Bedford (1906)

5482. [*1][^1]

Augustus Bedford, who has made a special study of the origin of the American flag, has kindly furnished the following interesting reply to this query:

[ . . . ]

The first flag to be known distinctively as an American one is the Bedford flag, and was the first one under which a battle was fought. It is a maroon body, and upon it is an outstretched arm, the hand of which is holding an upright sword, the point of which is holding a band or ribbon having the words upon it, “Aut Vince Morie” (“Conquer or Die”). [*2] This flag was used at the battle of Lexington by the Bedford Minute Men and was the design of Captain Nathan Page. [*3][*4][*5] This flag was retained by him, and after his death by his descendants. A few years ago it was presented by them to the town of Bedford, and is now in the public library. [*6] It seems very fortunate that this flag should have been so carefully preserved; it goes down into history as the oldest flag of original material in this country.

[ . . . ]

Another flag of importance in our history is the “Eutaw,” the idea of Jane Elliott, who presented it to Colonel William Washington. She made it in haste, while the regiment was resting in front of her residence, from a damask curtain. Four times it met General Tarleton and the Americans defeated him, and this flag became known as “Tarleton’s Terror.” This flag is the property of the Washington Light Guards of Charleston, S.C., and is kept in the safety vaults of one of the banks in that city.

[ . . . ]

There were flags of minor importance, yet of great interest and more than you

could spare space to describe. But I would like to correct some errors that are being printed from time to time. There never was a Bunker Hill flag. There was no flag on Bunker Hill. There was no flag known as the “Cromwell.” The Stafford or Paul Jones flag was not a United States flag. It was a flag made by two sisters named Austin, and not made correctly, having only twelve stars upon it, not properly placed, and was the private property of Paul Jones. All the Government flags were made by Betsy Ross, and after her death by her daughter, Mrs. Wilson. For sixty-nine years all United States flags were made by these two persons. Some have given the credit of the design of the present flag to Captain Samuel C. Reid. Mrs. Captain Reid sewed the sample flag for Hon. Peter H. Wendover for him from his design and Captain Reid did not see it until a year afterward.


  • Augustus Bedford’s “Notes and queries” answer (1906) [excerpt] [ no scan ]
    in The Boston evening transcript (7 July) Part Three: p 4


  1. [ paragraph break ]



  1. NB: Factual errors not pertaining to the Bedford Flag are not annotated.
  2. “Aut Vince Morie”: [ an error for ] “Vince Aut Morire”
  3. The Bedford Flag is alleged to have been carried to Concord– not to Lexington!
  4. “Captain Nathan Page: [ an error for ] Cornet Nathaniel Page
  5. No one ever claimed that Nathaniel Page designed the Bedford Flag!
  6. The Bedford Flag “remained in the basement of the Town Hall”. (BFU) p 86
    Now known as Old Town Hall: 16 South Road
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