militia, the Massachusetts members of the Continental Congress, and many others were also of the company. The horses pranced, the music played, and the cavalcade started from the Quaker City for the war that was to make the country free. The flag that was borne before them is now carefully preserved between two heavy plates of glass, and is kept in the Troop's armory, in a fireproof safe made expressly for that purpose. The banner is only forty inches long, but its richness makes up for its lack of size. It is of yellow silk with heavy silver fringe. Around the flag is a graceful running vine. The crest is a horse's head. In the center are figures representing Fame and Liberty. Under them is the motto, "For these we strive." Some verses written many years ago say of this flag:—
"For these we strive; what brighter name Can man achieve or beauty see, Than worth to share his country's FAME, Or perish for her LIBERTY?"
It is a precious relic for its associations, and still more precious because the canton is made of thirteen stripes, blue and silver alternating. Apparently these stand for the thirteen colonies, and so far as is known, this was the first time that the colonies were represented, as on our flag of to-day, by thirteen stripes.
Before Washington and his escort reached New York, couriers reported the battle of Bunker Hill. Washington pushed on, and July 2, he had his first glimpse of his forces. It must have been a discouraging glimpse. A few wore uniforms, but most of the men had come in "what they had." The men of a few companies were provided with tents, others slept in the halls of Harvard College, in the pews of the Episcopal Church, or in private houses. Still others had built their own huts, of boards, turf, sailcloth, stones, or brush. Powder and artillery were scanty, and the commander-in-chief had been furnished with no money. Perhaps this was not so remarkable, however, for the members of the Continental Congress had no power to collect taxes, and in reality had no control over any money except what was in their own pockets. Officers and men chatted together as freely as if in their own homes; and if an order did not impress a man as being wise, he sometimes stopped and patiently explained to the officer why he thought another course was better.
Twelve of the most independent companies, and yet the most vigilant and best disciplined of all, were composed of backwoodsmen who had come on foot from four to eight hundred miles. A little later, five Indians came to Cambridge to help fight for liberty. They were welcomed cordially and entered the service. It is probable that every little company marched to Cambridge under its own colors, but of course there was no flag representing the colonies as a whole.
Immediately after the battle of Bunker Hill, Major-General Israel Putnam took up his stand on Prospect Hill. One month later he called together all the troops under his command, and read them the statement issued by the Continental Congress which declared just why the colonies had had recourse to arms. The chaplain made an address and a prayer, at the end of which the troops responded, "Amen." Then there was unfurled a scarlet standard, which it is said John Hancock had just presented to General Putnam and his men in recognition of their bravery at Bunker Hill. Tradition says this standard bore on one side the motto of Connecticut, "Qui transtulit sustinet," and on the other a pine tree and the motto of Massachusetts, "An Appeal to Heaven."
It is a little strange that the Massachusetts colonists did not put the likeness of an elm on any of their banners, for so much of their history was associated with the "Liberty Elm." A few flags on both land and sea were inscribed "Liberty Tree," but no exercise of the imagination can make the pictured tree look in the least like an elm. Under the Liberty Elm of Boston the meetings of the Sons of Liberty were held, as has been said, and here it was that the resolutions were adopted which resulted in dropping three hundred and forty chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The Liberty Tree of Charleston, South Carolina, was a beautiful live-oak. It is said that under this tree Christopher Gadsden, even before the Stamp Act, ventured to speak of the possible independence of the colonies. Here, as in Boston, the patriots came together to discuss the way to liberty, and with hand clasped in hand solemnly promised that when the hour for resistence should come, they would not be found unready. There is something refreshing in the thought of all the free, open-air discussion that went on under the Liberty Trees. There was no stifling of thought in closed rooms with bolted doors. Every new idea, daring as it might be, was blown upon by the free winds of heaven. Naturally, the British commanders hated these trees and thoroughly enjoyed destroying them whenever they had opportunity. The Boston tree was cut down even before the battle of Lexington. In 1780 Sir Henry Clinton cut down the live-oak in Charleston, piled its severed branches over the stump, and set fire to them. Even the iron-girt Liberty Pole of New York was cut down by the red coats in 1776. It is little wonder that Thomas Paine's poem on the "Liberty Tree" was so roundly applauded. This closes:—
"But hear, O ye swains,—'tis a tale most profane, How all the tyrannical powers, Kings, Commons, and Lords, are uniting amain, To cut down this guardian of ours. From the East to the West, blow the trumpet to arms, Through the land let the sound of it flee, Let the far and the near all unite with a cheer, In defense of our Liberty Tree."
THE "GRAND UNION FLAG"
During the summer following the battle of Bunker Hill, the colonies had a congress without authority, a commander-in-chief without money, and an army without discipline, equipments, or flag—or rather, with so many flags that they must have had little significance except to the respective groups of men who had marched under each. Before Christmas a flag was designed and made, but how, where, and by whom is not known. Neither Washington nor Franklin gives any information, and the Journal of Congress says nothing about its designer or maker. It is true that a committee of three,—all signers of the Declaration of Independence a few months later,—Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, whose son Benjamin was afterwards to become President of the United States, and Thomas Lynch, of South Carolina, were sent by Congress to Cambridge, to discuss with Washington and others many necessary questions, but there is no proof that the design of a flag was among them. The flag, however, was made. This was what is known as the "Grand Union Flag." The British flag, red with a blue union, marked by the upright cross of St. George and the diagonal cross of St. Andrew, was known as the "Union Flag," because it typified, as has been said before, the union of England and Scotland. The new flag retained the blue union with its two crosses, but instead of a red field it had red and white stripes. These thirteen stripes represented the thirteen colonies; the blue union suggested that the colonies still clung to the mother country.
