MINT HILL, NC – Local historian John Ellis recently made an American historical flag presentation to a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Mint Hill.
In today’s United States of America with 246 years of history, our Constitutional Republic still stands along with our historical flags. We sometimes take for granted what the presence of the 50 stars and 13 stripes represent to our citizens and to freedom-loving people around the world.
However, back in the beginning of our nation, the flag stood less symbolic and more utilitarian because it was designed to be useful, functional; rather than being attractive, it was an important tool used for military purposes.
Mr. Ellis has an entire collection of historical flags, and his knowledge of each flag in his possession is absolutely amazing and inspiring. His flags date back to the American Revolution and well beyond throughout our history. Flags were one of the most important ways a military could communicate on the battlefield, so they were an important piece of equipment. Flags were used in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, so their importance to position troops and focus on a military objective was extremely effective while building up morale within the ranks to advance forward. Ellis confirmed, “Its effectiveness on the battlefield was critical. The flag bearers stood as an essential marker for soldiers seeking guidance and direction in a completely chaotic environment. Flags were not just to look colorful, they were used for identification.”
He further mentioned, carrying the flag meant performing one of the most dangerous duties on the battlefield. “The flag bearers knew they were a target,” said Ellis. “If they should fall, the troops did not know to stop or continue the advance. That’s why it was important for another soldier to pick it up and continue to guide soldiers to their military objective.”
Flags were also used along the coast and in the sea as ships hoisted hand-crafted flags to announce their country and communicate to one another along with coastal forts beyond the reach of a lighthouse who would display huge banners to assist in guiding the maritime traffic to port. One of the nation’s most notable flags sits in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the original Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore where Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the British bombardment during the War of 1812 on September 14, 1814. The original flag was a 30 x 34 foot banner, which certainly stands out as an iconic symbol. The flag includes 15 stripes, two more than the original 13 colonies. The reason behind the two extra stripes was to represent Kentucky and Vermont in the union as states. However, in 1914, Congress standardized the 13 stripes for the original colonies with a star representing each state, and America finally solidified its national flag.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have been in existence for over a century. The organization, which is a National Society, dedicates itself to historical preservation, promotion of education, and encouragement of patriotic endeavors. These goals are relevant in today’s society from a pure historical perspective, but just as importantly in restoring and maintaining historical sites, locating and marking Revolutionary war gravesites and headstones, organizing and contributing to major restorations, commemorations and memorials, and the preservation of genealogical records, artifacts and historical documents. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution can become a member of the organization.
John Ellis, who is an Air Force veteran said with Veterans Day rapidly approaching, “It’s our veterans who have more appreciation of the flag than the average citizen. It’s not just a piece of cloth to them; it’s something much more profound. They put their life into honoring and defending it during peacetime and war.”
Today, the flag is a symbol. It shows who we are as Americans and our belief in what that stands for at home and abroad. From its defiant rise at Fort McHenry to Iwo Jima and eventually on the moon, it shows our spirit and resolve as Americans.