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Cowpens Flag (U.S.)

Historical

Last modified: 2015-01-09 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | cowpens | circle | third maryland regiment | maryland |
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[U.S. 13 star Cowpens flag 1777 ]
image by Dave Martucci, 11 October 2010
[U.S. 13 star Cowpens flag 1777 ]
image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 10 August 2001

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American hopes were at a low point at the start of 1781. That changed, however, on January 17, when General Daniel Morgan won one of the most brilliant victories of the Revolutionary War at Cowpens, South Carolina. With the help of Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia regiments, Morgan stopped the attacking British dead in their tracks. Trapped by the cavalry and the militia, the surrounded British soon relented. This flag of the Third Maryland Regiment, which was present that day at Cowpens, is now enshrined in the State Capitol in Annapolis, Maryland in honor of that battle.

Source: National Flag Foundation Newsletter.
Rick Wyatt, 9 July 2001

According to Richardson's book on American Revolutionary war flags, the 3rd Maryland was consolidated with other units to form a composite brigade at Cowpens due to the defeat suffered at Camden earlier. This unit, along with a few others, carried the Stars and Stripes without authorization, which was not granted to U.S. combat units until 1834, 1841 and 1862 respectively for artillery, infantry and cavalry units.

In the film "The Patriot" Mel Gibson, at the battle that is supposed to be Cowpens, is seen carrying a flag that is the typical 13 stars in a circle (alleged Betsy Ross flag). All they needed to do to get it right was to make it a copy of the 3rd Maryland colors.
Greg Biggs, 9 July 2001

In "Thirteen-Stars Flags, Keys to Identification", published in 1973 in Smithsonian Studies in American History and Technology, Grace Roger Cooper indicates that this flag is misidentified. She indicates that it was actually carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers in the Mexican War (1846-1848).
Devereaux Cannon, 9 December 2001

In regard to the Cowpens flags the author states that "...the cotton stars and the cotton thread used to stitch the stars would date this flag from the nineteenth century rather than the Revolutionary War." It appears that there was a flag donated to the Old Defender's Association in 1843, however that flag turned over to the state of Maryland in 1907 is not the same one.
Wayne, 9 December 2001

The actual flag, which still exists, is somewhat long and the stars are more in an oval with one in the center than a circle.

There is no evidence this flag dates from the Revolutionary War or was at the Battle of the Cowpens or is associated in any way with the 3rd Maryland Regiment. Even the donors of the flag did not make any of those claims. In fact, no one is quite sure where the claims actually came from. The Batchelor family donated their original flag, known as the Batchelor Flag, to the 'Baltimore Society of the War of 1812' in 1894 stating it had been carried by Joshua F. Batchelor at the Battle of North Point (12 September 1814) during the War of 1812. The society had later used the flag to mark the anniversary of the Battle of North Point, but had also used the flag for ceremonies regarding the American Revolution, including a parade for Lafayette when he visited Maryland in 1824. At some point it was donated to the State of Maryland.

The Batchelor Flag was on display in the Maryland Statehouse flag room until the 1980s, when older flags were moved to storage for preservation. It is currently held at the Maryland Archives. A 1970s study conducted by the Maryland State Archivist and the Smithsonian Institution concluded that the preserved flag was of 19th century origin, not 18th century.
Dave Martucci, 11 October 2010