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Richard Peters letter to George Washington
May 10, 1779

In this Richard Peters letter to George Washington, Peters tells Washington of his difficulties getting materials for drums for the Continental Army and of the necessity of deciding upon a design for the United States flag. Richard Peters was a Philadelphia lawyer who was appointed by Congress to serve as Secretary of the Board of War, a position which he held throughout the Revolutionary War. In this role, Peters was responsible for monitoring all troops, arms and equipment, recruiting soldiers, securing prisoners of war, maintaining all war correspondence and producing weapons.

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Peters was also a good friend of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, Inspector-General and trainer of the army, often paying von Steuben's salary and allowing he and his staff to stay at his family's estate, Belmont. It was here that the "Blue Book," the United States' army's first military manual was written.

This letter also figures into the study of who created the first American flag because it indicates confusion over what the United States flag should look like nearly 2 years after the Flag Resolution of 1777. The timing of the Flag Resolution and other events around it are involved in the study of whether or not Betsy Ross actually created the first American flag in 1776. More about the Betsy Ross Flag controversy here.

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.

Richard Peters letter to George Washington

War Office, May l0th, 1779

The Board have been frequently applied to on the Subject of Drums and Colours for the several Regiments. It is impossible to comply with all the Requisitions for these Articles, as we have not materials to make either in sufficient Numbers. We hope however to have in a short Time a competent Number of Drums. So soon as they are made we send them to Camp as we find many Irregularities and Inconveniences arise from delivering them or any other Articles here.

As to Colours we have refused them for another Reason. The Baron Steuben mentioned when he was here that he would settle with your Excellency some Plan as to the Colours. It was intended that every Regiment should have two Colours one the Standard of the United States which should be the same throughout the Army and the other a Regimental Colour which should vary according to the facings of the Regiments. But it is not yet settled what is the Standard of the U. States. If your Excellency will therefore favor us with your opinion on the Subject we will report to Congress and request them to establish a Standard and so soon as this is done we will endeavour to get Materials and order a Number made sufficient for the Army. Neither can we tell what should be the Regimental Colours as the Uniforms were by a late Resolution of Congress to be settled by your Excellency.

We have the Honour to be
with the greatest Respect
Your very obedient Servants

Richard Peters

His Excellency the Commander in Chief By Order

Published October 10/20/11

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