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Forster Flag (U.S.)


Last modified: 2015-03-21 by rick wyatt
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[Forster Flag of 1775]
image by Rick Wyatt, 18 July 2001
      [Forster Flag of 1775]
image by Pete Loeser, 15 November 2014

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Description of the flag

Forster Flag (1775). As depicted in the postage stamp, it is red bearing six white stripes in the canton. The original is in the collection of the Flag Heritage Foundation; it was supposedly a British Regimental color captured on April 19, 1775 - the first day of the American Revolution. Later the canton was cut out and the white areas were cut into the strips, six on the obverse and seven on the reverse (13 in all).
Dave Martucci, 17 February 1998

Like many traditions, this one is probably wrong or considerably corrupted. I don't think the British Army lost any Colours that day, and none of the regiments present carried a purple (or similar colour) Colour. If the field colour is meant to be originally red (rather than purple or some similar shade), that is not possible, because regiments with red facings carried a Regimental Colour that was white with a red cross throughout (St. George). It would also have required even more surgery to remove the central device. If the flag were considerably reduced in size, this would be possible by patching the centre with pieces cut from the sides. Perhaps the flag was seized from the armoury of a loyal Militia unit (those flags were not regulated), and then altered. Or perhaps a Militia unit at Lexington (they were British Militia until that day) altered their own Colours shortly afterwards!
T.F. Mills, 12 March 2001

The flank companies of the 59th Foot, who has purple facings, were present at Lexington and Bunker Hill. The regiment had moved to Boston in 1772, and shipped out for England to recruit not long after the battle. It still sounds unlikely that it is British, since colours at that time were painted not embroidered, so it would not be easy to remove the Union canton and central devices. I don't think the flank companies would take the colours with them if the remainder of the regiment stayed in Boston. But of course, never say 'never' !
Foster, by the way, was Major Israel Foster, a Massachusetts officer. The flag was in his family for many years.
Ian Sumner, 12 March 2001

"Flags to Color from the American Revolution." lists this one as "The Forster-Knight Flag," and the colors are listed as "The field is crimson and the bars are off-white (buff)." There is no indication of why the flag is called the Forster-Knight flag. It may named after the family who has held the flag in their possession for the past two centuries.
Randy Young, 12 March 2001


From a newspaper article (March 5, 1937)

"Fifth generation now has flag"
Harry F. Knight, Jr., of Byers Street. proudly surveys the historic flag recently willed to him by his father of West Medford (MA). The large red silken banner, said to have been captured from the British troops during the Lexington alarm on April 19, 1775, originally bore the cross of St. George but this was removed by the Colonial troops and a plain piece of silk of the same color bearing buff chevrons for each of the 13 colonies was substituted, seven on one side and six on the other. Mr. Knight, a veteran of the World War, becomes the fifth generation in direct descent to possess the ensign since it came into the possession of his great great grandfather, Col. Israel Forster of Marblehead, who was a color-bearer in the battles of Lexington and Concord. For many years, the flag was loaned to the Commonwealth by the Knight family and was on exhibition in the State House Hall of Flags."
Susan Lynch