“Rockingham” (1906)

5482. [^1]

“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,” said Mr. A. Bedford on July 7. [*1]

Compare his further remark: “This flag was used at the battle of Lexington by the Bedford Minute Men, and was the design of Captain Nathan Page,” with what S. M. S. wrote on July 28: “The Bedford flag or flag for the three county troops of Middlesex, which was carried at Concord, April 19, 1775, is now in the room of the Bedford Library.” [*2]

What real evidence exists that this flag was ever in any battle? Reasonable doubt was excited by considering that the embattled farmers, in the then position of affairs, would hardly have thought it politic

to become “terrible as an army with banners,” and this quotation from the Canticles was even more familiar to them than to us. [*3] I got small satisfaction from examining A. E. Brown’s “Flag of the Minute Men” and of A. Bedford’s “Interesting Facts,” etc., since their eloquence was not convincing and each author’s allegations of fact were incompatible with the other’s. [*4]

Again, the Bedford flag is referred to by S. M. S. on July 28, as follows:

Preble, in his ‘History of the American Flag,’ mentions, on page 123, this flag and has an illustration which somewhat resembles the ‘Bedford flag.’ [*5] I should like to know whether that illustration was from any known copy of the Three Troop flag, or was merely a sketch suggested by the description which follows on page 124.” [*6]

This question seems to be answered by Preble on the pages quoted from the first edition (repeated in almost the same words in the second and third editions on pages 182 and 183). After referring to the existence from 1659, for twenty years or so, of a troop of the three counties of Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex (Mass.), he continues: “The annexed drawing of its standard, and the bill of its cost, is from an entry in a herald painter’s book of the time of Charles I, preserved in the British Museum.” [^2] The illustration and the accompanying detailed bill for making the standard, have appearance of being authentic; the curious mistake of the inscription (“THRE County TROM”) would naturally arise from slavishly following copy contained in an indistinctly written letter from New England. It takes a vivid imagination to identify the details of the Bedford flag with those set out in the above-named bill.



  • “Notes and queries” answer, signed “Rockingham” (1906) [ no scan ]
    in The Boston evening transcript (4 August) p 24


  1. [ paragraph break ]
  2. Charles I, ∨ Charles I.,


  1. cf. Bedford’s “Notes and queries” answer (1906) [ no scan ]
    in The Boston evening transcript (7 July) Part Three: p 4
  2. cf. “Notes and queries” answer, signed “S. M. S.” (1906) [ no scan ]
    in The Boston evening transcript (28 July) p 24
  3. cf. KJV’s Song of Solomon 6:10
  4. cf. Brown’s Flag of the Minute Men (1894)
  5. cf. Preble’s Our flag: origin and progress (1872) pp 123-124
  6. cf. Whitmore’s “The standard of the Three County Troop”
    in The New England HG register: Volume XXV (1871) pp 138-140
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