June 7, 2019
A Banner Birthday - June 14
It’s not often that two significant American milestones share the same commemoration day. In fact, they also happened two years apart.
The Army’s Birthday – 1775
Losing the Revolutionary War was already shocking to the British. For the British Army, the sting was even more painful as they had condescendingly viewed the prevailing forces as lowly militia and farmers. The truth was, they weren’t completely wrong. Early Colonial troops had been an amateur force of various New England militia companies, mostly farmers who soldiered on a part-time basis. They lacked a unified chain of command, and were supported and supplied locally.
As confrontations with British troops escalated, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress knew they needed help and asked the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to assume authority over their “army.” On June 14, 1775 the Congress voted to adopt the New England forces, form a committee to draft rules and regulations for an American continental army, and allocated $2 million to support the troops. Congress further authorized the formation of additional companies of riflemen from other states as Continentals to support the new Army in Boston.
The American Flag – 1777
The Continental Army fought for two years without a unified flag. The Grand Union Flag that had been used since December 1775 consisted of 13 alternating red and white stripes with the Union Jack in the upper left corner. Its origins are uncertain, but its prominence was likely due to the ease of sewing white stripes onto the British Red Ensigns. That was not to George Washington’s liking, who thought a flag so similar to the enemy’s wasn’t very empowering. Taking a break from writing the Articles of Confederation, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution on June 14, 1777 “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.”
A Wisconsin teacher named Bernard Cigrand is credited with coming up with the idea in 1885 for an annual flag day to be celebrated across the country every June 14th. The tradition quickly spread and President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the June 14th anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 as a nationally observed event. The name officially changed to National Flag Day on August 3, 1949.
Did You Know …
Army General Orders, No. 19 issued on October 31, 1978 officially recognized the U.S. Army Birthday?
When the Continental Congress passed the flag resolution, it gave no instructions on the shape or layout of the stars? Some flags had stars scattered on the blue field, while others were arranged in rows or in a circle. Some stars had six points while others had eight.