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George Washington letter to Richard Peters
September 14, 1779

In this George Washington letter to Richard Peters, Washington tells Peters, the longtime Secretary of the Board of War that he prefers a flag for the United States Army with the British Union in the corner with a serpent in the middle. Several of the earlier American flags have the serpent on them, which was considered to be a sign of the danger of messing with the Americans because of its ability to strike back.

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This letter figures into the discussion of who created the first American flag. Congress passed the Flag Resolution of 1777 in June two years earlier, which stated:

"Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

The fact that the discussion was still going on two years later is relevant to the question of whether or not Betsy Ross created the first United States flag or whether someone else did it. More about the Betsy Ross Flag story here.

The Hallet to whom General Washington is referring earlier in the letter was a captain of the Massachusetts State Navy during the Revolutionary War who was celebrated for capturing several British ships.

This letter is the first in a series of letters between Peters and Washington about the flag. The other two letters are:

More George Washington Facts here.

George Washington letter to Richard Peters

Head Quarters, West Point, September 14, 1779.

Gentlemen: I have been honoured with yours of the 31st Augst and 3d instants. Hallet was safely delivered to me by Lt. Colo. Washington and I sent him up to Govr. Clinton, with an account of his conduct, similar to that which you have transmitted to me.

I agree with you in opinion, that the Standard, with the Union and Emblems in the Centre, is to be preferred; with this addition the number of the Regt. and the State to which it belongs inserted within the curve of the serpent, in such place, as the painter or designer shall judge most proper.

Lt. McCallister, who brought me your favr. of the 3d, informs me that you desired him to tell me, that you had recd. an Acct. after sealing, that the Vessel with powder had arrived in the Delaware. This is a most agreeable piece of intelligence, and General Knox will inform the Board what quantity of the powder it will be necessary to have sent forward immediately to the Army.

Inclosed you have the Return of Major Gibbs Corps of Guards agreeable to the Resolve of 15th March last. I have the honor, etc.


Published 10/20/11

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