Flag Day and the Army

On June 14, 1777 the Second Continental Congress passed this resolution:

 “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The Flag was designed by member of Congress Francis Hopkinson who requested a quarter cask of wine for his services.  Payment was denied him on the sound ground that he was already being paid as a member of Congress.  Two years previously on June 14, 1775, Congress voted to adopt the New England militia army besieging Boston and so the Continental Army was formed.

I have always thought it appropriate that the Flag and the Army share the same birthday.  The Flag is the proud symbol of the nation but without military strength to back it up, it would quickly become a mere colorful piece of fabric.  John Wayne in a brief speech at the end of the movie Fort Apache (1948), part of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy, captured the spirit of the Army:

As did this passage the following year in the second of the cavalry trilogy, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:

 

So here they are: the dog-faced soldiers, the regulars, the fifty-cents-a-day professionals… riding the outposts of a nation. From Fort Reno to Fort Apache – from Sheridan to Startle – they were all the same: men in dirty-shirt blue and only a cold page in the history books to mark their passing. But wherever they rode – and whatever they fought for – that place became the United States.

The song That Ragged Old Flag understands the necessity of men willing to fight for the nation, for the Flag if the country is to endure:

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Published in: on June 14, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. The history of the Italian flag has one unsolved and probably insoluble mystery, and one very strange coincidence. It is normally said that when supporters of the French Revolution set up the first republican government in modern Italy – the Transpadane Republic – in Bologna in 1796, they took the three vertical stripes green, white and red in imitation of the French revolutionary Tricouleur. Only there is no reason given why the blue should be turned to green, and as a matter of fact the minutes of the meeting that adopted the flag tell a different story altogether. The representative who proposed the Tricolore said that red, white and green were the country’s accepted colours, and everyone went along with it as though the matter were too obvious to debate. And it turns out that apparently ribbons of red, white and green were in fact among the insignia of the ancient House of Este, extinct by 1796, but once the masters of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio – three of the most important towns of the Transpadane Republic. The House of Este was among the most glorious of the Renaissance, making Ferrara a jewel city to rival Florence and Venice. The historian Indro Montanelli says that a state wedding in the early 1500s was so splendid an affair that one or two of the less well-instructed foreign courts sent their ambassadors “to the king of Italy.” And unlike other famous houses such as the Medicis and Viscontis, the Este were not upstarts but very ancient nobility, going right back to the Longobard Kingdom of the early middle ages. So their colours could well pass both for ancient and for national – if we ever have it confirmed that the Tricolore was in fact intended to resurrect the Este colours of old.

    But an even more distant and intriguing connection was brought up by the great historian Georges Dumezil, the man I regard as my master, during his investigations into the earliest Roman history. Dumezil argued that, before the Etruscan and Greek influences took hold of Rome, the three most important gods in the religion of the city (as proved among other things by the dedication of its three chief priests) were Jupiter, supreme god and god of law and wisdom; Mars, god of war and courage; and Quirinus, god of fertility, patron of wheat grain, and patron of the community of men living together in peace. Now each of these gods had a colour, used in specific ceremonies and games; and the colours were “albatus” – white – for the holy Jupiter, “russatus” – red – for valiant and bloodthirsty Mars, and “viridis” – green – for Quirinus of fertility and of the grain. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it’s nice to think that the first Romans, three thousand years ago, would have recognized the colours that fly from the Capitol now.

    • “The history of the Italian flag has one unsolved and probably insoluble mystery,”

      Fascinating Fabio.


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