The Bennington Flag

Tradition has it that the "Bennington" flag was the one under which the Green Mountain Boys and others defeated Colonel Baum and his Hessians at the Battle of Bennington.

There is enough evidence otherwise to say that this tradition is no more than fanciful myth.

To wit:

  • There is no historical reference to a flag of the "stars and stripes" design being carried in the Battle of Bennington, not to mention the fact that this flag is much too large to have been carried into battle. The only flag documented as having been used that day is the one known as the "Green Mountain Boys" flag: green with 13 white five-pointed stars in a blue canton (below).
  • There is no record of the flag or its design prior to the late 19th Century when it was on display at the Chicago Public Library.
  • Grace Cooper, former curator of textiles at the Smithsonian Institution, has examined this flag is of the opinion that its material was woven on a power loom in the early 19th Century.
  • The construction (cotton material and cotton thread) and the use of the numeral "76" are characteristic of the 1820's.

Some vexillologists (those who study flags) say that the "Bennington Flag" may have been made as late as the US Centennial in 1876, but that doesn't explain how it could have become so worn and aged that people began to think of it as a Revolutionary War relic, and display it as such in the Chicago Library within a few short years. The relic flag is quite faded - the red, white, and blue are all just various shades of tan or brown today.

The Green Mountain Boys flag

What does seem likely is that in the historic frenzy of the Centennial celebration, a 50-year old 13-star flag was discovered, tattered and torn, and displayed in ignorance as an authentic 100-year old relic, standards for historical research being not as high then as they are today.

It is more likely that this flag was made for the 1824 visit of General Lafayette to the US, or for the 50th anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence in 1826.

Nick Artimovich
November 15, 1996

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October 14, 2013