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"Who, if anyone, used the Grand Union flag after 1777?" Topic

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20 Aug 2021 6:34 a.m. PST
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Personal logo ezza123 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 4:00 a.m. PST

With the Flag Act of 1777 replacing the Grand Union (GU) flag for a new American national flag I guess there would have been a period of transfer as the national flag was introduced and the GU flag was withdrawn.

As the GU flag had a Union flag in its design I can see why the Americans did not want to use it, having declared their independence. But post-1777 could the GU flag have been taken up by Loyalist units to show their continued support for the Crown? Did some American units continue to use it? Or when the GU flag was phased out that was the end of it, with no Patriot or Loyalist units flying it to avoid any confusion about which side they were on?

Asking as I have a militia unit to be based up and a GU flag to be put to use. I will likely use the unit for either side regardless of scenario date (sorry, purists), but would welcome thoughts on what became of the Grand Union flag following the Flag Act.



Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 5:58 a.m. PST

Don't make the mistake of assuming that there was any National flag. There wasn't, not like in the ACW.

As for Loyalists. When they used a flag, it would be almost identical to flags (Colours) used by regular British units.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 6:03 a.m. PST

Surviving examples of the use of the "Grand Union" include the flag of the Philadelphia Light Horse.
The upper staff position shows a Union that has been "defaced", with the Union either painted over or having cloth strips sewn over it.
This practice is rather common.

historygamer20 Aug 2021 6:09 a.m. PST

"….here would have been a period of transfer as the national flag was introduced and the GU flag was withdrawn."

What national flag would that be? There was no national flag till after the war. American flags are a rainbow of different standards that varied from regiment to regiment, and year to year.

My educated guess is that Grand Union flags largely faded out after the announcement of the Declaration of Independence – thus showing a break with the mother country.

Personal logo ezza123 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 6:18 a.m. PST

Sorry, for national flag meant a common identifying flag used across the colonies. But helpful comments on the use and variants of flags. Very informative from you both, thanks.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 8:29 a.m. PST

Really not a "common identifying flag used across the colonies" either, I think, ezza. Washington--clearly inspired by the British system--wanted a field to match the facing color and a national symbol in the canton, but it looks as though the "national symbol" was more of a drop-down menu, and in any event would only have applied to the Continentals. I try to get reasonably close to Washington's intentions there, then use a variety of Pine Tree flags for northern militia and of Rattlesnake flags in the south. It shows them as being on the same side without imposing a uniformity they didn't have.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 3:04 p.m. PST

Thats very interesting Robert, most informative.

We also play a lot of AWI (we're colonials too so we don't buy the 'Revolution' so much ;-) down here and I still have the odd unit in lead pile form waiting to expand and fill 'Box3' of the armies.

Reminds me- I need to augment artillery- like I only have 5 guns between them!
cheers dave

Bill N20 Aug 2021 5:28 p.m. PST

There is some reason to believe that a Grand Union flag was flown at Fort Stanwix in late 1777. However that would likely have been a post flag as opposed to a flag carried by a unit.

If you want to have your American troops carrying a Grand Union flag in 1778 or even 1779 then go for it. Giving the flag to Loyalist troops OTOH would probably be confusing.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2021 5:44 p.m. PST

If Loyalist troops, being "more British than the British" were to carry flags, they would be British pattern.

Just don't confuse Grand Union flags with British regimental "Colours".

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 6:26 p.m. PST

I would agree that Loyalist regiments would carry flags similar to the regulars. I would, however, argue that loyalist militia could carry just about whatever they wanted, but something that would distinguish them from the rebels, i.e. no pine tress, rattle snakes, or grand unions. Just an assumption on my part.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2021 11:24 p.m. PST

I have one Cont. unit with the GU flag. They are Foundry uniform militia. No particular reason why, just wanted a regiment with that flag. I use it in the early battles.

I have two New Hampshire Continental regiments with the Union Jack in the canton. That I believe is correct using Richardson and other sources.

If I was starting this period today, every Continental regiment would have only one flag and nary a stars and stripes to be seen. I have several Continental regiments with the Betsy Ross flag which did not exist. But they look so good I am not going to change them. The regiments I have done recently only have one flag and no stars and stripes flags.

The 1777 attempt to regulate flags did not go well as it left a lot to be interpreted by units in the field. I have one regiment with the stars and stripes in a canton. Which I believe is the result of one Colonels attempt to interpret the new flag regulation.

My loyalist battalions try to out British, the British. As they have both flags and they are sharp looking outfits if I say so myself.

However my loyalist militia are the same militia as I use for the Patriots, minus a flag. I have not come across any evidence that the loyalist militia or levy's carried a flag.

I would recommend you acquire a copy of Richardson's book on the AWI flags. It is the best book on the subject available. But don't expect it to be like an Osprey book and tell you which American unit carried what flag. There just isn't that much information in existence. But I think there is a need for a new book on the subject. The book was published in 1982 and one would hope there is more information to be found somewhere.


We use to have a TMP member who is very knowledgeable on the subject. But alas he has been banished from TMP.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.