During the beginning of the Revolutionary War, many different flags were used while the colonists struggled with the aims of the revolt, whether rights within the British Empire or outright independence.
The first designs tended to be variations of British flags until the colonials took the path of independence in 1776. From that point on, the design of the flags of the United States took its own distinct path.
British Red Ensign
An ensign used by British naval and merchant ships, the Red Ensign is the British flag that was initially favored by the colonists, and all designs of American flags descended from this banner.
Grand Union Flag
First used by George Washington on January 1, 1776, this modification of the British Red Ensign became, in effect, the first national flag of the United States.
Dont Tread On Me
Rattlesnake flags were very popular with the colonists, particularly the more militant colonists. This variation of the “Don’t Tread on Me” theme was used by Rhode Island naval figure Esek Hopkins.
Betsy Ross Flag
This is the flag design that the legend says was created by Betsy Ross for George Washington. Although most modern historians doubt the story, it has become a vital part of American History.
Stars and Stripes
One of the original 13 star flags, the “Stars and Stripes” was probably the most commonly used variant.
This unique flag was carried into battle by Vermont troops at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.
The American Stripes flag was flown on American Merchant Ships during the Revolutionary era.
General Washington’s Headquarters Flag
This unique flag was flown at the headquarters of General Washington during most of the Revolutionary War.
This flag was flown over the Bonhomme Richard, the ship commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, during his epic duel in the North Sea with the British frigate the Serapis.
This flag was flown by Colonial troops at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina in 1781.
Star Spangled Banner
After the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union in the early 1790s, the official flag of the United States became the 15 star, 15 stripe flag. It was used until 1818. This was the flag whose presence on the flagpole of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “The Star Spangled Banner.” The poem was later put to music and in 1931 became our national anthem.