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Title: The History of the First United States Flag

Author: J. Franklin Reigart

Release date: January 31, 2016 [eBook #51088]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Emmy, MWS and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


The History of the First United States Flag

Cover: History of the First United States Flag











By Col. J. Franklin Reigart,
Author of the “Life of Robert Fulton.”






IN 1824, when General Lafayette arrived at Philadelphia, and was nobly welcomed as “The Nation’s Guest,” the writer of this book was staying several weeks at the hospitable home of his amiable and kind relative, Mrs. Betsy Ross. The arrival of Lafayette excited and brightened her extraordinary memory, as she very cheerfully entertained all her friends, by relating the most interesting facts of the Revolution, and its Flag of Victory. Her words we well remember. She objected, as a member of the society of “Friends,” to sit for her portrait, nevertheless, a miniature of her in crayon was made, and is now highly prized; and at this late day, we deem it our duty to publish the true history of the origin of the first Flag of our Country, and the patriotism of America’s most illustrious Heroine.

The BRAVEST of the brave demands our song,
Who made the Flag so firm and strong,
Of all earth’s emblems the brightest diadem,
The Freemen’s shield, the Patriot’s gem.

Listen to her thrilling, cheering voice, her soul-inspiring, martial song, whilst a dozen of the ladies of her household joined in the chorus, as she handed over each Flag to the gallant troops, on their way to camp, and roused their enthusiasm to the highest pitch. The ladies of the Revolution loved her for her magnanimous and modest Quaker deportment, and the army of Washington applauded her dignified admonitions, so full of patriotism and power of song. Quakers very[iv] seldom sing, but Betsy Ross always said, “My voice shall be devoted to God and my country, and whenever the spirit moves me, I’ll sing and shout for liberty!”—and with an enthusiasm for Independence, exhibiting a spirit power, only to be equalled by absolute phrensy, she waved her Flag aloft, and she did sing to the gallant volunteers, the


“Come on, my hearts of temper’d steel,
Away! away! to arms!!
No foreign slaves shall give us law,
No British tyrants reign;
’Tis Independence makes us free,
And Freedom we’ll maintain.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white and blue,
To conquest we will go.
“A soldier is a gentleman,
His honor is his life,
And he that won’t stand by his Flag,
Will ne’er stand by his Wife.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white and blue,
To conquest we will go.
“Then hark! to arms! to arms!! to arms!!!
’Tis the time that tries men’s souls!
The rising world shall sing of you,
A Thousand Years to come,
And to your children’s children TELL
The Wonders you have done.
When to conquest you did go! did go! did go!
With the red, white and blue,
To conquest you did go.”


Many inspired songs (after the close of the war for American Independence) were carried home by Gen. Lafayette, (the companion of Washington,) Rochambeau, and many of the French engineers and soldiers, on their return to France, having proved their chivalry and united their hearts, blood, songs and arms with Americans, for the liberties of America; and, but for the “War Song” of Betsy Ross, the “Marseillaise Hymn” would not have been written by Rouget de Lille, a French officer of engineers, in 1791. Marshal Luckner commanded the French Revolutionary army at that time on their march from Marseilles to Paris; that whole army became phrensied by the words of the “War Songs” of American Independence, that they had helped to gain, and Rouget de Lille caught the inspiratory words, “And hark, away to arms! to conquest we will go!” and quickly composed the song that he entitled the “Chant de Guerre de l’ Armée du Rhin,” the “War Song of the Army of the Rhine,” which the Parisians, some years afterwards, named the “Hymne des Marseillaise.” Thus the “War Song of Independence” became combined, in word and spirit, in the “Marseillaise Hymn,” and has ever since enlivened the march of the armies of France to conquest and played an important part in the revolutions, not only of France, but of other Continental States.

