Page images
PDF
EPUB

decent one was soon contrived. The white stripes were cut out of ammunition shirts, furnished by the soldiers; the blue out of the camlet cloak taken from the enemy at Peekskill, while the red stripes were made of different pieces of stuff procured from one and another of the garrison.” The same official, in a statement made to Governor Trumbull under date of August 21, 1777, mentions as one of the results of his sally from the fort on the sixth, that he captured and brought off five of the enemy's colors, the whole of which, on his return to the fort, were displayed on the flagstaff under the impromptu made continental flag.

In a paper read before the New Jersey Historical society, this claim was set forth: “From traditional reports in circulation here, the first time that o'ur National flag was used after the enactment concerning it by congress, was by General Washington, in the hurried and critical stand made by him on the banks of the Assanpink, when he repulsed Cornwallis, January 2, 1777. As this conflict was the turning point, in connection with what succeeded at Princeton, of the struggle for independence, and the glorious consequences which followed, does not this signal baptism of the stars and stripes, with the hope and confidence regenerated by it, seem providential? Freedom’s vital spark was then rekindled, and our country and the whole civilized world are now illumined with its beams."

But the tradition must be in error in this case, as the occurrence recited took place a full half year before the stars and stripes were adopted. It is true that Lentze, in his great picture of Washington crossing the Delaware, has painted Colonel Munroe in the boat holding the stars and stripes, but perhaps the license of the artist was invoked in his aid.

Beyond a doubt, as Preble declares, the thirteen stars and thirteen stripes were unfurled at the battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, eight days after the official promulgation of them at Philadelphia, and at Germantown on the fourth of October following; they witnessed the operations against and the surrender of Burgoyne, after the battle of Saratoga, October 17, 1777, and the sight of this new constellation helped to cheer the patriots of the army amid their sufferings around the camp-fires at Valley Forge the ensuing winter. They waved triumphant at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, September 19, 1781; looked down upon the evacuation of New York, November 25, 1783, and shared in all the glories of the latter days of the Revolution. In 1794, in consequence of the admission of Vermont and Kentucky

into the sisterhood of the Union, an act was passed increasing the stars and stripes on the flag from thirteen to fifteen, although the change was not to go into effect until May, 1795. The bill was approved on January 13, and declared, “that from and after the first day of May, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, the flag of the United States be fifteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be fifteen stars, white in a blue field.” The admission of the states of Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana made another change necessary, and accordingly, on the admission of Indiana in 1816, a resolution was offered in congress, “that a committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of altering the flag of the United States." In consequence a committee was appointed, and on January 2, 1817, reported a bill which was not acted upon. While the committee had the matter under consideration, Mr. Wendover, who had offered the bill, called upon Captain S. C. Reid, then in Washington, and asked him to make a design for the flag which would represent the increase of the states without destroying its distinctive character, the committee being disposed to increase both stars and stripes to twenty, the whole number of states then belonging to the Union.

Captain Reid's suggestion was that the stripes be reduced to thirteen, to represent the original states, and the stars to be increased to the number of all the states, formed into one great star, “whose brilliancy should represent their union,” and thus symbolize in the flag the origin and progress of the country and its motto, E Pluribus Unum." He also proposed there should be the addition of a star for each state named.

A report to that effect was accordingly made by the committee, but no action was taken by congress at that session. In December, 1817, the question was once more brought up, and in January, 1818 another report was made to the same effect as that recited above. Accordingly, on April 4, 1818, a law was approved which declared as follows:

"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. And be it further enacted, That on the admission of every new state to 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."

This act unfortunately neglected to fix the arrangement of stars in

the union, which has been very capricious, sometimes in straight lines, sometimes in a star, sometimes in concentric circles and sometimes scattered at random.

The main features in connection with the National banner may be thus summarized: 1777–9+, thirteen stripes and thirteen stars, the latter generally in a circle; 1791-1818, fifteen stripes and fifteen stars, the latter generally in three straight lines; 1818 to 1888, thirteen stripes, and the stars to correspond with the number of states in the Union. The revenue flag, by act of March 2, 1799, and the circular of the secretary of the treasury, August 1, consisted of sixteen perpendicular red and white stripes, with the arms of the United States in blue on a white field as a union. This was changed in 1871 by subsitutting thirteen blue stars on a white ground as a union.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG.

When the Confederate congress met at Montgomery in the troubled days of 1861, the subject of a flag was discussed with considerable feeling A number of models for a new banner was presented. One, presented by some women of Charleston, was composed of a blue cross on a red field, with seven stars-similar to the flag of South Carolina. Another, suggested by a gentleman of the same city, consisted of a cross with fifteen stars. A committee of one delegate from each state was appointed to report upon a device for a National flag and a seal. Mr. Brooke of Mississippi offered a resolution to instruct the committee to report a design as similar as possible to that of the United States, making only such changes as should give them distinction. He even went so far in his eulogy of the old banner as to cause his associates in rebellion to rebuke him for utterances which savored of treason to the Confederacy. W. P. Miles of South Carolina, chairman of the committee, protested against the resolution and the utterances of the member, and declared that he “gloried more, a thousand times, in the palmetto flag of his state.” Mr. Brooke withdrew his motion.

The committee made an elaborate report, in which they declared that they did not share in any sentimental attachment to the stars and stripes, yet recommended a flag very similar to it. It was to consist of a red field with a white space extending horizontally through the centre and equal in width to one-third the width of the flag; the field of the union was blue, extending from the top to the bottom of

the white stripe and stopping at the lower red stripe. In the centre of the union was a circle of white stars, corresponding in number to the states of the Confederacy. It was, in fact, the old flagred, white and blue-with three “alternate stripes, red and white," instead of thirteen such stripes. This banner was first displayed in public, over the state-house at Montgomery, on March 4, 1861.

A curious proposition, mainly valuable as suggesting a phase of the temper of the times, was made in the early days of rebellion, in behalf of a peaceful division of the flag, giving one-half to the north and one half to the south. It was advanced by no less a personage than Professor S. B. Morse, the originator of the electromagnetic telegraph, the president of the American Society for the Promotion of National Union. While war was yet confined to threatening and irritating words between the two sections of the country, he suggested two methods by which sectional differences might be adjusted without bloodshed, and stated them in a paper drawn up when the project of a flag for the south was under discussion in the journals of that section. His main propositions, which embodied a temporary separation, that a reunion might be afterwards secured when the north and south should find their real need of each other, can be passed by, and only his proposal as to a division of the flag be considered. “The southern section," he declared, “is now agitating the question of a device for their distinctive flag: Cannot this question of flags be so settled as to aid in a future union ? I think it can. If the country can be divided, why not the flag? The stars and the stripes is the flag in which we all have a deep and self-same interest. It is hallowed by the common victories of our several wars. We all have sacred associations clustering around it in common, and, therefore, if we must be two nations, neither nation can lay exclusive claim to it without manifest injustice and offense to the other. Neither will consent to throw it aside altogether for a new and strange device, with no associations of the past to hallow it. The most obvious solution of the difficulties which spring up in this respect is to divide the old flag, giving half to each. It may be done, and in a manner to have a salutary moral effect upon both parties.

“Let the blue union be diagonally divided, from left to right, or right to left, and the thirteen stripes longitudinally, so as to make six and a half stripes in the upper and six and a half stripes in the lower portion. Referring to it as on a map, the upper portion being north and the lower portion being south, we have the upper diagonal

[graphic][subsumed]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »