Flags have been a part of history for thousands of years.  During the time period of FCF (mid 1700's to 1840), Flags played an important role in the formation of our nation.  At rendezvous and traces across the nation, many members fly historic flags, but few know the origins of those flags.  Many of these flags were flown at the National Rendezvous, and many had questions as to what those flags represented.  While they add much color to any event, it means more to know what the flag was designed for and how it was used.

Many of the flags pictured below were used during the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812.  While this is not a complete list, it is a listing of the most well known of the period.  Below you will find the image of the flag, what it is called, and a breif history as to how that flag was developed or used. 


The British Red Ensign

British Red Ensign The best known of the British Maritime flags, or Ensigns, which were formed by placing the Union flag in the canton of another flag having a field of white, blue or red. This flag is also known as the Meteor flag, and was widely used on ships during the Colonial period. This was the first National flag of the United States.

The Grand Union

The Grand Union

This was first raised at sea on December 3, 1775 by John Paul Jones; and on land on January 1, 1776, on Prospect Hill (then called Mount Pisgah) in Somerville, Massachusetts, when the Continental Army was mustered into formal existence. It received its' name from a reference as the "Grand Union Flag" in one of George Washington's letters. Curiously, this flag was never officially sanctioned by the Continental Congress. Flying aboard a patriot ship, it received the first foreign salute to an American flag from Governor De Graaff of St. Eustatius Island on November 16, 1776.

 The Betsy Ross

 The Betsy Ross  

This flag was adopted June 14, 1777 (Flag Day). The Continental Congress on this day resolved, "That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes alternating red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation". The circular design was by George Washington, Francis Hopkins and Betsy Ross. The Congress however did not specify an arrangement for the stars in the canton, as a result there are many variations in the flags that followed until 1912.

 The Bennington Flag

 The Bennington  On August 16, 1777, at Bennington, Vermont, General John Stark defeated a large raiding force sent by Burgoyne to capture American supplies stored there. This presaged the great British defeat at Saratoga. Note that this is the only American flag to begin with a white stripe. The original may be seen in the museum in Bennington.

 The Sons of Liberty Flag

 The Sons of Liberty  This was the flag of the early colonist who had joined together in the protest against the British impositions on American economic freedom. One such protest was resistance to the Stamp Act, on October 7, 1765. A delegate from each of the nine colonies formed the "Stamp Act Congress" . They petitioned the king and parliament, the act was repealed on March 18, 1766. The flag of nine red and white stripes that represented these "Sons of Liberty" became known as the "Rebellious Stripes." On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty protested the parliament's Tea Act, an action that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The colonists' believed the tax to be a violation of their legitimate economic liberty. Three and a half years after the Tea Party the thirteen colonies had come together in their decision to fight for independence and the nine stripes had grown to thirteen. The Sons of Liberty would rally under a large tree which became known as "The Liberty Tree".

 The Taunton Flag

 The Taunton  The Sons of Liberty were in the habit of meeting under a large tree (most village greens had one), which was called the "Liberty Tree". In cities or towns that lacked a tree big enough, the rebels would erect a tall pole as a symbolic tree. This flag was raised on one such "Liberty Pole" in Taunton, Massachusetts on October 21, 1774.

 First Navy Jack of the U.S.

 First Navy Jack  The earliest of the national "rattlesnake flags", this one flew over the Continental Navy's flagship ship, the ALFRED, in January, 1776.  Commodore Esek Hopkins raised this flag to signal his fleet to attack the enemy.
Today, the only US Navy ship authorized to fly this flag is the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Kitty Hawk.

 Bunker Hill Flag

 Bunker Hill  

On the night of June 16-17, 1775, the Americans fortified Breed's and Bunker Hills overlooking Boston Harbor. Although they had not officially declared their independence, a fight was underway. When the British advanced up the slope the next day they saw an early New England flag, possibly a red or blue banner. Many early Colonial flags had been made by altering the English flag and most still contained a reference to the mother country. This was an example that the Colonists still saw themselves as British subjects but were declaring their right to be free from violation of their liberties.

 Continental Flag

 The Continental  This flag uses a version of the British Red Ensign or Meteor flag with a green New England Pine tree substituted for the Union flag in the canton. The Continental flag is believed to have been carried at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  Sometimes referred to as the New England Battle Flag.

 Pine Tree Flag

 The Pine Tree  


Contrary to what many think, this isn't a revolutionary flag, but was in use a hundred years before then, as a symbol of New England in general and Massachusetts in particular. This flag was in use 1775-1777. It was officially adopted by the Massachusetts Navy in April 1776. It flew over the floating batteries which sailed down the Charles River to attack British-held Boston. This flag is the jack form of the "Bunker Hill" flag. On October 20, 1775, Colonel Joseph Reed, Washington's military secretary, recommended that this flag be put into general usage so that American ships could recognize one another. The "Pine Tree Flag" is a generic name for a number of flags used by Massachusetts and by New England from 1686 to 1776.


