Hail the Red, White, and Blue!

Published 2:03 pm Monday, July 1, 2019

It’s Friday

(No recipe this week)

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By Peggy Walker, R.D.

We’re about to celebrate our nation’s 243rd birthday on the 4th of July! Seems just like yesterday we were celebrating our 200th. But time moves on, and thankfully, Old Glory continues to wave.

However, history records that our beloved banner evolved as did our nation. Time, people, countries, circumstances plus an overriding desire for freedom made our beautiful emblem what it is today. So, in honor of this another year of freedom, a history lesson in the flags of America.

The Viking Flag, with its black raven, was the first ever to have been raised on the North American continent, probably in Nova Scotia by Leif Ericson and his colony of 160 Norsemen.


Next Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and planted the two flags in North America on what was considered the shore of the western country, actually the island of San Salvador, on Oct. 12. The standard of Spain depicted two yellow castles and two red, crown-wearing lions; and Columbus’ personal banner, a white flag with a green cross that carried the initials of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella…a shout-out to his sponsors.

Columbus never realized the importance and the enormous consequences his voyages had on world history.

The English flag was first brought to America by John Cabot in 1497. John Smith and 144 others planted the Union Jack on what is now Virginia soil to form the Jamestown colony in May of 1607. And then the Pilgrims hoisted it at Plymouth in 1620. Disease and starvation nearly wiped out these early settlers, but eventually the colonies survived and America was well on its way.

Understandably, the colonists first used flags of their homeland, but a change was a’coming and it was evident as new flags appeared. In 1774 in Taunton, Massachusetts, a Red Union English flag was raised, but, with the addition of the buzzword of the day: LIBERTY. The colonists were beginning to express their desire for independence from England.

The Bedford Flag is one of the first flags carried into battle during the American Revolution. This one which depicted an armored arm wielding a drawn sword, cannonballs, and the inscription “Conquer or Die,” led the charge by Minutemen at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.  And seen at Bunker Hill on the night of June 16, 1775, was the Pine Tree Flag, often used by the New England colonies.

This flag copied an old blue English ensign with the addition of a green pine tree on the red cross in the upper left-hand corner.  Here the Patriots held their fire “until they could see the whites of their eyes.”

The British eventually took possession of Boston, but they felt the power of the Patriots.

The southern colonies came out with the Rattlesnake Flag, most likely prompted by an article written by Ben Franklin, suggesting retribution for the wrongs committed toward America. A coiled rattlesnake was poised on a yellow background, warning “don’t tread on me” on the first version of this flag hoisted on the battleship “Alfred” in 1775.

Later, Rattlesnake flags were adopted by the U.S. Navy.

Late in 1775 the Continental Congress met in Boston to discuss revolutionary issues.  After lengthy and heated discussions, they proposed a flag that would signify the colonies’ unity and military strength.

The Grand Union Flag, still with a little English influence evident, depicted crosses of St. George and Saint Andrew on a blue field with the colonies represented by thirteen red and white alternating stripes. It was officially hoisted by George Washington, on Jan. 2, 1776, at Cambridge, Mass., and remained our national flag until 1777.

The Stars and Stripes was the first flag authorized by the continental congress.  Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia upholsterer, was commissioned to sew the flag with 13 red and white stripes and 13 stars in a blue field to represent a new constellation.

This flag flew at Valley Forge, Yorktown, and was beside George Washington when he became President.  It stayed the same until 1795, when 2 more stars and stripes were added for Vermont and Kentucky.

It was this 15 stripe and star flag that inspired Frances Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner” as it flew over Fort McHenry in Maryland in 1814.  Later the stripes were set at 13 to acknowledge the original colonies and stars were added for each new state that joined the union.

Now 50 stars fill the constellation.  Each star…each state… with its own unique place in American history including periods of time under other flags – French, Spanish, Lonestar, and flags of the Confederacy are now all united under the stars and stripes – Our Old Glory.

The red stripes stand for courage, the white stripes for liberty and the field of blue for loyalty.  Be brave…be strong…be true and show your colors!

Happy 4th of July!