Flag of New England

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Common form of modern Bunker Hill flag, not copyrighted.
Flag adopted by the New England Governors' Conference in 1988, copyrighted.

The Flag of New England can be any number of banners used to represent Massachusetts or the New England colonies. There are some variations, but common designs include a plain colored field with a tree in either the field or the canton.

History[edit]

The flag is based on the red naval ensign or blue naval ensign of the Royal Navy, which featured the cross of St. George in the canton. The ensign was used at both the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies. Puritans in New England, led by Roger Williams, objected to the use of a Christian cross on their flag, and for a time flew a red flag with a plain white canton.[1] The new flag first appeared in 1634 in Salem, but some considered it to be an act of rebellion against England. Opinion was sought from England, and the cross was retained on crown property, such as Castle Island.[2] The crossless flags became popular in New England, and militia companies designed unique patterns on their flags. In 1665, the Royal Commissioners recommended that all ships and militia companies be ordered to fly "the true colours of England, by which they may be knowne to be his majesties legittmate subjects."[3] Nevertheless, some crossless flags were still in use as late as 1680.

New Englanders continued to look for ways to represent their country, however. In 1684, the town of Newbury, Massachusetts, though retaining the Cross of St George, changed to a green flag.[3] A pine tree was added to some flags during the reign of King James II, possibly inspired by the pine-tree shilling which was minted in Massachusetts.[3] In 1707, a proclamation was issued that all merchant vessels fly the red ensign with the British Union Flag in the canton. To insure compliance, a woodcut was published in the Boston News-Letter on 26 January 1707- the first illustration printed in an American newspaper.[4]

Some controversy exists concerning which flag flew at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, at the onset of the American Revolutionary War. An officer of the Royal Marines reported that no flags were used by the rebels.[5] John Trumbull, known for his historic detail, and who witnessed the battle through a spyglass, used a blue flag with a pine tree in his painting The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill.[6] Another flag which commonly represents the battle has a plain blue flag and a canton quartered with cross of St. George (the symbol of England) and a tree in a quarter of the canton. Although possibly inspired by the Blue Ensign of the Royal Navy, the blue field is said to have been due to an error in a wood engraving, causing confusion with painters.[1] However, Benson John Lossing writes in Field Book of the Revolution that he interviewed the daughter of a Bunker Hill veteran who told her that he hoisted a blue flag on Breed's Hill prior to the battle.[7] Regardless of its authenticity, the blue variation of the New England flag has become a symbol of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and as such Charlestown (the neighborhood encompassing Bunker and Breed's hills), and was featured on a 1968 US Postage Stamp.

On 8 June 1989 the New England Governor's Conference (NEGC) adopted a flag designed by Albert Ebinger of Ipswich, Massachusetts, as the official flag of the New England Governors’ Conference.[citation needed][8] This flag is the blue "Bunker Hill Flag" defaced with six five-pointed stars in a circle made to represent the six New England states. It was copyrighted by Ebinger in 1965, and remains under copyright.[9]

Historical flags[edit]

Flags of New England
The naval Red Ensign of the former Kingdom of England from which the flags of New England are derived.[10] 
An early flag of the Massachusetts Bay Colony with the St George's cross of England removed.[11] 
A flag drawn by John Graydon in 1686, consisting of St. George's Cross with a pine tree in the canton.[12] 
The First Flag (and Ensign) of New England, used by Colonial merchant ships sailing out of New England ports, 1686-c.1737.[11][12] 
The Flag of New England during the Revolutionary War.[13] 
Bunker Hill flag 

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mastai, pg 16
  2. ^ Furlong, 39
  3. ^ a b c Furlong, 40
  4. ^ Furlong, 42
  5. ^ Furlong, 68
  6. ^ "Available on Wikimedia Commons". Commons.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  7. ^ Lossing, Chapter 23, endnote 19
  8. ^ "The Flag of New England Page". Midcoast.com. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Edward O’Connor. "Alternate flags for New England". E. O’Connor. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  11. ^ a b David B. Martucci. "The New England Flag". D. Martucci. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  12. ^ a b 'Historical Flags of Our Ancestors'. "Flags of the Early North American Colonies and Explorers". Loeser.is. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "New England flags (U.S.)". Crwflags.com. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 

Works cited[edit]

  • Furlong, William Rea; McCandless, Byron (1981). So Proudly We Hail : The History of the United States Flag. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0-87474-448-2. 
  • Lossing, Benson J. (1850). Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution. 
  • Mastai, Boleslaw; Mastai, Marie-Louise D'Otrange (1973). The Stars and the Stripes. The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-47217-9. 

External links[edit]