 Washington's Crusiers Naval Flag

 Washington's Crusiers  This flag was used by George Washington on his own personal navy of six schooners which he outfitted at his own expense in the fall of 1775. Ever the diplomat, Washington choose the New England Pine Tree motif as a symbol of unity and solidarity between the northern and southern colonies.  It was later modified and adopted by the Massachusetts Navy. The Sons of Liberty would rally under a large tree, in Boston Massachusetts, which came to be known as "The Liberty Tree". This tree became a symbol of American independence. Knowing they were up against a great military power they believed they were sustained by still a greater power, thus their "APPEAL TO HEAVEN".

 George Washington's Commander in Cheif Flag

 Washington's Commander in Cheif  This flag was flown by General Washington during his winter encampment at Valley Forge. General Washington had a personal protection guard called the "Life Guard". It consisted of a few hand picked men from each colony and this special guard carried these colors. It has been suggested that these colors may have been the origin of the field of stars in our stars and stripes flag.

 Green Mountian Boys Flag

 The Green Mountian Boys  On August 16, 1777 the "Green Mountain Boys" fought under General Stark at the Battle of Bennington. It's green field represented their name and the thirteen white stars a tribute to the thirteen colonies. A notable victory of the Green Mountain Boys under Ethan Allen, occurred on the morning of May 10, 1775, when they silently invaded the British held Fort Ticonderoga and demanded its surrender "In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress". The captured cannon and mortars were transported across the snow covered mountains of New England and their installation on the heights over Boston Harbor enabled Washington to force the British to leave that important seaport.

 The Serapis Flag

 The Serapis  On September 23, 1779, after his famous quote: "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight", Captain John Paul Jones boarded the British frigate Serapis after the most famous Revolutionary naval battle, and raised this flag known as the "Serapis flag". From the Serapis, Capt. Jones and the American crew watched their ship, the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard sink into the North Sea.

 Fort Moultrie Flag

 Fort Moultrie  

This flag was carried by Colonel William Moultrie's South Carolina Militia on Sullivan Island in Charleston Harbor on June 28, 1776. The British were defeated that day which saved the south from British occupation for another two years.
Some versions of this flag have the word "LIBERTY" in the crescent moon.
The South Carolina state flag still contains the crescent moon from this Revolutionary flag.

 The Gadsen

 The Gadsen  

This flag was first used by Commodore Esek Hopkins, the first Commander in Chief of the New Continental Fleet, when his ships put to sea for the first time in February, 1776. Flags with the symbol of the rattlesnake were very popular in Rhode Island at this time. Colonel Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina copied this flag and presented it to the Continental Congress.

 The Culpeper Minute Men Flag

 The Culpeper Minute Men  This flag represented a group of about one hundred minutemen from Culpeper, Virginia. The group formed part of Colonel Patrick Henry's First Virginia Regiment of 1775. In October-November 1775 three hundred such minutemen, led by Colonel Stevens, assembled at Culpeper Court House and marched for Williamsburg. Their unusual dress alarmed the people as they marched through the country. The word "LIBERTY OR DEATH" were in large white letters on the breast of their hunting shirts. They had bucks' tails in their hats and in their belts, tomahawks and scalping knives.

 The Commodore Perry Flag

 Commodore Perry  During the War of 1812, this flag flew aboard Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship "Lawrence" while commanding an American squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. Perry had named his ship after Captain James Lawrence, the hero of an earlier sea battle off New England whose dying words were "Don't Give Up The Ship".

 The Star Spangled Banner

 The Star Spangled Banner  The "Star-Spangled Banner" was flying above FT. McHenry at Baltimore when the British attacked on September 13, 1814. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer from Washington had gone aboard a British ship seeking the release of a friend held prisoner. He was detained throughout the night. The sight of the American flag still flying over the fortress the next morning inspired Key to write what, in 1931, became our National Anthem. The original FT. McHenry flag is displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. This design, born with the second flag act on January 13, 1794, is our only official flag ever to have more than thirteen stripes.

 The Alamo Flag

 1824 Alamo  On March 6, 1836, the Mexican army under General Santa Anna breached the walls of the Alamo at San Antonio, Texas, after thirteen days of continuous assaults. Jim Bowie, Davey Crockett, and William Travis were among the 187 defenders who died that morning. All were avenged six weeks later when Sam Houston, with the cry "Remember the Alamo," defeated Santa Anna and established the independence of the Texas Republic. This flag was used from 1824 until the 1830's.

 The Gonzles Banner of 1835

 Gonzles Banner of 1835  The cannon was given to the settlers in Gonzales on March 10, 1831 by the Mexican government to protect themselves from indian raids. In September of 1835 Mexican Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, under orders from Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, sent five soldiers to Gonzales to retreive the cannon. The settlers had no intention of surrendering the cannon. To them it was vital for their defense against indian raids. The Texians arrested the five soldiers when they arrived with demands for the cannon. When news of this reached Col. Ugartechea he dispatched sent 100 men under Lt. CastaƱeda to capture the cannon. The Texians resisted this order at the Battle of Gonzales. They defeated the small number of Mexican troops and kept their cannon.
The cannon later went on to serve as one of the artillery pieces at the Battle of the Alamo. This cannon fought along side these brave men in one of the most important battles in Texas history.