The American flag has many names including Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes and The Star-Spangled Banner, but how did it get these names?
Friday, June 14, is Flag Day, a day that we celebrate the adoption of the flag in 1777 and in honor of that day, I felt this was a perfect time to dig a little bit into the history of the flag.
The Stars and Stripes is the original name for the American flag.
It was created under the First Flag Act, passed by the Continental Congress, according to usflag.org.
The act stated, “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
In 1794, a new act would provide the flag to have 15 stripes and stars, and in 1818 President James Monroe would set the standard still used today. It provided the flag have 13 stripes and one star for each state, according to usflag.org.
Each subsequent update in 1912 and 1959 just changed the proportions of the flag and the arrangement of the stars.
Not surprisingly, the flag became known as The Star-Spangled Banner thanks to Francis Scott Key.
The “original” Star-Spangled Banner was the large 30x42 foot garrison flag which flew above Fort McHenry.
The British attacked Fort McHenry during The War of 1812 on Sept. 13, 1814 at 6:30 a.m.
According to the Smithsonian Institute, the British bombarded the fort for 25 hours with 10 and 13 inch mortars. It was during this time that Francis Scott Key was detained by the British near-by and witnessed the bombardment first hand.
He was part of a negotiation to release a civilian, which succeeded, but fear that he would divulge the British plan to attack Baltimore cause the British to temporarily detain him, according to the Smithsonian Institute.
It was at 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 1814, when Fort McHenry replaced its 17x25 foot flag with the much larger garrison flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” and it would be sung to the melody of “Anacreon in Heaven.” In Oct. 19, 1814, a music store published the words and music under the title, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” creating the national anthem we sing today, according to the Smithsonian Institute.
Old Glory was actually coined by Capt. William Driver of Salem, Mass., in 1831, according to usflag.org.
The reported story is that Driver was gifted a flag with 24 stars and when it opened in the ocean breeze for the first time, he exclaimed, “Old Glory,” according to usflag.org.
He retired to Nashville, Tenn., in 1837 and he took his flag with him, which would quickly become recognized as “Old Glory” by the residents, according to usflag.org.
When the state seceded, Driver hid the flag in his bedcover as Confederate soldiers were looking to destroy it. When the city was captured by Union forces in 1862, they raised the Stars and Stripes over the capital, according to usflag.org.
The people of Nashville quickly asked Driver if he still had “Old Glory,” which he then retrieved from hiding. He and Union soldiers returned to the capital and flew “Old Glory,” over the capital. The Sixth Regiment of Ohio adopted the “Old Glory” nickname and spread it throughout the country, along with the devotion of Driver to the flag, according to usflag.org.
Driver’s grave in Nashville is one of three places authorized by an act of Congress to fly an American flag 24 hours a day, according to usflag.org.
The flag has seen more history than any of us and it’s been there for pretty much everything. As we celebrate the flag, its adoption and its meaning to us on June 14, let’s also stop for a moment to appreciate the history behind it.
Justin Blowers is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are his own and not the opinion of the paper. He can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.