Historic Flags Flying at the Historic County Courthouse
Randolph County Government will be flying historic flags at the courthouse that have significance for our country and region.
Each flag will fly for approximately two weeks.
Washington Cruisers Flag
The Washington Cruisers Flag was flown on a squadron of 6 ships commissioned and personally outfitted by George Washington before the creation of the Continental Navy, in the fall of 1775 to patrol Massachusetts Bay. It is one of the earliest American Revolution Flags. The pine tree was a commonly used symbol to represent freedom in New England, while the phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" represented the colonist’s reliance on God in the face of the strongest military power on earth.
A famous letter dated October 20, 1775 from Col. Joseph Reed, an aide to General Washington at the time, describes the Washington Cruisers Flag that flew on the floating batteries. He is asking Col. Glover if he thinks the same flag would be a good flag to fly from the ships that were just commissioned. A portion of the letter reads as follows:
We have accounts that the small squadron which sailed some time ago is bombarding Fulmouth and Portsmouth. Our vessels must be careful how they fall in with them. Please to fix upon some particular colour for a flag, and a signal by which our vessels may know one another. What do you think of a flag with a white ground, a tree in the middle, the motto "Appeal to Heaven?" This is the flag of our floating batteries.
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.
Guilford Courthouse Flag
The Guilford Courthouse flag is the name given to a North Carolina militia banner which was reported to have flown at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse (March 15, 1781, Greensboro, North Carolina). The flag is recognizable by the reverse colors normally seen on American flags: red and blue stripes in the field with eight-pointed blue stars on an elongated white canton.
The unique colors and dimensions are sometimes described as showing a lack of uniformity in a young nation at war, with a poor infrastructure and bad communication. However, it was common practice during the Revolution for military units to carry flags that featured common American symbols (such as stripes and stars), but to make them uniquely identifiable for use as a company or regimental flag. As such, this flag was probably never intended for use as a national flag.
The original flag has been preserved since 1914 in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, NC. It measures 42 inches high and 100 inches on the fly. The canton is 35 inches high and 73 inches long. The stars are 8 inches in diameter and have eight points. It is considered the oldest surviving example of an American flag with eight-pointed stars.
Betsy Ross Flag
Betsy would often tell her children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends of the fateful day when three members of a secret committee from the Continental Congress came to call upon her. Those representatives, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, asked her to sew the first flag. This meeting occurred in her home sometime late in May 1776. George Washington was then the head of the Continental Army. Robert Morris, an owner of vast amounts of land, was perhaps the wealthiest citizen in the Colonies. Colonel George Ross was a respected Philadelphian and also the uncle of her late husband, John Ross.
Naturally, Betsy Ross already knew George Ross as she had married his nephew. Furthermore, Betsy was also acquainted with the great General Washington. Not only did they both worship at Christ Church in Philadelphia, but Betsy's pew was next to George and Martha Washington's pew. Her daughter recalled, "That she was previously well acquainted with Washington, and that he had often been in her house in friendly visits, as well as on business. That she had embroidered ruffles for his shirt bosoms and cuffs, and that it was partly owing to his friendship for her that she was chosen to make the flag."
In June 1776, brave Betsy was a widow struggling to run her own upholstery business. Upholsterers in colonial America not only worked on furniture but did all manner of sewing work, which for some included making flags. According to Betsy, General Washington showed her a rough design of the flag that included a six-pointed star. Betsy, a standout with the scissors, demonstrated how to cut a five-pointed star in a single snip. Impressed, the committee entrusted Betsy with making our first flag.
The presence of the George Washington's Commander-in-Chief Flag meant the Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington, was there. It saw every battle and location that the Commander-in-Chief did during the Revolutionary War. It is unique due to its six-pointed stars and was allegedly designed by Washington himself. It features a blue field with thirteen six-pointed stars. The stars were not in the typical fashion, but instead consist of three narrow lines crossing one another with the lines tapering off at the ends. The points on the stars are also not all pointing in the same direction. Some of them are pointing in random directions. These differences in the stars are the only inconsistencies between the Washington's Commander-in-Chief Flag flying at the Randolph County Historic Courthouse and the original.
Bonnie Blue Flag
In the spring of 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate dead. Additionally, the secretary of the association, Mrs. Charles J. (Mary Ann) Williams was directed to author a letter inviting the ladies in every Southern state to join them in the observance. Therefore, Confederate Memorial Day became an official holiday and/or observance day in the U.S. South as a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Eleven states officially observe Confederate Memorial Day: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. North Carolina observes the Confederate Memorial Day on May 10th, which is the date of the death of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson in 1863 and the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865.