Where the idea of using stripes came from is a question that has never been solved. The Philadelphia Troop had thirteen stripes on their banner, but they were blue and white. Washington's coat of arms contained red and white stripes; but Washington was too modest a man to suggest using his own family arms, and as to any one's suggesting it for him, it must be remembered that he was not yet the revered "Father of his Country," but simply a Virginia planter of forty-three years who had been successful in fighting the Indians, and who, because of his good judgment and uprightness of character, had been made a member of the Virginia Legislature and then of the Continental Congress. The flag of the Netherlands—but chosen thirty years after the Pilgrims left that country for America—was red, white, and blue, in three horizontal stripes. The ensign of the English East India Company was a flag of thirteen horizontal red and white stripes with a white canton containing a red St. George's Cross; but there is no reason to suppose that this inspired the flag of the colonies. Bunting was scarce and Franklin was always a thrifty soul. If that committee of three did design the flag, it is not at all unlikely that Franklin suggested utilizing the standards they already had, and changing their character by stitching on white stripes. To deface the flag of Britain was a serious offense, and maybe it was thought just as well that the name of the originator of this "Grand Union" should not be on record. The flag was first raised on the 1st of January, 1776, in what is now Somerville, on Prospect Hill, and was saluted with thirteen guns and thirteen rousing cheers. It was seen by the British troops in Boston, and for some reason they took it as a sign of submission brought about by the King's hostile proclamation, which they supposed had been read in Cambridge. Washington wrote:—
Before the proclamation came to hand, we had hoisted the Union Flag in compliment to the United Colonies. But, behold, it was received in 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.
The colonists had adopted a flag, but all sorts of colors continued to be borne on both sea and land. On the sea the favorite seems to have been a white flag displaying a green pine tree. One year after the battle of Lexington, Massachusetts formally decreed that this flag should be used on her vessels, and that their officers should wear a green and white uniform. Even two years later than this, the Pine-Tree Flag was borne by floating batteries on the Delaware River. Sometimes the British ran up an American flag to deceive the colonial vessels, and sometimes the colonists ran up a flag made of horizontal red and white stripes to persuade the British that it was one of their own signal flags. Sometimes rattlesnake flags were used.
Congress ordered the building of war vessels as promptly as possible, five cruisers first of all. The Alfred, on which John Paul Jones was lieutenant, became the flagship of Commander-in-Chief Esek Hopkins. This vessel was of English build and had been employed in commerce for nine or ten years, making two voyages to the Indian Ocean during that time. She had space for two hundred and twenty men, and had sixteen guns, carried for the benefit of pirates. She had been put in full repair and had now become a frigate of twenty-eight guns. Such was the first vessel of the Continental Navy. An old account of the embarkation of Commodore Hopkins at Philadelphia says:—
The Alfred was anchored at the foot of Walnut Street. On a brilliant morning early in February, 1776, gay streamers were seen floating from every masthead and spar on the river. At nine o'clock a full-manned barge threaded its way among the floating ice to the Alfred, bearing the commodore, who had chosen that vessel for his flagship. He was greeted with thunders of artillery and the shouts of the multitude.
When he stepped on board the deck of the Alfred, Captain Saltonstall gave a signal, and Lieutenant Jones hoisted a new flag prepared for the occasion. It is believed to have displayed a union with thirteen stripes crossed by a rattlesnake in some position, with the ominous motto, "Don't tread on me." When the flag reached the mast-head, the crowds cheered and the guns fired a salute,—as well they might, for this was the first ensign ever flung to the breeze on an American man-of-war. Paul Jones appreciated the honor of raising it, but he was no admirer of the rattlesnake flag. In his journal he wrote:—
I was always at loss to know by what queer fancy or by whose notion that device was first adopted. For my own part, I never could see how or why a venomous serpent could be the combatant emblem of a brave and honest folk fighting to be free. Of course I had no choice but to break the pennant as it was given to me. But I always abhorred the device.
Three weeks after the Alfred was put in commission, the little fleet sailed away from Philadelphia amid the cheers of thousands of people. One of the eye-witnesses said that the ships wore the Union Flag with thirteen stripes in the field. Of the admiral's flag an English writer said, "We learn that the vessels bearing this flag have a sort of commission from a society of people at Philadelphia, calling themselves the continental congress." Scornfully as he spoke of Congress, there is at least one record of which it may be proud. Franklin, under its authority, issued letters of marque with a lavish hand, but, hard-pressed as the colonists were, he bade John Paul Jones "not to burn defenseless towns on the British coast except in case of military necessity; and in such cases he was to give notice, so that the women and children with the sick and aged inhabitants might be removed betimes." Moreover, he bade all American cruisers if they chanced to meet Captain Cook, the great English explorer of that day, to "forget the temporary quarrel in which they were fighting and not merely suffer him to pass unmolested, but offer him every aid and service in their power."
