Thursday, December 13, 2018

State Arms on a Regimental Flag

A few years past, the Texas Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (of which I am a member) donated some money to the Texas Civil War Museum to help pay for the restoration of a regimental flag which was in need of conservation. It was made of silk, and the past 150 years hadn't always been kind to it.

We recently got word that the conservation work had been completed, and we were invited to the Museum to see the results.

Here it is in its frame, stabilized and behind glass: the Flag of the 45th New York Regiment of Infantry.

The central painted panel is a representation of the achievement of arms of the State of New York.

It is, as you can see more clearly in the drawing below, an example of "landscape heraldry."

The arms are a view of the Hudson River, with the sun rising over a mountain, supported on each side by the figures of Liberty and of Justice, with the crest of an eagle spreading its wings atop a representation of the globe, and the motto Excelsior ("Ever upward").

Not the best example of heraldry, but the arms - and the flag - are a part of New York's history, and it was certainly a pleasure to see this particular bit of history is being preserved.

Monday, December 10, 2018

New U.S. Army Insignia Has an Echo of a Famous General's Coat of Arms

A recent (December 6, 2018) article by Meghann Myers in the Army Times features the insignia and shoulder patch designed for the new Army Futures Command, which is a new organization "in charge of leading the Army through its modernization renaissance."

Charles Mugno, The Institute of Heraldry's director, was quoted as saying that: "What we try and do here is keep designs as simple as possible, which is really the essence of what heraldry is about."

A guiding principle with which I completely agree.

The AFC's motto, "Forge the Future," was the primary inspiration for the design.

The article goes on to note that "the anvil motif was very reminiscent of [former five-star general] President Dwight D. Eisenhower's coat of arms," which you may see here below.

All in all, the AFC's new insignia is an interesting design, meaningful and evocative; the only issue I might have with it is the arched "shadow" across the lower half of the shield, though I can think of a potential rationale - that of moving from the shadowed* past and into the lighted future.

You can find the full article, along with a picture of the cloth shoulder patch of the insignia, on the website of the Army Times at

Another article about this new insignia can be found on the website of the Stars and Stripes at

* "Shadowed,", not "shady." The meanings are quite different. 😉

Thursday, December 6, 2018

This Again?

I recently purchased a new book with an heraldic theme: Oxford College Arms by John Tepper Marlin. (You can find it on Amazon at a very reasonable price, and I am finding it well worth the reading. It covers the history of the various Colleges and the origin and meaning of their coats of arms.) It does have a few minor issues, in that not all of the blazons of the arms are complete (e.g., in the blazon of the arms of Harris Manchester College, the tincture of the field and the number of torches are missing), but the color illustrations of the arms totally eliminate any questions about what the blazons should be.

But on page 23, in the article on Brasenose College, the author touches on a subject about which I have written before:

[M]any (including the author) believe that the mullets and bars of the Washington arms were a decisive influence on the creation of the U.S. Stars and Stripes.

For my earlier take on this topic, and Dr. Marlin's responses to it, you can find my October 8, 2012 post, "An Old Controversy Refuses to Die" at

The flag of the United States of America was officially described in a Flag Resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777:

Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen 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 most recent iteration of that flag, with fifty stars for each of the fifty states, is shown here.

The question is how much, if at all, did the Washington coat of arms (below, from an old postcard) influence the design of that flag.

My argument is that the Washington arms had no influence upon the design of the US flag at all, and that the US flag was a simple evolution from a series of flags, generally naval, that logically resulted in the flag codified by the Flag Resolution of 1777.

Thus we move in progression from the flag of the East India Company used from 1600 to 1707:

To the flag of the East India Company used following the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, used from 1707 to 1801:

A variant of the first East India Company flag was the so-call Pine Tree Flag of 1776:

We find similarly striped flags in the US merchant ensign used from 1776 to 1800:

And the ensign of the Continental Navy, which added a rattlesnake and motto to the merchant ensign:

We come at last to the Continental Colors or so-called Grand Union Flag, in use from 1775 to 1777:

Then, of course, the Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 was passed, replacing the Union Flag in the canton with a "new constellation," here, arranged in a circle:

This final flag, "Old Glory," simply removes the cross of St. George of England and the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland from the blue of the canton, the "union" of the Flag Resolution of 1777, and replaces them with a "new constellation" of thirteen stars, which were displayed in various arrangements and with varying numbers of points (5, 6, 7, 8, or more) at the whim of the manufacturer or seamster/seamstress, until custom settled on five-pointed stars in the era following America's Civil War of 1861 to 1865. In short, they were replacing one Union with another Union, one a union of two kingdoms joined in one (England and Scotland, since joined by Northern Ireland with a cross of St. Patrick in the modern Union Flag, often called the Union Jack) for a union of thirteen states.

So, the U.S. flag: an evolution from earlier designs, or an homage to a man who, in 1777, had not yet become the "Father of His Country," but was the man leading the Continental Army in a war whose outcome at that point was far from decided?*

I know which one I think is by far the most likely.

* By June 1777, the date of the Flag Resolution, the Continental Army under Washington had: forced the British to evacuate Boston in March 1776 by placing artillery on the heights overlooking the city; lost the city and port of New York in a series of battles from August through November 1776; and convinced the British to evacuate New Jersey in another series of battles from late December 1776 through January 1777. The war continued with mixed results for nearly five more years before culminating in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

Monday, December 3, 2018

An Entirely Unexpected Coat of Arms in Arras

At the top of the facade of the building which displayed the arms of the City of Arras which I wrote about last time, was another different, and in this case, entirely unanticipated, coat of arms.

I had noted in an earlier post about how Arras had been about 80% destroyed during World War I. Following the war, the city was rebuilt, and many of the buildings restored to what they looked like before that War.

That restoration even included, in this instance, an historical coat of arms which had been superceded at good 100 years earlier.

Yes, indeed, my friends! That is the coat of arms of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. If you look carfully, you can see the hatching on the shield, and the collar of eagles surrounding it, with a shield bearing a large N on its face suspending the Napoleonic Legion d'Honneur. (Or click on the photograph above, to see a larger version where this is even more clear.)

I had no idea that when they were restoring Arras to its pre-WWI state, they would also be restoring on a public building a coat of arms no longer in use, one which had been superseded twice, once following the defeat and exile of Napoleon I in 1815, and again following the defeat of Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan in 1870.