John Paul Jones Flag First Stars and Stripes 1777
John Paul Jones Flag First Stars And Stripes
The Gadsden Flag The Grand Union
The Gadsden Flag The Grand Union

 Click "read more" to find out all about America's First Flags.


John Paul Jones

September 23rd, 1779

When the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the Navy in 1775, the British had 10 times more warships. Capturing British merchant vessels and disrupting commerce was a key element of American strategy, and it proved exceptionally effective. In one of the most famous naval engagements of all time, John Paul Jones, sailing off the east coast of England, attacked two British frigates, the SERAPIS and COUNTESS OF SCARBROUGH, which were escorting a convoy of merchant ships. Jones was heavily out-gunned and the battle lasted over 31/2 hours. The Americans lashed their ship alongside the SERAPIS and the naval engagement became a fierce hand-to-hand battle. Over 300 Americans were lost. As his ship was sinking, Jones answered a British call for surrender with the immortal words: "I have not yet begun to fight!" and rallied his men to win a decisive victory. Transferring his crew to the captured SERAPIS as the BONHOMME RICHARD went down, Jones sailed into a Dutch harbor, flying this distinctive flag.


First Stars and Stripes


For over a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States did not have an official flag. Meeting in Philadelphia in June, the Continental Congress declared: "Resolved that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation." No guidelines, however, were provided for the arrangement of the stars, and an amazing number of variations were created. Perhaps the most popular was to arrange the stars in a circle or wreath. Credit for this design is usually -and mistakenly- given to Betsy Ross. In fact no clear author of the "first" American flag can be identified, and the Betsy Ross legend was created by the grandson nearly 100 years after the Congressional resolution. Francis Hopkinson represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence and designed seals for various departments of the government and may well have designed the first flag.


The Gadsden Flag


The uniquely American rattlesnake became a popular symbol in the American colonies and later for the young republic. In the first American cartoon, published in 1754 by Benjamin Franklin, the original 13 colonies were depicted as a snake divided into nine pieces, the head representing all of New England, over motto: "Join or Die." the image was a popular one used in many newspapers and journals. When fighting broke out, the rattlesnake, with and without the defiant slogan, appeared on money, uniforms and a variety of military and naval flags, reflecting the change among the American people from an era of disunity to one of resolve. As part of a committee of the Continental Congress, Christopher Gadsden was directing the preparation of ships for the American defense. To provide a striking standard for the flagship of the first Commodore of the American Navy, Gadsden chose the rattlesnake for his design. Later he presented the design to south Carolina's Provincial Congress, who ordered the elegant standard hung in their meeting hall.


The Grand Union

First Flag of the United States 1776

General Washington and his men were advancing on the British in Boston when on January 1st, 1776, Washington personally raised this new flag design. It replaced a variety of regimental flags, most notably a solid red flag that the British considered an outrageous emblem of the American defiance to their rule. Because of the "Union Jack" design included in this flag, the British interpreted the flag as a gesture of conciliation. However, in the ensuing battle several days later, the Americans captured the high ground west of Boston and had the British completely surrounded. The British abandoned the city and set sail for Nova Scotia.

The Grand Union flag was also the first flag recognized as American by a foreign power. As an American ship loaded with gun powder left the port at the Caribean island of St. Croix, then a Danish possession, the ship fired the customary cannon salute to the fort protecting the harbor. As a British spy who was witness to the event reported to London: "The vessel went out under American colours, saluted the fort, and teh compliment was returned the same as if she had been an English or Danish ship!"



America's First Flags Trivia

1. Which flag was the first to be recognized as an American flag by a foreign power.

The Grand Union 

2. Which flag was named for a member of the Continental congress and chosen to represent the flaship of the first Commodore of the American Navy?

Gadsden Flag

3. Which flag was created from a declaration of the Continental Congress ordering the establishment of an official flag?

First Stars and Stripes

4. This flag has 13 stripes in alternating red and white and 13 stars against a blue background. Why is this flag famous?

First Stars and Stripes. This is the first flag of America that corresponded to the requirements of the Second Continental Congress.

5. Onboard for one of the most famous naval engagements during the American Revolution, this flag is also known as the Serapis flag, after the British ship that was captured during the battle.

John Paul Jones

6. Feauturing a Union Jack design, this flag was brought into battle against the British by George Washington in 1776.

The Grand Union 

7. Which flag was named for a famous naval fighter in the American Revolution.

John Paul Jones

8. This flag features a rattlesnake, a popular symbol at the time for the American colonies. Who was the first person to use a snake to represent the American Colonies?

Gadsden Flag. Benjamin Franklin created our first political cartoon with the segmented snake repersenting the American Colonies with the title "JOIN OR DIE" in 1754



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