THE FIRST UNITED STATES FLAG
The "society of people at Philadelphia calling themselves the continental congress" had had, so far as records go, nothing to do with choosing any flag. The "Grand Union" unfurled at Cambridge was regarded as symbolizing the union of colonies, but no one knows who designed it or chose it. To alter the design of our flag to-day would be a very serious matter, but the colonies were so accustomed to the making of flags according to the whim of some militia company or some sea captain that the appearance of a new design, especially one so slightly changed from the familiar flag of the mother country, cannot have created any great sensation. Moreover, flags were not for sale at department stores; they had to be ordered, and in this time of war, bunting was not easy to procure. Flag-makers were few, and many a captain sailed away with a flag manufactured by his wife's own unaccustomed hands.
July 4, 1776, less than fifteen months after the battle of Lexington, it was declared in Congress "That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." June 14, 1777, the following resolution was adopted:—
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.
So much for the share that Congress had in the flag. The story of the making of the first flag with stars and stripes is as follows. Betsy Ross, or, to speak more respectfully, Mrs. Elizabeth Griscom Ross, lived on Arch Street, Philadelphia, in a tiny house of two stories and an attic. She was called the most skillful needlewoman in the city, and there is a tradition that before Washington became commander-in-chief, she embroidered ruffles for his shirts—quite an important branch of fine sewing in those days. Whether she ever embroidered the great man's ruffles or not, it is said that, whenever folk wanted any especially fine work done, they always went to "Betsy Ross." She could do more than sew, for she could draw freehand the complicated patterns that were used in quilting, the supreme proof of artistic ability in the household. One day three gentlemen entered her house through its humble doorway. One was her uncle by marriage, Colonel Ross; one is thought to have been Robert Morris; one was General Washington. The commander-in-chief told her that they had come from Congress to ask her if she could make a flag. "I don't know," she replied, "but I can try." Then they showed her a rough sketch of a flag and asked what she thought of it. She replied that she thought it ought to be longer, that a flag looked better if the length was one third greater than the width. She ventured to make two more suggestions. One was that the stars which they had scattered irregularly over the blue canton would look better if they were arranged in some regular form, such as a circle or a star or in parallel rows. The second suggestion was that a star with five points was prettier than one with six. Some one seems to have remarked that it would be more difficult to make; and thereupon the skillful little lady folded a bit of paper and with one clip of her scissors produced a star with five points. The three gentlemen saw that her suggestions were good, and General Washington drew up his chair to a table and made another sketch according to her ideas.
Mrs. Ross could make wise suggestions about flags, but how to sew them she did not know; so it was arranged that she should call on a shipping merchant and borrow a flag from him. This she soon did. He opened a chest and took out a ship's flag to show her how the sewing was done. She carried it home to use as a guide, and when she reached the little house on Arch Street, she set to work to make the first flag bearing the stars and stripes. To try the effect, it was run up to the peak of one of the vessels in the Delaware, and the result was so pleasing that it was carried into Congress on the day that it was completed. Congress approved of the work of the little lady. Colonel Ross told her to buy all the material she could and make as many flags as possible. And for more than fifty years she continued to make flags for the Government.
This is the account that has come down to us, not by tradition merely, but by written statements of Mrs. Ross's daughters, grandchildren, and others, to whom she often told the story. Mrs. Ross says that this sample flag was made just before the Declaration of Independence, although the Resolution endorsing it was not passed until June 14, 1777. This, however, would not argue to the incorrectness of the account, for Congress had a fashion of writing with the utmost brevity the results of its deliberations, and not putting in a word about the discussions that must have taken place before the passing of a resolution. Affairs of the utmost importance were on hand, and after all it was the usefulness and convenience of the flag, rather than its sentiment or the fact of its having congressional authority, that was most in the minds of men, and it is not impossible that this design was in use long before the date of its official recognition by Congress. The one real weakness in the story is its lack of contemporary evidence.
The significance of the new flag no one has expressed better than Washington. "We take the star from Heaven," he said, "red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty."
On the day of the passing of the resolution about the Stars and Stripes, another one was passed, which read as follows:—
Resolved, That Captain John Paul Jones be appointed to command the ship Ranger.
"The flag and I are twins, born the same hour," said Captain Jones. The Ranger was launched in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and there her captain went to take command. She had no flag, but the captain was a favorite whereever he went, and a group of Portsmouth girls soon held a "quilting party," but made a flag instead of a quilt. Moreover, as silk enough of the proper colors could not be found in the stores of Portsmouth, they made it from breadths of their best silken gowns, red, white, and blue, the story declares. Then Jones sailed away to see how his little Ranger would behave when she met a British man-of-war. He soon found out, for the Ranger and the Drake met in combat, and for the first time a British man-of-war struck her colors to the new flag. This same little silken flag was the first to receive a genuine foreign salute. Early in 1778 the Ranger spoke the French fleet, off Brest Roads. Captain Jones was willing to take chances in a sea fight, but not in the matter of a salute, and he sent a courteous note to the French commander, informing him that the flag worn by the Ranger was the new American standard, which had never yet received a salute from any foreign power. "If I offer a salute, will it be returned gun for gun?" he queried. The reply was that the same salute would be given as to an admiral of Holland, or any other republic; that is, four guns less than the salute given. Captain Jones anchored in the entrance of the bay and sought for further information. He found that the reply of the admiral was correct and according to custom. Therefore, on the following day, he sailed through the French fleet, saluting with thirteen guns, and receiving nine. This was an acknowledgment of American independence, and the first salute ever paid by a foreign naval power to the Stars and Stripes. It is true that a salute had been given to the American brig, the Andrea Doria, before this, by the Governor of one of the West Indian Islands; but a salute which his Government immediately disowned and for which he was called home is rather an individual than a national salute. Then, too, there is no proof that the flag flown by the Andrea Doria was the Stars and Stripes.