In 1870, William J. Canby, Esq., (the grandson of Mrs. John Ross,) of Philadelphia, read before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a very interesting paper on the subject of the “Centennial Anniversary of the American Flag,” in which he stated that his maternal grandmother, “Betsy Ross,” was the first maker of the “Stars and Stripes.” She lived in Arch street at the time, and continued in the business of making Flags for many years.






MISS ELIZABETH GRISCOM was born 1742, in Philadelphia, and was married in 1762 to Mr. John Ross, a merchant of that city. She was a strict member of The Society of Friends, and by them always called “Betsy Ross.” She was unsurpassed in fine needlework, and well known throughout Philadelphia and New York cities as the most artistic upholstress in America. She used the most superior, richest and finest of imported embroidered velvets, satins, silks and woolens, that were brought to this country by the packet ships of Caleb and Thomas Cope, Boyd & Reed, and John Ross, agreeably to her express orders; and she had a dozen or more of her sisters, daughters and nieces constantly employed sewing and finishing variegated needlework, in the very best manner, as she directed them; and thus no other upholsterer could possibly compete with her. She was a natural artist, an inventive genius, who fully understood the best effects of complimentary colors, and the grandeur of the primary colors; yet, strange as it may appear, though one of the plainest of “Quakers,” she invariably used cloths of the very brightest, and in every instance the primary colors combined, so as to be distinguished from all other objects, and she quickly judged and comprehended the styles that would best please her customers. Her brilliant draperies and tri-colored curtains, in the public halls, hotel parlors, and drawing rooms, were greatly admired; whilst General Washington, General Hand, Thomas Mifflin, George Clymer, Jared[2] Ingersoll, J. Koch, Gouveneur Morris, Robert Morris, Judge James Wilson, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, Joseph Wilson, Caleb and Thomas Cope, Thomas Wilson, Timothy Matlack, James Trimble, and William Shippen, are some of the names on her store-books, as her generous and kind friends and patrons, whose heirs still possess beautiful curtains and magnificent quilts of variegated silks and satins, unsurpassed, at this day, for beauty of utility, justness of composition, that none but a perfect artist could produce; and the constant use of materials of primary colors were her praise, excellence, and fame.

Colonel George Ross, (a member of the Continental Congress,) and James Trimble, (afterwards Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania,) were her brothers-in-law, and through their suggestions, she adorned, with drapery, the Hall of Congress, and the Governor’s reception room. Her upholstery in the ladies’ cabins and state rooms of Caleb and Thomas Cope’s packet ships was unrivalled and not equalled by the state rooms of the European packets; whilst from the topmasts of Cope’s packets, her waving red, white, and blue STREAMERS made glad the travelers of the seas, several years before the Revolution of 1776. Some of the theatres and public halls of Philadelphia were embellished and decorated with curtains of white, mazarine, and scarlet velvets and silks in waves, festoons, and pendents, and in many instances the curtains were embroidered with gold and silver figures of vines, leaves, and stars that glittered with superb brilliancy, whilst the curtains were invariably supported by a golden spread eagle, with lightning darts in its talons and a silvery olive branch in its beak; and these were the original and wonderful handiwork of Betsy Ross. She could not think of or invent anything brighter or more graceful than her most celebrated gay and glittering primary colored curtains, spangled with stars and supported by a golden eagle, that already ornamented and adorned the interior of the chief Halls of the land. They were her[3] daily delight and divinely brilliant dreams by night. With her scissors she cut the form of a small shield, upon which she sewed five-pointed stars and tri-colored stripes, in imitation of General Washington’s coat-of-arms, which embraced stars and pales upon his escutcheon; this shield she fastened upon the eagle’s breast; and, inspired with one bright thought, she seized her meritorious daily work, flung it to the breeze, hung it “UPON THE OUTER WALLS,” and the Freemen of Columbia cheered, and hailed it “The Flag of the Union!” And that one independent FLING made all the people King!