In 1868, General John A. Logan, who was the commander in chief of the Union Civil War Veterans Fraternity called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), launched the Memorial Day holiday that is currently observed in the entire United States and is celebrated on the final Monday of May. According to General Logan's wife, he emulated the practices of the Confederate Memorial Day. She wrote that Logan said “it was not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South in perpetuating the memory of their friends who had died for the cause they thought just and right.”
The Bonnie Blue Flag was an unofficial banner of the Confederate States of America at the start of the American Civil War in 1861. It consists of a single, five-pointed white star on a blue field. It closely resembles the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida of 1810.
When the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, a flag bearing a single white star on a blue field was flown from the capitol dome. Harry Macarthy helped popularize this flag as a symbol of the Confederacy by writing the words to the popular song "The Bonnie Blue Flag" early in 1861. Some seceding southern states incorporated the motif of a white star on a blue field into new state flags.
In 2007 one of six known Bonnie Blue flags from the Civil War era was sold at auction for $47,800. The flag had been carried by the Confederate 3rd Texas Cavalry and later exhibited as part of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.
In the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell and the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler nicknames his newborn daughter "Bonnie Blue Butler" after Melanie Wilkes remarks that her eyes will be "as blue as the bonnie blue flag."
This flag is believed to be a version of the Moultrie Flag carried by Colonel William Moultrie's South Carolina Militia on Sullivan Island in Charleston Harbor on June 28, 1776. The "Moultrie" Flag was designed in 1775, and flew over Fort Sullivan (later named Ft. Moultrie) during the battle. In the 16 hour battle the flag was shot down, but Sergeant William Jasper ran out into the open, raising it and rallying the troops until it could be mounted again. Soon popularly known as either the Moultrie Flag or Liberty Flag, it became the standard of the South Carolina militia, and was presented in Charleston, by Major General Nathanael Greene, when that city was liberated at the end of the war. Greene described it as having been the first American flag to fly over the South. The crescent insignia was worn also on the caps of General Moultrie and his men.
The Moultrie Flag became the flag of the South Carolina "Minute Men" and the modern South Carolina State Flag still contains the crescent moon from this Revolutionary War flag.
A palmetto tree was added in 1861, also a reference to Moultrie's defense of Sullivan Island; the fortress he'd constructed had survived largely because the palmetto trees, laid over sand walls, were able to withstand British cannons.
General Robert E. Lee Headquarters Flag
Made for General Robert E. Lee by his wife, this unique banner became the symbol of his headquarters throughout the Civil War. It is a variation of the Stars and Bars, with a different star pattern. It is said that the pattern was a tribute to the Ark of the Covenant. It was used by Confederates to track Lee’s position on the field, which was often closer to the front lines then many of them were comfortable with. As the personal banner of the South’s brilliant top general, the original, upon which this is based, is preserved in the Museum of the Confederacy.
Grand Union Flag
The Grand Union Flag was first flown on the US Navy's first flagship, the USS Alfred, on December 3, 1775 by her First Lieutenant, John Paul Jones. It was later raised by George Washington on Prospect Hill near his headquarters at Cambridge during the Siege of Boston. Historians are divided about who designed the flag or how it came to be adopted by the Continental Army and Navy as the first American flag.
The Grand Union Flag consists of 13 alternating red and white
stripes, with a British Union Jack in the canton (the upper left
corner). It is also sometimes called the Continental Colors, the
Continental Union Flag, the Cambridge Flag, the Congress Flag,
the First Navy Ensign, the Somerville Flag, the Great Union Flag
or simply, the Union Flag.
The Bennington Flag: Used in the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, on August 16, 1777, by Vermont militia. This flag was the first to lead American armed forces on land. The original is preserved in the museum at Bennington, Vermont. There are seven white stripes instead of the usual six and only six red stripes, symbolic of the 13 American colonies. Another distinctive feature of the Bennington flag is the arrangement of the 13 stripes, with white being outermost (rather than red being outermost as in the current flag). Also, its stars have seven points each (instead of the current five) and the blue canton is wider (higher) than on other flags, spanning nine instead of seven of the thirteen stripes.
The Bennington version is easily identified by a large '76' in the canton, recalling the year 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
- County Administration
- Office Hours:
8am - 5pm M-F
- Randolph County Office Building 2nd Floor
725 McDowell Road
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