After a while Jones was put in command of the Bon Homme Richard, a larger vessel than the Ranger, but she flew the same little silken flag. Off Flamborough Head he came up with the British Serapis. After two hours of fighting, Captain Pearson of the Serapis shouted, in a moment's lull, "Have you struck your colors yet?" "I haven't yet begun to fight," was Jones's reply. The two ships were lashed together, guns burst, cartridges exploded, wide gaps were torn out of the sides of both vessels. "Have you struck?" cried the British captain. "No!" thundered Paul Jones. At last the Serapis yielded; but the Bon Homme Richard was fast sinking. Captain Jones left her and took possession of the Serapis. The American vessel rolled and lurched and pitched and plunged. The little silken flag that had never been conquered waved in the morning breeze for the last time, and then went down, "flying on the ship that conquered and captured the ship that sank her."
When Paul Jones returned to America he met one of the young girls who had given him the flag. He told her how eagerly he had longed to give it back into the hands of those who had given it to him four years earlier. "But, Miss Mary," he said, "I couldn't bear to strip it from the poor old ship in her last agony, nor could I deny to my dead on her decks, who had given their lives to keep it flying, the glory of taking it with them." In his journal he wrote eloquently and almost as simply:—
No one was now left aboard the Richard but her dead. To them I gave the good old ship for their coffin, and in her they found a sublime sepulcher. She rolled heavily in the long swell, her gun-deck awash to the port-sills, settled slowly by the head, and sank peacefully in about forty fathoms. The ensign-gaff, shot away in action, had been fished and put in place, soon after firing ceased, and our torn and tattered flag was left flying when we abandoned her. As she plunged down by the head at the last, her taffrail momentarily rose in the air; so the very last vestige mortal eyes ever saw of the Bon Homme Richard was the defiant waving of her unconquered and unstricken flag as she went down. And as I had given them the good old ship for their sepulcher, I now bequeathed to my immortal dead the flag they had so desperately defended, for their winding sheet!
This is the story of the Portsmouth flag. At first its truth was accepted without a doubt; then it was seriously questioned. Within the last few years, new evidence in the shape of family tradition has strengthened its position.
FLAGS ONE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE
Probably the flag made by the skillful fingers of Mrs. Elizabeth Griscom Ross was sewed with the tiniest of stitches imaginable; but it is absolutely certain that the flag which made its appearance August 3, 1777, at Fort Schuyler, afterwards Fort Stanwix, was not put together with any such daintiness of workmanship. For twenty days the little fort in the New York wilderness, where Rome now stands, was besieged by British and Indians. Reinforcements brought the news of the adoption of the new flag. The troops within the fort had no flag, and therefore, in true American fashion, they set to work to make one. There was not even a country store to draw upon for materials, so they made the best of what they had. As the story has been handed down, a white shirt provided the white stripes and the stars, and the petticoat of a soldier's wife the red stripes. As for the blue ground for the stars, it was cut from the cloak of Captain Abram Swartwout. The result was not very elegant, but it was a flag, and it was the flag, and the besieged men were as proud of it and stood for it as bravely as if it had been made of damask with the daintiest of needlework. August 22, 1777, the fort was relieved, and after a few days Captain Swartwout began to be anxious about his blue cloak. Colonel Peter Gansevoort, who commanded the fort, had promised him a new one to take the place of the one which he had sacrificed for the flag, but it had not arrived. Seven days he waited. At the end of the seventh day he sent a note from Poughkeepsie, where he then was, back to the fort, saying: "You may Remember Agreeable to Your promise, I was to have an Order for Eight Yards of Broad-Cloath, on the Commissary for Cloathing of this State In Lieu of my Blue Cloak, which we Used for Coulours at Fort Schuyler. An opportunity Now presenting itself, I beg You to send me an Order." Broadcloth was broadcloth in those days, and a "Blue Cloak" was not so easily obtained. It is no wonder he wrote it with capitals. It is to be hoped that the good captain received his order; but it must have been a very large cloak to require eight yards of "Broad-Cloath."
Another interesting banner was that borne by Count Pulaski, a gallant Pole, who came to help in the struggle for freedom. He visited Lafayette when the Frenchman was wounded and in the care of the Moravian Sisterhood in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The embroidery of these Sisters was very beautiful, and Pulaski engaged them to make him a banner, which they did. On one side were the letters "U.S.," and on the other the thirteen stars in a circle, surrounding an eye which is rather uncomfortably set in a triangle. They made a mistake in spelling their Latin motto, but the crimson banner, with its silver fringe and its exquisite embroidery, was very handsome. Longfellow's poem about this banner, "Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem," is excellent poetry, but hardly accurate history. It is quite probable that the good women sent the banner forth with their blessing, but it is rather doubtful whether they said anything like the following:—
"Take thy banner, and if e'er Thou shouldst press the soldier's bier, And the muffled drums should beat To the tread of mournful feet, Then this crimson flag shall be Martial cloak and shroud for thee";—
for the beautiful little banner was only twenty inches square! When Lafayette visited this country in 1824, this little flag was borne in the procession which welcomed him to Baltimore.