At the request of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Robert Morris and Col. George Ross, she designed and made the first Flag of the United States, consisting of thirteen red and white stripes, a blue field as a square, on the left and upper corner, and upon the blue field was a spread eagle, with thirteen stars, in a circle of rays of glory, surrounding its head, and the United States Seal was afterwards made from the same design of the United States Flag, viz: A red, white and blue shield on the breast of an American Eagle, holding in its talons an olive branch and thirteen arrows; in its beak a scroll inscribed with this motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” and above its head thirteen stars arranged in a circle of glory. These designs were approved and adopted by the Committee and Congress, and they were made before the words “United States of America,” were legally used. The country was called “Columbia,” the Congress was styled the “Continental Congress,” the States were called “Colonies,”; every petition sent to the King of Great Britain, and every public document, were issued by “The North American Colonies;” our Country had no name until Betsy Ross marked upon her Flags, “The United States of America.” Dr. Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had been appointed (December, 1775, by Congress, a Secret Committee) to prepare a Flag, and a device for a Seal for the Colonies, and Dr.[4] Rittenhouse was requested by the Committee, to engrave the Seal corresponding with the eagle on the Flag.

On the 4th day of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was finished and signed, and the Rev. Dr. Duché, Chaplain of Congress, had offered up his celebrated “Prayer of Independence,” the Star Spangled Banner was unfurled, and emblazoned the Hall of Independence, and hung around the spire of the Old State House Bell, as it sounded its tones of warning beyond the city limits, re-echoed across the Delaware, and proclaimed the liberty of the land, amidst the thundering shouts of Freemen, the roaring of cannons, musketry, firearms, and bonfires; then the Secret Committee, Franklin, Jefferson and Adams, was publicly announced by the President of Congress, and the Seal (already made) of the “United Colonies,” was used that day. Aye! the Flags waved, the Seal was engraved, and the thirteen “United States of America” were saved.

The Flag was afterwards adopted by Congress, June 14, 1777, and September 15, 1789, they passed the act, that “The Seal heretofore used by the ‘United Colonies’ in Congress assembled, shall be the Seal of the ‘United States;’” and for his beautiful workmanship in engraving that seal, Dr. Rittenhouse was honored with the appointment of Director of the United States Mint; and Franklin styled Rittenhouse, “the Newton of America.”

Mrs. Ross also engaged Mr. George Barrett, (of Cherry near Third street, Philadelphia,) an ornamental painter, and accomplished artist, to paint upon the blue fields of one dozen silk Flags, a gilded bald-headed spread eagle, with thirteen silvered stars encircling its head in rays of glory, which were executed in the finest artistic style, for the use of Congress and General Washington’s army; they were always much admired, and daily used until worn out; and, Betsy Ross also directed Mr. Barrett to ornament the army drums with the same[5] design of the eagle and thirteen stars, and the letters “United States of America,” that gave great delight and spirit to the drummers, to such an extent that Mr. Barrett was kept busy ornamenting flags, flagstaffs, and drums for Washington’s army. The committee of Congress were so much pleased with the design of the eagle and thirteen stars that they concluded to adopt and use it for the “National Seal” exclusively; but, Betsy Ross, Col. George Ross, and Lieut. Paul Jones earnestly protested against despoiling the Flag by leaving out and omitting the eagle, and declared that the Army might, if they choose, have the stars only, but as for the Navy they would never give up the Bald Eagle, the conquerer of all birds, belonging only to America; and from that day to this the bald eagle of America spreads its wings upon the Flags of the United States Revenue vessels as the emblem of freedom, independence, liberty, power, empire, and victory.

From that time our beautiful Flag was composed of thirteen stars and stripes. The red stripes were emblematic of fervency and zeal; the white, of integrity and purity; the blue field with stars, of unity, power, and glory. The number thirteen was symbolical of the thirteen colonial states, that severed their allegiance from the sovereignty of Great Britain, and declared, in 1776, that they were free and independent powers.

