|BATTLE OF WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK FLAG WITH "LIBERTY OR DEATH" SLOGAN, LIBERTY POLE & CAP, AN EXTREMELY RARE REVOLUTIONARY WAR DESIGN WITH A TERRIFIC SLOGAN, MADE CA 1890-1910
|Frame Size (H x L):||49" x 69"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||37.25" x 57"|
|For some reason, colonial and revolutionary flag designs were, for all practical purposes, not reproduced until the mid-late 20th century. The originals, some of which we often see illustrated today, such as the yellow Gadsden flag or the red and white striped 1st Navy Jack, with their rattlesnakes and "Don't Tread on Me" slogans, often don't exist save in 18th century sketches or paintings. The same goes for most 18th century military banners. Many of the designs seem to have been known in the 19th century, but seldom ever reproduced. One exception is a display illustrating the growth of the American flag in the Main Building at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition (World's Fair) in Philadelphia. Here a group of examples were hung on high in a fanciful array. These appear to have been huge in scale and I have never seen one in modern times in the antiques marketplace, nor do I know of any that survive in museums or historical societies. An engraving of the display is recorded in "Frank Leslie's Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition 1876," (1877, Frank Leslie's Publishing House, New York, NY), p. 65.
On rare occasion I have encountered reproductions of colonial style flags made during the 20th century. Some seem to have been made to decorate the interior of armories in the WWII era (U.S. involvement 1941-45) or shortly thereafter. But reproductions of Rev. War patterns didn't become popular until the 1976 Bicentennial and afterwards.
The flag in question here is an unusual exception. This is the design known as the "Battle of White Plains" flag, identified by flag historian, Rear-Admiral George H. Prebble, who in 1917 published his two-volume, "Origin and History of The American Flag" (1917, Philadelphia, Nicholas Brown). On page 246 of Volume 1, Prebble states "I have an engraving of what purports to be the Battle of White Plains, Oct 28, 1776, which seems to represent [a] scene [that shows]…the Americans carrying a flag of which the annexed is a facsimile." His illustration shows a flag of indeterminate color, possibly white, with text along the top that reads "Liberty or Death" with the letter "a" conspicuously reversed, above a crossed sword and liberty pole with a liberty cap.
The lettering on Prebble's flag is in a combination of lower and upper case, while the lettering on this flag is in all caps. Because of this fact, the letter "A" would appear the same whether flipped in mirror image or not. The remainder of the design is true to form, with the colors surmised to be red for the liberty cap and golden yellow for the sword.
Made of white wool bunting, the flag was made sometime between the 1890's and the 1920's. The lettering and devices are made of plain weave cotton and appliquéd with a zigzag machine stitch. This stitch was first patented for use on flags in 1892, though I have seen it employed as early as 1889. By 1896 it was in widespread use and remained the primary means of appliqueing stars and other elements until WWII (U.S. involvement 1941-45). There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets, along which a fun inscription reads: "Stolen from J.T. Lockwood." A tag attached to the flag contained a similar message. On one side it reads: "Stolen from Dick Lockwood; White Plains, NY; 1891-1928," and on the other, "Copy of the flag carried by American forces at the Battle of White Plains - New York. Oct-28-1776-."
Two other flags in this style are known that are printed parade flags as opposed to pieced-and-sewn examples. Both quite evidently date to the same time period and it is likely that all three were produced for the same event, presumably to remember the engagement. One of these I previously owned. The other is recorded in “Threads of History” by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, (Smithsonian Press, 1979) as plate # 157 on page 109. In the collection of the Smithsonian, the flag is incorrectly dated as 1840.
Both Prebble and the more modern flag scholar, Edward W. Richardson, speak of the White Plains flag as being close in design to other flags captured at the battle of Long Island. In his book "Standards & Colors of the American Revolution," " (1982, University of Pennsylvania Press), Richardson reports that as many as 11 "Liberty" flags, --red being the suggested color in this case--were surrendered at that engagement to Hessian Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, which began two months later in the month of October of 1776 and culminated with the capture of Ft. Washington by British and Hessian troops on November 16th. Both battles represented significant American losses, after which Washington retreated to New Jersey and over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania with Rall in pursuit. It was at this point that Washington made his most famously daring move, re-crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve, surprising and defeating the Hessians at Trenton, killing Rall and wiping out his command, taking 900 prisoners and capturing the Hessian colors.
Various styles of Liberty flags were displayed in the 1876 exhibit at Philadelphia. Among them were two white flags, both of which have "Liberty or Death" verbiage, but both of which also appear to have rattlesnakes instead of the imagery seen on the White Plains flag. Several red varieties are also shown.