In the midst of the grief and horrors of war, there was one day when all the armed ships in the Delaware River were ablaze with the colors of the United States in token of rejoicing. It was July 4, 1777, the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Thirteen cannon were fired, a great dinner was served to the members of Congress and the officials of the army and of the State. The Hessian band, which had been captured at Trenton six months previously, performed some of their merriest music. Toasts followed the dinner, each one honored by a discharge of artillery and small arms and a piece of music by the Hessians. At night the city was illuminated and the streets resounded with hurrahs and the ringing of bells. Then came fireworks, which began and ended with thirteen rockets in honor of the thirteen United States.
"Thirteen" appeared not only as the number of stars on the flag, but everywhere else, and at Valley Forge, in the rejoicing over the new alliance with France, the officers marched up to the place of entertainment thirteen abreast and with arm linked in arm. A disrespectful English paper declared that the "rebels" ate thirteen dried clams a day, that it took thirteen "Congress paper dollars" to equal one English shilling, that "every well-organized rebel household has thirteen children, all of whom expect to be major-generals or members of the high and mighty congress of the thirteen United States when they attain the age of thirteen years."
When the war had come to an end, the artist Copley was in London working on the portrait of an American, Elkanah Watson. In the background of the portrait was a ship supposed to be bearing to America the news of the acknowledgment of Independence. The rising sun was shining upon the place where the flag should have been, but no flag was there. Copley's studio was often visited by the royal family, so he waited. But a day came when the artist heard the speech of the King acknowledging the Independence of America. He went straightway to his studio and painted in the flag floating in the rays of the rising sun.
Soon after the close of the war, a wide-awake skipper of Nantucket, who had some whale oil to sell, appeared at London. Nantucket was so helpless for both offense and defense that it had remained neutral, and the captain had received from Admiral Digby a license to go to London. A London magazine of the time said, "This is the first vessel which has displayed the thirteen rebellious stripes of America in any British port." Nobody knew exactly what to do, but apparently the whale oil was soon sold, for the enterprising whaler returned directly to Nantucket.
In October, 1783, most of the British troops had sailed away from the United States, but Sir Guy Carleton was delayed in New York waiting for vessels. When the day came for him to leave the city, a strong, determined woman who kept a boarding-house brought out a United States flag and ran it up on a pole in front of her house. Down the street came a British officer with headlong speed. "We do not evacuate this city until noon. Haul down that flag!" he shouted angrily. "That flag went up to stay, and it will not be hauled down!" declared the indignant housekeeper, and went on sweeping in front of her door. "Then I will pull it down myself," thundered the irate officer, and set to work. But the halyards were entangled, and all the officer's swearing and scolding did not help matters. The militant lady of the broom then applied her weapon to the officer. The powder flew from his wig in a cloud, and at last he himself had to fly, leaving the flag to float serenely on the morning breeze. This encounter has been called the last battle of the Revolution.
Before leaving Fort George, at the foot of Broadway, in New York, the British soldiers mischievously nailed their flag to the top of the pole, took down the halyards, greased the pole from top to bottom, and knocked off the cleats. They did not know how well the American boys could climb; in a very short time new cleats were nailed on, the English flag was pulled down, and the Stars and Stripes floated from the top of the pole.
News of King George's proclamation did not reach the United States till the middle of April, and then there was rejoicing, indeed. It is no wonder that the joy of the country at the closing of the war burst out in celebrations and silken flags. The diary of President Stiles, of Yale, tells what took place in New Haven. It reads as follows:—
April 24, 1783. Public rejoicing for the Peace in New Haven. At sunrise thirteen cannon discharged in the Green, and the continental flag displayed, being a grand silk flag presented by the ladies, cost 120 dollars. The stripes red and white, with an azure field in the upper part charged with thirteen stars. On the same field and among the stars was the arms of the United States, the field of which contained a ship, a plough, and three sheaves of wheat; the crest an eagle volant; the supporters two white horses. The arms were put on with paint and gilding. It took —— yards. When displayed it appeared well.
The patriotic ladies who presented the flag had taken the arms and motto, "Virtue, Liberty, Independence," from the title-page of a family Bible; but unluckily, this Bible, having been published in Philadelphia, displayed the arms and motto, not of the United States, but of Pennsylvania. The moral is, learn the arms of your country.
THE FLAG OF FIFTEEN STRIPES AND FIFTEEN STARS
The worthy fathers of our country were long-sighted men. In many respects they peered far into the future and they laid well the foundations for a great republic. One thing, however, they forgot; when they chose a design for a flag with thirteen stripes and a circle of thirteen stars, they did not realize that the number of States would probably increase, and that these States would wish to be represented on the flag. In 1791 Vermont was admitted as a State, and in 1792 Kentucky also came into the Union. In 1794 the Senate passed a bill increasing to fifteen the number of both stripes and stars. This bill was sent to the House, and then came exciting times. Some members thought it of great importance not to offend new States by giving them no recognition on the flag. Others called it dishonorable to waste time over what one man called "a consummate piece of frivolity," when matters "of infinitely greater consequence" ought to be discussed. Another declared that the Senate sent the bill for the want of something better to do. Yet another honorable member did not think it worth while either to adopt or reject the proposed law, but supposed "the shortest way to get rid of it was to agree to it." Whether to "get rid of it" or not, the bill was passed, and went into effect May 1, 1795.
