The date was June 14th, 1777. General George Washington had spent a tough winter in Morristown, New Jersey, after his daring victory at Trenton on Christmas day. His forces had been reduced to around a thousand men after end-of-year enlistements had expired. More were coming, but they would be inexperienced, undisciplined and unreliable in battle.
The British were preparing a major spring offensive, in which General Burgoyne would invade through Canada, link up with General Howe and his army from New York, and cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. The Americans had nowhere near the troop strength to hold them back.
It was under these conditions that the Continental Congress, which had only recently returned to Baltimore after evacuating a few months before, decided on a symbol for the fledgling nation.
“Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation. ” (epicflags.com)
It would come to be called the Stars and Stripes. Initially adorned with thirteen stars for the first thirteen colonies, the field would grow as the country did, eventually reaching fifty.
“With the 50-star flag came a new design and arrangement of the stars in the union, a requirement met by President Eisenhower in Executive Order No. 10834, issued August 21, 1959. To conform with this, a national banner with 50 stars became the official flag of the United States. The flag was raised for the first time at 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 1960, at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland.” (epicflags.com)
To those who have worn the cloth of the nation, the flag came to symbolize more than a geographic union of states. It would represent a new, exciting country with a unique government and outlook – a nation based on the principle that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t just words or ideals for which we should strive, they are natural, God-given rights that they have sworn an oath to defend.
From AirForcewives.com: “The brilliant Henry Ward Beecher said: ‘A thoughtful mind when it sees a nation’s flag, sees not the flag, but the nation itself. And whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag, the government, the principles, the truths, the history that belong to the nation that sets it forth. The American flag has been a symbol of Liberty and men rejoiced in it.'”
So when you raise the flag on Sunday morning, I entreat you to remember the sacrifices that many good men and women have suffered to keep it flying. And as long as it does, as long as Americans are willing to risk their lives to protect what it represents, it will forever live up to its other name – Old Glory.
Flag Day is June 14th.