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The History behind
Flag Day

June 15, 2015

Flag Day was Sunday, but we encourage you to fly the flag all this week.  Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the United States flag by the Second Continental Congress June 14, 1777, and the birthday of American “Continental” Army June 14, 1775.  

Many Americans influenced the adoption of this day of commemoration.
- One was George Morris a citizen of Hartford, CT who suggested “flag day” be observed on June 14, 1861 after union forces became incensed by the South's disregard for the flag.

- Another was Bernard Cigrand, a school teacher and then dentist, who spent much of his life promoting the idea of “flag day ” around the country -- he has a strong claim to being considered the father of flag day. 

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring June 14th officially as Flag Day.  In 1949, Congress created a National Flag Day Act, leaving the manner of observance to the discretion of the President. 

Often, we associate Our Flag with Our National Anthem and its author Francis Scott Key.  The story of the famous Fort McHenry Flag and Key represent an important part of our history.  

This “Flag” -- which is now carefully displayed in the Smithsonian museum -- was ordered by Major Armistead, the Fort McHenry Commander.  He purposely hired Mary Young Pickersgill to stitch a flag of wool bunting 30 by 42 feet, the fifteen stars two feet across, and fifteen stripes two feet wide.   He envisioned a massive display of patriotism as part of his defense plans.

Key, son of an influential Revolutionary Officer and lawyer, was against the War until the British burned Washington and invaded  Chesapeake Bay.  During the day of the 13th through the night of the 14th of September, he and John Skinner found themselves held aboard the British flagship Tonnant. They had come to rescue a friend, Dr. Beanes, who had been captured by the British.

Key described the battle: “It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone.”  With morning light appearing, he discerned the huge American Flag still flying.  Describing the arrival of morning, he wrote, “At last a bright streak of gold mingled with crimson shot athwart the eastern sky, followed by another, and still another, as the morning sun rose.”  

Inspired, the amateur writer began a poem later named “In Defense of Fort McHenry.” His writing continued during his return to shore and into the next day.  In 1931, that poem became our National Anthem, The Star-spangled Banner.

The poem is awe inspiring.  From sporting events most remember the first verse but few recognize the last, which reads:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand,
between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, May the heaven-rescued land praise,
the Power that hath 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!

The American Flag has been carried, flown with pride around the World.  She represents freedom, individual worth, and hope.  During times of liberations, her presence brought joy, and lifted hearts.  May we fly her with reverence as we celebrate her day.  


Mark, Bill, and John



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