The size of the Flag of the army is six feet six inches in length, by four feet four inches in width, with seven red and six white stripes. The first seven stripes, (four red and three white,) bound the square of the blue field for the stars, the stripes extending from the extremity of the field to the end of the Flag. The eighth stripe is white, extending partly at the base of the field.

According to the act of Congress, April 4, 1818, on the admission of every new State into the Union, a star was to be added to the galaxy of the most brilliant Banner of earth.


Mrs. Betsy Ross put all her household to work in earnest, and the “Flags,” made of silk and bunting, were not only admired, but afterwards approved and adopted by the committee of Congress. General George Washington, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, frequently visited her store, to see what progress she was making, and were not only pleased, but expressed their astonishment at her dexterity and judgment, and in the most flattering terms complimented her for her remarkable skill with the SCISSORS, as she folded a piece of white silk and with one cut formed the beautiful five-pointed star.

Mrs. Ross, by order of the Government, continued making the army and navy Flags of the United States for upwards of fifty-five years, and after her death, in 1832, her daughter, Mrs. Clarissa S. Wilson continued the business, and they became generally and widely known as the most patriotic ladies of America. After the death of Mr. John Ross, she was married to Mr. John Claypoole, the grandson of Sir John Claypoole, the grandson of Oliver Cromwell, who came to Philadelphia with William Penn. She afterwards moved from Arch near Third street, to Second street near Dock, where she resided until her death, at the good old age of four score years and ten.

Mrs. Betsy Ross was of medium height, strong in form, but remarkably graceful and erect; she had a handsome face, a very fair transparent complexion, projecting eyebrows, blue sparkling eyes, and light brown hair. She was a perfect “Friend” in all her speech and movements; possessed of the most refined sprightly intellect and polished education; in fact she was well known throughout the whole of Philadelphia city, as a “sharp, thorough going woman.” First in Friends’ Meeting, where the spirit moved her to speak and to act; First amidst the Daughters of Benevolence, furnishing clothing and lint for the Continental troops, scattering printed patriotic songs and appeals amongst them; and First and most effective in her attentions to the[7] sick. She was, in truth, what her friends styled her, “A Healing Medium,”—but respected and esteemed by all the physicians and surgeons of Philadelphia, as “the true Friend of the sick,” for when her hand touched and bathed the burning fevered brow of the sick soldier, he knew that he had one friend, and that friend was a true one. Whenever she entered the sick chamber, she saturated her handkerchief with vinegar, (that she carried in a phial in her pocket, as a precaution against contagion,) and after wiping her forehead, lips and hands, she quietly approached the bedside of the afflicted invalid, and placing her hand upon his forehead, she would whisper these words, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I pray that your health may be restored,” and then she would administer the medicines and restoratives as directed by the visiting physicians; and her angelic nature, purer than that of Jeanne Dare, was the powerful agency of health. She was the worthiest Heroine of the Revolution.

During the frightful devastation caused by the yellow fever in 1793, Mrs. Betsy Ross was most active in alleviating the terrible miseries of that epidemic. Moved with sorrow at the sufferings of others, she carried not only her own life in her hands, but medicines to relieve the sick and dying. Day and night she ceased not; whilst her angelic visits were cheered with success. Her personal perfections irresistably commanded the admiration and love of the sick and afflicted to such a degree, that the celebrated Dr. Benjamin Rush, styled her the “Magical Quakeress.” They who would not now honor, esteem, and love the name of Betsy Ross do not deserve to enjoy the protection of the glorious starry Flag of the Union, in the land of the free and home of the brave, or in any land upon earth where the Flag of the Union waves. Her biography will ornament the brightest pages of our country’s history, and her STATUE, surrounded by a group of her daughters and nieces, cutting, sewing and making the “Star Spangled Banners,”[8] must soon grace the Capitol of our nation, and the patriotic Ladies of America will design, erect, and pay for it. Yes, the friend of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Morris, Jones, Rittenhouse, Ross, the immutable friend of Liberty, and of the soldiers of the Independence of 1776, will forever live in the hearts of all freemen.




