Old Rags, or Much More
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

It is August 3, 1777 and hopes that the 700 patriots could hold the fort were growing dim. General Barry St. Leger was approaching with upwards of 2,000 loyalists and Native American troops with a goal to separate the American colonies by capturing Fort Schulyer in Rome, NY and, with it, control of the Mohawk Valley. Trapped inside the fort, the men and a few women waited for reinforcements to arrive. Would they arrive in time to save the patriots?

Just weeks earlier, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution. It simply read, “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.” By August 3, word of the resolution had been received by the men, and facing a most tragic end; they got to work. They cut up their shirts for the white stripes; scarlet cloth cut from the flannel petticoats of the officers’ wives was used for the red. The blue, well, that was cut from Capt. Abraham Swartwout’s blue cloth coat. At some point during the morning hours, the first American Flag was hoisted into the Central New York sunshine.

I know what you are thinking, Betsy Ross made the first Flag. At least that what we were told in school. It is a great story. She was a seamstress that did work for George Washington, but according to historians, it’s probably not a true story. At least with the very first Flag. The Congress gave little instruction as to the placement and size of the various components of the Flag, so it was pretty much up to the person making the Flag. Proof of the August 3rd account comes from a voucher from Congress to replace Capt. Swartwout’s blue coat.

By now, you are asking, where’s the leadership lesson? When faced with the prospect of death or imprisonment, the men and women in Fort Schuyler chose to act. They constructed the very first Flag of our great country. It became a symbol of what they were fighting for. It was the symbol of the ideals and vision that our country was to be founded on. A realization that all men and women are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was a way to cast a vision that would hold them together as they waited and hoped for a recuse. As leaders, we need to create the Flag or craft a story that helps our teams envision a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow for themselves, the company, our community, or our most precious country.

If you would like to hear more about the history and design of our beautiful Old Glory and who came to recuse Fort Schulyer, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 193 of The Next Page Podcast.

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