This flag of fifteen stripes and fifteen stars was the one worn by the frigate Constitution, "Old Ironsides." When, in 1830, it was reported that this vessel, with its magnificent record, was to be broken up, Holmes wrote his stirring poem, "Old Ironsides," which ends:—
"Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lightning and the gale!"
It was this flag under which we went forth to three wars, each one fought to uphold the rights of American citizens. The first was with France, the second with Tripoli, and the third with Great Britain. It had long been the custom for nations using the Mediterranean Sea to pay tribute to the pirates of Tripoli. In 1800 Captain Bainbridge carried the annual tribute to Algiers. It seemed that the Dey wished to send an ambassador to Constantinople, and under threat of capture Captain Bainbridge was ordered to carry him there. The captain obeyed, but very unwillingly. When the new flag appeared at Constantinople, it was reported to the Sultan that a ship from the United States of America was in the harbor. "What's that?" he demanded. "I never heard of that nation." "They live in the New World which Columbus discovered," was the reply. The Sultan had heard of Columbus, and he sent to the frigate a bouquet of flowers in welcome, and a lamp in token of friendship.
The Dey of Algiers became dissatisfied with the tribute paid by America, and declared haughtily that if he did not receive from our country a handsome present within six months, he should declare war. This he did, but to his great surprise a small American fleet, under the fifteen stars and stripes, sailed up to his city and began to bombard it. It was not long before he became the very picture of meekness. He freed all his American captives, paid well for all the property that he had destroyed, and the Mediterranean Sea became safe for commerce.
In 1803 the United States purchased from France the immense Louisiana Territory. The French flag was hauled down and the flag of the United States was raised in token of the change of ownership. This country had first been in the hands of Spain, and the Spaniards had presented flags to various Indians. When Lieutenant Z. M. Pike made a journey of exploration in the new territory, he came to an Indian village where there was quite a display of Spanish banners. The Lieutenant made a little speech to the Indians, and said among other things that the Spanish flag at the chief's door ought to be given up to him and the flag of the United States put in its place. The Indians listened, but made no reply. Lieutenant Pike spoke again to the same effect. "Your nation cannot have two fathers," he said. "You must be the children of the Spaniards or else of the Americans." The red men sat in silence awhile, then an old man arose, walked slowly to the door, took the Spanish flag down, and put the American in its place. Then he gave the flag of Spain to his followers, bidding them, "Never hoist this again—while the Americans are here." Surely, the old chief must have been akin to Dr. John Cotton of Colonial fame. This scene occurred in what is now Kansas, and is thought to have been the first raising of the United States flag in that State.
The banner of fifteen stripes and fifteen stars has a proud record, for this was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." Every one knows the story of the poem, how the author and an agent for the exchange of prisoners went on board a British vessel in 1814 to try to secure the release of a physician who had been captured. The English admiral granted their request, but as he was about to attack Fort McHenry, he told them that they would not be permitted to return at once, but must remain on their own vessel, with a British guard, until the fort was reduced. If this order had been carried out, they would have been on board to-day, for the fort never was reduced. All day the Americans could see the Stars and Stripes flying over its ramparts, in spite of attacks by sea and by land. Night came, and it was only by "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air," that they knew whether the fort yet stood. At length the firing ceased, and all was darkness. They could do nothing but wait for the first rays of morning in the hope that "by the dawn's early light" they could catch a glimpse of the flag and know that the fort had not yielded, that "our flag was still there," and that the British were retreating. Then it was that Key wrote, on the back of an old envelope, "The Star-Spangled Banner," and put into it such a thrill of sincerity that it is just as throbbing with life and patriotism as it was on that September dawn a century ago. The banner that inspired the poem is in the National Museum in Washington.
Francis Scott Key died in Baltimore in 1843, and is buried in Frederick, Maryland. Over his grave a large national flag flies day and night, never removed save when wear and tear make a new flag necessary. In Baltimore a noble monument has been reared in his honor. It is surmounted by the figure of the poet, who waves his hat with one hand and with the other points joyfully toward the fort. The figure is so life-like that one almost expects it to cry,—
"And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
A few months after "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written, a plan was formed to rear in the city of Baltimore a monument in honor of George Washington. It was fitting that the place of his birth should also be marked, and a few days before the laying of the corner-stone of the monument, a little company sailed from Alexandria, Virginia, to Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, where Washington was born. With them they carried a simple freestone slab on which was chiseled his name and the date of his birth. Wrapped in the banner of fifteen stars, it was borne reverently to its resting-place by the hands of the descendants of four Revolutionary patriots.
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
"Time makes ancient good uncouth," said Lowell, and so it was with the flag. The flag of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes that was decreed in 1795 then represented each State; but in less than one year it was out of date. Tennessee had come into the Union. Then followed Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana. Here were four States with no representation in the colors of the country. Then, too, people began to realize that in giving up the thirteen stripes they had lost their old significant "Thirteen," and dropped a valuable historical association. At length the matter came before Congress, and for nearly sixteen months it remained there. Occasionally there was some little discussion about it. One member proposed that the matter be postponed indefinitely. "Are you willing to neglect the banner of freedom?" demanded another. Yet another thought it unnecessary to insist upon thirteen stripes, and thought they might as well fix upon nine or eleven or any other arbitrary number as thirteen. The committee pleaded for the significant thirteen, and so it went on. At length Peter H. Wendover, of New York, through whose efforts Congress was held to its duty, called the attention of the House to the fact that the Government itself was paying no respect to its own laws in regard to the flag; that the law demanded fifteen stripes, but that Congress was at that moment displaying a banner of thirteen stripes; that the navy yard and the marine barracks were flying flags of eighteen stripes; and that during the first session of the preceding Congress the flag floating over their deliberations had had, from some unknown cause or other, only nine stripes.
