SOMERVILLE’S GRAND UNION FLAG RAISING ON PROSPECT HILL

Photos by Frankie Saint

By William Tauro

The city’s annual celebration of America’s first flag raising was celebrated by City and State officials, residents, and “George Washington” on horseback this past Tuesday.

In its annual tradition, the City of Somerville kicked off the New Year on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, with a reenactment ceremony for the anniversary of the “Grand Union” flag-raising ceremony at Prospect Hill Park. A processional led by a re-enactor portraying General George Washington on horseback that left the City Hall Concourse at 11:30 a.m. and was followed by a ceremony at Prospect Hill Park. As always, members of the public were invited to participate, and were encouraged to wear traditional colonial clothing.

The annual ceremony commemorates the raising of the nation’s first official flag, featuring thirteen red and white horizontal stripes, atop Prospect Hill on New Year’s Day, 1776. At the time, Prospect Hill was a key site in a string of fortifications created by Washington and the Continental Army in their siege of British troops in Boston during the first year of the American Revolution.
The afternoon’s program included songs, and remarks by participants from the Charlestown and Rhode Island Militia, and the Ancient and Honorable Company (first chartered in 1638). His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, representing the British Army, will bring a message from King George III, and the American Legion Post 19 Honor Guard lead a military salute as a commemorative flag was raised atop the Prospect Hill Tower.

Special guest speakers shared information from his recently published book about the significance of the Grand Union Flag, noting that: “The mystery of the first American flag’s origins has flummoxed historians for nearly two centuries. This book pieces together its fascinating tale at the beginnings of the American Revolution. The First American Flag explores this important national icon and how the introduction of this galvanizing symbol occurred at a time when the trappings of American nationhood were taking shape — in less than a month’s time, a new navy, a new army, a new flag, and a new name for a nation came into being.”

Light refreshments were served, and miniature replicas of the Grand Union Flag, both as a flag and a lapel pin, as well as colonial-era tri corner hats and a few items highlighting the City’s historic assets were made readily available for purchase. The Tower was open to the public following the ceremony.

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