PAUL JONES, the bravest of Naval Commanders, was born at Selkirk, Scotland, 1730, and came to America about 1770, to fight the battles of Liberty and Independence. He was styled “The Washington of the Seas,” “The deadliest foe of Cowards.” Lieutenant Paul Jones and Mrs. Elizabeth Ross, of Philadelphia, became intimate friends and neighbors, well known as the most zealous patriots in the cause of Independence, doing battle against tyrants and oppressors, and Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Franklin, John Adams, Dr. Rittenhouse and Robert Morris were their truest and most steadfast friends and patrons. Mrs. Ross designed and made the Flag that Lieutenant Jones hoisted upon the Flagship of War, in the Delaware bay. During the month of December, 1775, by the request and explicit orders of Dr. Franklin, Col. George Ross and Robert Morris, the three members of a Secret Committee of Congress, Lieutenant Jones was supplied with one of Mrs. Ross’ first and best Flags, the red white and blue emblem of Liberty, for which Congress paid. Afterward, for Jones’ brave honoring of that Flag, Congress awarded him $25,000 and a golden medal, and he was further complimented by an invitation to Paris, where the cross of military merit and a sword of honor were presented to him by the King of France, at the written request of our Congress, for his dauntless courage and his triumphant victory as the Captain of the “Richard,” with the first Flag of the Union, over the British Flag of the “Serapis.”


In January 1776, the following vessels were fitted out.

The “Alfred,” of thirty guns and three hundred men, Dudley Saltonstall, Captain, bearing the Pine Tree Flag, presented by the colony of Connecticut.

The “Columbus,” of twenty-eight guns and three hundred men, Abraham Whipple, Captain, bearing the Flag of the Red Cross of Saint George, presented by the Colony of Vermont.

The “Andrew Doria,” of eighteen guns and two hundred men, Nicholas Biddle, Captain, bearing the Flag of the White Cross of Saint Andrew, presented by the Philadelphians.

The “Cabot,” of fourteen guns and two hundred men, John W. Hopkins, Captain, bearing the Pine Tree white silk Flag from Connecticut.

The “Providence,” of twelve guns, bearing the Flag with the Cross of Saint Andrew, presented by Rhode Island.

The “Hornet,” of fourteen guns, bearing the yellow silk Flag of Virginia, with Rattlesnake.

The “Wasp,” eight guns, bearing the yellow silk Flag of South Carolina, with a Crescent, a Beaver and a Rattlesnake, with the motto, “Don’t tread on me.”

The Dispatch vessel “Fly,” bearing a blue Flag with Red Cross of Saint George.

E. Hopkins, was Commander-in-chief of the fleet, and John Paul Jones first lieutenant. Jones was offered the command of the sloop “Providence,” which he declined, declaring that he preferred to be “Chevalier Bannaret,” to hoist and carry the bald eagle, with glittering stars and stripes, on the flagship “Alfred,” and when the Commander-in-chief, E. Hopkins, came on board of her, January 1, 1776, Jones hoisted the American Union Flag, with his own hands, which was the first time it was ever displayed on a man-of-war, and[11] waving his navy cap swiftly overhead, shouted “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue! The Haughtiest of Monarchs shall bow before that Flag!!!” “Again, Three cheers for our Commander-in-Chief and the American Navy!!!” And thus he boldly evinced his lofty and chivalrous character, bravely assuming the responsibility, and his achievement of glorious deeds aided in the recognition of our Independence.