It is small wonder that after such an arraignment as this the lawmakers aroused themselves. The following bill was passed, and was signed by President Monroe, April 4, 1818:—
SECTION 1. Be it enacted, etc., That from and after the fourth day of July next, the flag of the United States be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; that the union have twenty stars, white in a blue field.
SECTION 2. Be it further enacted, That on the admission of every new State into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect on the fourth of July next succeeding such admission.
So it was that the flag of the United States was finally decided upon. Captain S. C. Reid designed it, and his wife made a specimen flag, which was hoisted on the flagstaff of the House of Representatives a few days after the law legalizing it was passed. Forty-one years later, in 1859, Congress formally thanked Captain Reid. The one weak point in this law was that the arrangement of the stars on the blue field was left to the taste of the owner of the flag. Captain Reid arranged them in one large star; but it was evident that if this plan was continued, as new States were admitted, the stars would become too small to be seen distinctly. The Navy Commissioners issued the order that in naval flags the stars should be arranged in five rows, four stars in a row; but for many years merchant vessels paid small attention to this decree. Indeed, in 1837 the Dutch Government inquired, with all respect, "What is the American flag?" Twenty years later an observant man in Jersey City amused himself on the Fourth of July by noting the numerous fashions in which the stars were arranged. He said that all flags had the thirteen stripes—though not always in the proper order—but that he had counted nine different fashions in which the stars were arranged. They appeared in one large star, in a lozenge, a diamond, or a circle, and one vessel in the river flaunted an anchor formed of stars. It was suggested that Congress ought to order some regular arrangement, but Congress did not take the hint. The Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy gave orders in 1912, after the admission of New Mexico and Arizona, that the stars, now forty-eight, should be arranged in six rows of eight stars each. This was approved by the President, but no decree has been passed by Congress.
Until 1866 our country's flag was manufactured in a foreign land. Bunting in a flag has a hard life. It must meet sun, wind, and storm; it must be light enough to float at every breeze and strong enough to endure severe wear. Attempts had been made many years earlier to make bunting in the United States, and flags of home manufacture had been tried again and again, but they had never stood the tests. In 1865, however, Congress put a duty of forty per cent on imported bunting, and also made it lawful for the Government to purchase its flags in the United States. With this duty manufacturers could compete with the lower wages paid in England, and now it became worth while to set to work in earnest. Within a year the thing had been done. A company in Lowell, Massachusetts, presented to the Senate a flag manufactured in the United States. It was hoisted over the Capitol, and for the first time this country, then ninety years old, floated over its Congress a banner of bunting woven and made "at home." This banner stood all the tests, and soon the price of the material was greatly reduced. Since the manufacture of this flag all bunting used in flags for the navy has come from Lowell. It must be of a fixed weight and strength and must be absolutely fast color in sun and rain. These flags are made in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and they must be accurate in every detail. Even the number of stitches to the inch is a matter of rule. After the stripes have been sewed together and the stars stitched upon the canton, the hoist, or end of the flag which is to be next to the staff, is firmly bound with canvas, and the lines, etc., attached. Then the flag is stamped with the date. Many silken flags are used in the navy, but these are made entirely by hand.
A warship must have not only her own flags, but those of foreign countries, sometimes two hundred and fifty or more. Some of these flags are of very complicated design, and the flag-makers tried the experiment of painting the designs on the bunting. This was not a success, because the flags stuck together, and now the whole design is worked out in bunting. The navy makes its own flags, but the War Department buys what are needed. Manufacturers make large numbers for general sale; between nine and ten million a year even in times of peace.
The pet name, "Old Glory," is believed to have been given to the flag by Captain William Driver. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, became a shipmaster, and at length made his home in Nashville, Tennessee. When the Civil War broke out, he stood boldly by the Union, even though his own family were against him. More than thirty years before this date, just as he was starting on a voyage, some of his friends made him a present of a handsome American flag. When the breeze first caught it and spread out its folds, Captain Driver exclaimed, "Old Glory!" and "Old Glory" it was to him all the years of his life. The flag went to Tennessee with him, and was hung out on every day of public rejoicing. When the war broke out, his Confederate neighbors tried their best to get possession of that flag; but they did not realize the resources of the old captain. Sailors know how to sew, and he had carefully quilted his beloved banner into his comforter. No wonder that he had not the least objection to having his house searched for it. When the Union troops entered the city, Captain Driver asked permission to run up his flag over the State Capitol. This was granted, and with an escort he marched to the building and ran up the flag. As he stood gazing at it with tears in his eyes, he said, "I have always said that if I could see it float over that Capitol, I should have lived long enough; now Old Glory is up there, gentlemen, and I am ready to die." The captain's own particular "Old Glory" was full of years and weakened by service, and on the following day he reverently took it down and ran up a flag that was new and strong. For a quarter of a century he saw the Union flag float over the Capitol of his chosen State. Then, at his death in 1886, his own "Old Glory" was sent to the Essex Institute at his birthplace.
