Bedford Flag (1886)

Mr. Appleton then spoke as follows:—

At the last meeting Mr. Jenks showed a photograph, and gave a very interesting account, of the flag carried to Concord, April 19, 1775, by the company of minute-men from Bedford. The photograph did not reach me during the meeting; but afterwards, as soon as I saw it, I immediately recognized it, and recognized it as of far greater interest and importance than was suggested by Mr. Jenks. The flag borne at Concord on the 19th of April is the flag designed in England, 1660-70, for the Three-County Troop of Massachusetts. [*1] In 1870 Messrs. Somerby and Chester, at almost the same date, sent to Boston extracts from MS. Additional 26,683 in the British Museum, being the design and charges for a flag for the Three-County Troop, as follows:— [*2]

For painting in oyle on both sides a Cornett one rich crimson damask, with a hand and sword and invelloped with a scarfe about the arms of gold, black and sillver [*3][*4]2.0.6
For a plaine cornett Staffe, with belt, boote and swible at first penny [*5][*6]1.0.0
For silke of crimson and silver fring and for a Cornett String1.11.0
For crimson damask11.0
Worke don for New England

It is evident that this flag became one of the accepted standards of the organized militia of Massachusetts, and as such was used by the Bedford Company. Of this Admiral Preble

[ p 200 ]

had neither knowledge nor suspicion; and I must sincerely wish that he were alive, to insert it in his remarkable work on Our Flag, and to add to my words such facts as he might be more fortunate in finding than I have been, for as yet I have learned nothing more of the use of this design. [*7] But it seems to me that this flag of April 19, 1775, far exceeds in historic value the famed flag of Eutaw and Pulaski‘s banner, and in fact is the most precious memorial of its kind of which we have any knowledge.

This flag, with the hand and sword, may have been carried on the banks of the Connecticut by the men who, under Major Samuel Appleton, so stoutly resisted the Indians at Hadley and Hatfield; and afterwards, under the same leader, may have been borne into the captured fort in the swamp of the Narragansetts. Later the same symbols were undoubtedly seen on the shores of Lake George and Lake Champlain. The men of Massachusetts may very possibly have used such a flag in the early battles of the Revolution; and at this day we honor it as the crest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, under which thousands fought and died in the sad but glorious years from 1861 to 1865.


  • William S. Appleton’s “The Bedford Flag” (January 1886)
    in Proceedings of the MHS: Volume II (SS) pp 199-200



  1. This statement has since been proven doubly wrong:
    The Bedford Flag was painted “certainly not before 1704”, and Brown himself “eventually decided that the Bedford Flag and the Three County Troop flag were in fact not the same”. (BFU) pp 11 and 74
  2. cf. The British Museum’s “Add MS 26683” Folio 31B [ no scan ]
  3. “Cornett” (i.e., “cornet”): flag (to be) carried by a cornet
  4. “one . . . damask”: on . . . damask
  5. Smith glosses “swible” as “swivel-socket” and suggests that the “boote” was “probably a case made to protect or hold the flag”. (Report) p 51
  6. Whitmore offers that “the term ‘at first penny’ may be the same as ‘at first cost'”. (Standard) p 138
  7. cf. Preble’s Our flag: origin and progress (1872)
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