On the 14th day of February, 1778, the United States Flag was, for the first time, recognized in the fullest and completest manner by the Flag of France. Lieutenant Paul Jones, on board the brig “Independence,” at the entrance of Quiberon bay, sailed through the French fleet, commanded by Admiral La Motte Piquet, (who was keeping the coast of France clear of British cruisers,) and our National Emblem was most courteously complimented and saluted by nine guns. The American Flag was first carried around the world in 1789, by the “Columbia,” Captain Gray, of Boston, AND SALUTED IN EVERY PORT.




PRIOR to July 4th, 1776, various kinds of Flags were used. Mr. Endicott, Puritan Governor, aided in a religious crusade against the cross of St. George; he cut the cross from the Flag flying at Salem, and was tried for treason, but escaped on the ground that his act was not actuated by treasonable motives, but religious zeal.

About the first of January, 1776, the immortal Washington unfurled his Flag in compliment to the United Colonies, but it was so nearly like the British Flag, that the Bunker Hill patriots objected to it, because it was a blue Flag with the St. George and St. Andrew’s crosses combined; too much like the Flag of the Britons. Nearly every regiment had its own colony Flag. All sorts of devices, corresponding with the variegated coats of the Continental troops, or militia, scarcely two alike. They were styled “Colony Rebel Flags;” still, the “Colony Rebel Flags” were all used as rallying Flags, until they were eclipsed by the starry Flag, called “The Appeal to Heaven,”—“The Star Spangled Banner.”




TO General Putnam, desiring him in the most pressing terms, to give positive orders to all the Colonels to have “Union Colors” immediately completed for their respective regiments; and Colonel Kitzema received the two first regimental silk “stars and stripes” from the secret committee of Congress, through General Putnam, and Colonel Curtenieus; whilst the brilliant Banner of the Union floated from the top of Washington’s headquarters in New York City.

The real truth was, that previous to the “Declaration of Independence,” the leaders of our armies, the Governors of the thirteen colonies, and the Continental Congress were afraid to publicly unfurl an Independent Union Flag; even Washington’s combined crosses were discountenanced, disapproved of, and treated with indifference; but, the boldness of Colonel George Ross and John Ross, with the dashing, daring seamanship of Paul Jones, the firm patriotism, industry, and energy of that devoted friend of Independence, the Immortal Betsy Ross, who forced the “Flag of Liberty” forward, as true patriots of America, bid defiance to all Tory opposition, and flaunted the Stars and Stripes from the highest pinnacles of our land, the “Union Standard,” that was never styled a “Rebel Flag,” or Flag of any single Colony or State, but was styled “The Appeal to Heaven,” made the cherished Flag of Independence, the triumphant Flag of Earth!




THE Flag of Virginia was a rattlesnake with blue tongue forked like lightning, and with thirteen rattles, looking like a fierce Anaconda coiled, but with head and tail up, painted on white silk, having the motto, “Don’t tread on me!” It was considered as an emblem of wisdom, and of endless duration as a representative of America, an animal found in no other part of the world. The eye of this creature excels in brightness that of any other animal; it has no eyelids and is therefore an emblem of vigilance. It never begins an attack nor ever surrenders, it is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. It never wounds until it has given notice to its enemies of their danger. Its wounds, however small, are decisive and fatal. The power of fascination attributed to it resembles America. Those who look steadily in its eyes are delighted, and involuntarily advance toward, and having once approached it, never leave it.




AT the battle of Yorktown, October 19, 1781, the French troops triumphantly carried our American Stars and Stripes, with the spread eagle on the blue field, for the eagle was their adoration, and they stormed the redoubts, led on by the chivalric and heroic Generals Muhlenberg and Lafayette, who immediately hoisted that Flag upon the turret of the fortifications. The instant that Lord Cornwallis spied it, he was terror stricken. The waving of that Flag compelled him to surrender; for that Flag was the proclamation of Victory! and IT ended the war in a blaze of glory.


The Flag with its Message.