THE FLAG IN WAR
"Old Glory" has flown over the battle-fields of three wars; the Mexican, the Civil War, and the war with Spain. In the war with Mexico victory depended upon taking the City of Mexico, and the path to that lay in the capture of the strong castle of Chapultepec. Long before sunrise one bright September morning, the American guns began to roar. All day long the Americans fired from below and the Mexicans from above. Fortunately for the attackers, the aim of the Mexicans was anything but accurate, and in twenty-four hours the American troops were pushing forward up the hillside, through a grove full of sharpshooters, over rocks and gullies, even over mines, which the Mexicans had no chance to set off. Cannon roared and volleys of musketry were fired at the assailants, but they dashed over the redoubt, up, still up, to the escarpment, and over it they tumbled. Meanwhile the Mexicans were standing on the city walls and peering out from the spires of the cathedral. They saw, as the Americans pushed on and up, the Stars and Stripes appear, now to the right, now to the left, as point after point was taken. Now the Americans had reached the main works. The scaling-ladders were planted and the men scrambled over the wall. Even then the Mexicans were not without a faint hope, for their banner still floated over the highest pinnacle. Suddenly it disappeared, and the Stars and Stripes took its place. The victory had been won. On the second day after the first gun was fired at Chapultepec, the American troops were following their flag into the City of Mexico.
The Civil War began with the firing upon Fort Sumter. Shot came in a whirlwind, half a score of balls at a time. The woodwork blazed, the brick and stone flew in all directions. Red-hot balls from the furnace in Moultrie dashed down like a pitiless hailstorm. The barracks were ablaze, streams of fire burst out of the quarters. Ninety barrels of powder were rolled into the water lest it should explode in the awful heat. The men were stifled with fumes from the burning buildings. Over the horrors of this attack the Stars and Stripes floated serenely from the staff, flashing out, as each gust of wind tossed the clouds of smoke aside for a moment, the glories of the red, white, and blue, clear and calm and unscathed.
Beams fell with a crash, ammunition in one magazine exploded, black clouds of smoke filled the fort, and for hours the men covered their faces with wet cloths to keep from suffocating. Nine times the flagstaff was struck by a shot, and at the ninth the flag fell. Lieutenant Hall dashed into the storm of balls, caught up the flag, and brought it away. The halyards were cut and tangled. The flag could not be raised, but it was nailed to the staff, and in the midst of the incessant fire, Sergeant Peter Hart fastened it up on the ramparts. The fort surrendered, but not the flag; for as Major Anderson and his men left the burning ruins, they saluted "Old Glory" with fifty guns, then lowered it, and, as the Major stated to the Government, "marched out of the fort with colors flying and drums beating."
This was on April 14, 1861. On April 14, 1865, when the war was virtually over, Major Anderson, now General Anderson, was, by order of President Lincoln, called to Fort Sumter to raise again the flag which he had so unwillingly lowered. A special steamer carried from New York to the fort a number of prominent citizens. Hundreds came from elsewhere by land to Charleston and were taken to the fort by vessel. Two hundred officers of the navy were present and many army officers. After the opening exercises, Sergeant Hart opened a big carpetbag and drew forth the identical flag that had been hauled down four years earlier. The banner was unfurled, the assemblage cheered to the echo, and slowly the beloved banner rose to its old position, every one trying his best to catch hold of the rope and help raise it. Hats were waved and the old fort rang with cheers. The band struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner." A salute was fired by the guns on Fort Sumter, and this was responded to by every fort and battery that had fired upon Sumter in April, 1861. Henry Ward Beecher, orator of the day, made a thrilling address. Of the flag he said:—
There flies the same flag that was insulted. In the storm of that assault this glorious ensign was often struck; but, memorable fact, not one of its stars was torn out, by shot or shell. It was a prophecy.... Lifted to the air, to-day it proclaims, after four years of war, "Not a State is blotted out!"
Hail to the flag of our fathers, and our flag! Glory to the banner that has gone through four years black with tempests of war, to pilot the nation back to peace without dismemberment! And glory be to God, who, above all hosts and banners, hath ordained victory, and shall ordain peace!... In the name of God, we lift up our banner, and dedicate it to Peace, Union and Liberty, now and forevermore.
A few years later General Anderson died. He was buried at West Point and was carried to his grave wrapped in the flag that he had defended so bravely. On the death of his wife the flag passed by her gift into the hands of the War Department.
One of the most interesting flags of the recent war with Spain was borne by the First Regiment of the United States Volunteer Cavalry. A squadron of men for this regiment left Phoenix, Arizona, on their way to the field of war. It was noticed that they had no flag. The women of the Relief Corps attached to the Grand Army of the Republic took the matter in hand, for if this was not a case where relief was needed, where should one be found?
Night and day were the same to these energetic women. They bought silk and they sewed, all day and all night. The stores of Phoenix did not provide just the right sort of cord, so the staff of the battle-flag was daintily adorned with a knot of satin ribbon, red, white, and blue. Then the flag was carried to camp, and presented with all courtesy and dignity to the two hundred men who were to form a part of the First Regiment of the United States Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the "Rough Riders."