I like flags. Always have. When I was a kid, I would read and read our encyclopedia entry on flags and memorize the different country’s flags and what the colors and shapes meant. I was just visually drawn to them at first, but then grew to realize that you can learn a lot about a nation from it’s flag. It’s kind of a “first impression” for a nation, especially when you consider it’s prominence in airports, Olympic uniforms, and on currency.
My room is decorated with dozens of flags, rotated per unit. Currently on the American Revolution, I’ve got a few from the 18th century up. Lots of kids ask about them, so here’s some info about some of my favorites:
The Gasden Flag comes from the Revolutionary era, and is symbolic of some Colonists’ attitudes at the time: Don’t Tread on Me. It’s a pretty subtle threat/statement – if you don’t treat us badly, you have nothing to fear. If you do, we will kill you :) The snake is also symbolic, coiled and ready to attack, but only if provoked. It’s also a rattlesnake native only to the Appalachia region of North America.
The Green Mountain Boys were a group of teenagers, led by Ethan Allen, that stormed Ft. Ticonderoga and stole weapons from the British. It was one of the first rebellious military strikes of the Revolution, and captures the guerrilla spirit of American Revolutionaries.
Blackbeard was one of the most feared pirates of the “Golden Age of Piracy” during the 17th century. We didn’t talk about piracy during this Age of Exploration unit in 2009, but never-the-less is a fun flag to have in the room!
The Battle of Bunker Hill was a classic pyrrhic victory for the Brits, and a “moral victory” for the Revolutionaries. The British suffered serious casualties, and the Americans showed some fighting spirit that people hadn’t expected.
This is the flag of the State of Maryland. It includes the symbols of the Calvert and Baltimore families, both instrumental to the spread of religious freedom a Catholicism in the Colonies. I just like it. Plus, you can also see it on several sports teams uniforms, like the University of Maryland Terps and
The Municipal Flag of Chicago. Is there a better one this? Two blue stripes for the branches of the Chicago River, plus 4 6-pointed stars that represent the 4 most famous events of the City’s history: the Dearborn Massacre, the Great Chicago Fire, and both World’s Fairs. Is a 5th star coming soon?
The Flag of Ireland. I’m Irish, so I like it :)
This is the Four Provinces Flag of Ireland, representing the 4 major provinces of the entire Isle, not just the Catholic nation. I like it because it represents ancient and medieval traditions of Ireland, history that’s often lost to its modern “drink and be merry” stereotype. Like many Irish, it’s also a little piece of hope for a unified Ireland, something that may happen someday.
Lots of people think the English flag looks like this. Below is the real Flag of England, a red St. Georges cross. The aforementioned flag is actually the flag of the United Kingdom, and combines the flags of Scotland, England, (Northern) Ireland, but for some reason not Wales. If you watch the “Union Jack” closely enough, you can tell what time period it is, due to the alignment or exclusion of different crosses. I bought my English flag in Stratford-upon-Avon a few years ago. One of my favorite places on earth…
Back to American history, this is the Grand Union Flag (or ” ontinental Colors”) believed to be the first “official” flag of America. It’s symbolic because of the “unified” nature of it, showing how many Colonists had hoped to remain loyal to Britain, yet earn the rights they deserved.
The Ft. Moultrie Flag is from a South Carolina military post that was attacked by the British in 1776. Overwhelmed by British firepower, the colonists withstood attack for almost 12 hours before the British retreated. It held the South from invasion, and represents another case of Colonists fighting against incredible odds.
Another of my favorites, this flag doesn’t necessarily have a name, but was flown on the ships under General Washington’s command. It originated in New England, where rebels would typically meet under an old pine tree. This tree would – creatively – be called the “Liberty Tree,” and the tree itself would become a symbol of community organization and rebellion against the oppressive British rule. The “appeal to heaven” line is one of my favorite of the Revolution. It comes from John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Civil Government,” and calls for Colonists to look to heaven for inspiration in revolt, since they no longer have a government to listen.