WHEREVER the Flag of Betsy Ross went, it waved majestically and above suspicion; no temptation or opposition could deter it, for her godly prayer went with it, and upon every Flag she forwarded, she pinned her printed message, viz: “Every man that is against this Flag is a Traitor.” Aye! where the battle was the hottest, and amidst the hail of fire where the bullets fell the fastest and thickest, that Flag cheered the wounded and dying patriots to shout “Fight on! Fight on! Fight on!” And when the brave Commander Lawrence saw that the Flag on his Frigate still waved, though wounded and dying, he cried out, in these immortal words, “Don’t give up the ship!”

On the 28th of June, 1776, the British Fleet and Army of Sir Henry Clinton commenced their furious “Attack on Fort Moultrie,” but, one circumstance serves to illustrate the daring, enthusiastic courage and love for the Flag of Independence which pervaded the American Troops. In the course of the engagement, the Flag staff of the Fort was shot away, followed by peals of derision from the minions of the Fleet, but Sergeant Jasper leaped down upon the beach, snatched up the Flag, fastened it to a sponge-staff, and while the ships were incessantly directing their broadsides upon the Fort, he mounted the merlon and deliberately replaced the Flag, shouting “IT STILL FLIES!” That warrior’s shout was echoed by the Garrison, and suddenly checked Sir Henry’s derision. The British Fleet and Army were greatly mortified by the flying Stars and Stripes, and[17] were terribly repulsed by the brave defence of Fort Moultrie, whilst the whole Garrison were fiercely echoing and re-echoing the shout—“IT STILL FLIES!!” The news of this undaunted intrepidity and exulting victory spread throughout the continent, and Sergeant Jasper was honorably promoted by Congress for his unparalleled heroism. Yes, thank God, our Flag “IT STILL FLIES,” and never can be conquered.




AT the Centennial Celebration and World’s Exhibition at the city of Philadelphia, 1876, “The Flags of all Nations” waved from the highest pinnacles, but the flashing, glittering “Star Spangled Banner” far outshone them all; like a mighty flame of Liberty flying through the skies, it blazed and waved, streamed and flew as the victorious Starry Banner of the Firmament, proclaiming by its expanding, snapping, cracking, sharper, louder sounds, the establishment of Freedom, Liberty, Independence, and the Union of the World! whilst in every house its graceful folds protected each and all in their own religious, family worship; the household Idol of Peace that ever and anon, silently wafted every daily prayer and song of praise, to the God of our Fathers, the true and holy Creator of the Universe.




THE following are copies of some of the printed Songs and Appeals that Betsy Ross circulated and distributed with her own hands in the streets of Philadelphia, and from the front door of her Flag store and depot, to the troops on their way to Washington’s camp:


“Come on, my hearts of temper’d steel,
And leave your girls and farms,
Your sports, and plays, and holidays,
And hark, away to arms!
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the flag of the brave,
To conquest we will go.
A soldier is a gentleman,
His honor is his life,
And he that won’t stand by his flag,
Will ne’er stand by his wife.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.
For love and honor are the same,
Or else so ne’er ally’d,
That neither can exist alone,
But flourish side by side.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
[20]To conquest we will go.
So fare you well sweethearts awhile,
You smiling girls adieu,
Ye made this starry flag divine,
We’ll kiss it out with you.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.
The sun is up, our banner shines,
The hills are green and gay,
And all inviting honor calls,
Away! my boys, away!
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.
In shady tents by cooling streams,
With hearts all firm and free,
We’ll shout the freedom of the land,
In songs of liberty!
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.
No foreign slaves shall give us law,
No British tyrants reign,
’Tis Independence made us free,
And Freedom we’ll maintain.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.
We’ll charge the foe from post to post,
Attack their works and lines,
And with the stars and stripes aloft,
We’ll capture their Burgoynes.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
[21]To conquest we will go.
And when the war is over, boys,
Then down we’ll sit at ease,
Protected by the freemen’s flag,
And live just as we please.
When from conquest we shall go! shall go! shall go!
With the red, white, and blue,
From conquest we shall go.
Each hearty lad shall take his lass,
All beaming like a star,
And in her softer arms forget,
The dangers of the war.
When to conquest we did go! did go! did go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we did go.
And to their children’s children tell
The WONDERS WE have done.
When to conquest we did go! did go! did go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we did go.
So honest fellows here’s my hand,
My heart, my very soul,
With all the joys of Liberty,
Good fortune and a bowl.
And to conquest we will go! will go! will go!
With the red, white, and blue,
To conquest we will go.”



“My lads, you say you are going to fight for Liberty! these are words in everybody’s mouth, but few understand their real meaning. Liberty is not a power to do what we please and have what we desire; this may be the Liberty of a wolf or of a beast of prey, but is not the Liberty of a man considered as a member of society. True Liberty is the being governed by laws of our own making; the inhabitants of every country to choose persons from amongst themselves, in whom they can confide; which persons so elected shall make laws to bind the whole. True Constitutional Liberty is the Liberty for which we are now contending, and may God in his blessings grant this to us all.

“Now, the King of England, has sent over fleets and armies to compel us to give up this invaluable privilege into his hands; but with the blessings of God, we will maintain it against him and all the world, so long as we have a man left to fire a musket. Let our constant prayer be God and Liberty.

“Our Congress have hitherto conducted us with wisdom and integrity, and although in some instances it may be thought they might have managed better than they have done, yet they have piloted us in safety through a tempestuous ocean, to the present period; and so God save the American Congress!”



“My lads, I would speak a few words of the General and his Army, now encamped on the banks of the Schuylkill, enduring all the hardships of their homely situation with cheerful patience; and what is it think you blunts the keen edge of the northern winds, and makes content smile on the tops of frozen hills? I will tell you, it is the love of that “Liberty” I have sat before you, it is the consciousness of the justice of our cause. I suppose when you think of our incomparable General Washington, you figure to yourselves a stout, bulky man, of a terrible countenance, covered with gold lace, living in a magnificent house and having a great train of attendants around him. You are quite mistaken; he neither has nor needs any external ornaments. Would you hang farthing candles around the Sun to increase his lustre? His glory will admit of no addition. Your General is a plain man, plain in his dress and frugal at his board; yet a native dignity will command your respect, and the affability of his manners win your love. He is brave without ostentation; magnificent without pomp; and accomplished without pride. He is an honor to the human race and the Idol of America. And so God save General Washington and his Army.”


The Immortal Francis S. Key.


ON the night of September 15, 1814, whilst the British fleet, under the command of the English Admiral Cochrane, were bombarding Fort M’Henry, at the city of Baltimore, Francis S. Key, was divinely inspired with the sublime sight of the glorious Banner of the Union still waving over the Fort, and a thousand times reflected, multiplying and increasing in splendor, in every stream of fire throughout the skies, every glare meeting every leaping wave of the billowy Chesapeake Bay, the heavens and waters together joined, each wave glaring with new admired light; but, when the Fort resisted all the efforts of the British ships-of-war, and forced the Admiral to retire, amidst the joyous exultation, the great shouts of the countless hosts of freemen, “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously!” “The Flag of the Union still triumphs!” Who? Oh! Who can imagine the feelings of Francis S. Key, as o’er his head the flying bombs sang terribly, spent their force in air, and roused all the internal powers of his poetic spirit, his inspired soul to sing still louder?

“Oh! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets red glare, and bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our Flag was still there.
Oh! say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
[25]O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Chorus—Oh! say, does the star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen thro’ the midst of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes;
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now, it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream;
’Tis the star spangled banner, oh! long may it wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Chorus—Oh! say, does the star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
’Mid the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country they’d leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave;
And the star spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Chorus—Oh! say, does the star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Oh! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land,
Praise the Power that made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust;”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Chorus—And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Transcriber’s Note: Obvious punctuation errors repaired.