Jeremiah T. Lockwood was a Civil War veteran of the 4th NY Heavy Artillery who, following the war, pursued the furniture and undertaking business in and around White Plains. As early as 1889 he was serving as the treasurer of the White Plains Building and Loan Association. His activities in the latter two areas are documented in state publications and business periodicals, such as "The Documents of the Assembly of the State of NY" (1898, NY State Legislature, Albany, NY), vol. 10, p. 497, and "American Cabinet maker and Upholsterer," (Oct. 15, 1904, Wm. P. Symonds, New York, NY), Vol. 71, No. 1, p. 15. An especially nice biography of his wartime service and his life after the war was recorded by author Hyland C. Kirk in "Heavy Guns and Light: A History of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery," (1890, C.T. Dillingham, New York), pp. 484-486. This reads as follows:
" Lockwood, Jeremiah T. In the year of 1862 Mr. Jeremiah T. Lockwood, whose picture adorns this sketch, was what might be termed a small boy- a youth over whose head only sixteen summers had passed. It was during the summer of that year that he sought to impress upon his fond parents that it was his duty to fight the battles of his country. But they couldn’t see it in that light. They had one son already in the war, and this one was too young and too small. “Wait,” they said, “ you are too young yet.” But young Lockwood didn’t propose to wait, and so one day – it was August 28th, 1862 – when in the city of New York, having been sent down by his father to pay and insurance premium, young Lockwood stepped into a recruiting office on Franklin Street and enlisted. The recruiting officer was Frank Williams. And so the young soldier’s career began.
Mr. Lockwood was born in New Canaan, Conn., and his boyhood days were spent there and in the city of New York. At the time he enlisted he was living with his parents in Bedford, Westchester County. He received a good education in the common schools and had good home training. When he told his parents that he had enlisted they were, of course, surprised, but like the sensible people they were, they told him to go, with words of encouragement and prayers for his safety. He stayed at home one week and then joined Company A [of the 4th NY heavy Artillery] at Fort Franklin , Md., in the defenses of Washington.
The Headquarters of the regiment at that time were at Fort Ethan Allen, Va. In December, 1862, he went with his company to fort Marcy, Va., where he remained until March, 1864. During the whole time he was in the army Mr. Lockwood was always ready for duty, except during the time he was in the hospital suffering from wounds; he was never sick and was never away for a day except on one short furlough after he was wounded.
Lockwood was in all the battles in which his company was engaged, from the Wilderness of Petersburg. At Petersburg he received what was nearly a fatal wound. It was in the front, on June 18th, 1864. At daylight on the morning of that day his company charged through the cornfield and took one line of works. After this his company advanced out upon the Jerusalem plank-road and there stayed until 11:20 a.m. They then had orders to charge upon the last works. All together they dashed forward to make another charge. When the word came to advance it seemed a moment of life and death. And indeed it was –a moment of life to some and death to many! Lockwood was a little in advance and had gone about fifty feet from the works when he was struck by a bullet. He fell, and by that time the line had reached him. The ball struck him between the second and third ribs on the right side and passing clear through the body came out below the shoulder-blade. Then came the order to fall back, and as it was obeyed, two of his comrades helped him up and carried him into the woods. Upon the spot Fort Hell, opposite Fort Damnation, was afterward built. Lockwood was then taken to the Craver United States General Hospital, where he remained until the end of the war.
When leaving home his mother had given him a Testament. This he carried in his inner pocket, and he still retains it, stained with the blood which flowed from the wound on that day. On August 28th, 1865, just three years after his enlistment, he was discharged by reason of expiration of term of service.
Since the close of the war Mr. Lockwood has been engaged in business and has been quite successful. Until 1890 he was engaged in the furniture and undertaking business with Hoyt Brothers, at Katonah, N.Y., and is a member of McKeel Post No. 120, G.A.R. of that place. He now has a fine establishment of his own at White Plains, N.Y. He is one of the leading undertakers of Westchester County, and is President of the Undertakers’ Association of Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. One of the cherished mementoes in his possession is a letter from General Hancock, dated February 28th, 1879. It is an answer to a request for the General’s photograph. The General sends two and says:
'They are the best I have. One was taken in 1864 – about January. I was not then perfectly well ; very thin. I had not recovered from my wound of Gettysburg and previous July (3d). The second was taken in 1866, when I did not take quite so much exercise as I had done during the war. I was then stationed in Baltimore, Md. I am very glad to comply with your wish. I always have a warm place in my breast for men who served under and with me.
I am very truly yours,
Winfield Scott Hancock'
The extract is given as an expression of that feeling felt by many of the great commanders for the soldiers who fought in the war, not for conquest, but for principle – a war for the right and not to satisfy ambition.
Mr. Lockwood was the youngest member of his company. The only objection to Mr. Lockwood has been that he was a bachelor. Within the past year he as seen the error of his way and taken a very attractive and amiable help-meet. May he live long and prosper, and though his descendants increase the numerical strength of the land which, twenty-five years ago, he was so eagerly striving to depopulate."
There is also an entry for Lockwood's elder brother, who appears to have lived with him:
"Lockwood, Benjamin F. Enrolled August 18th, 1862at New York; age 21; discharged by virtue of General Orders No. 26, may 3rd, 1865. Address in care of J.T. Lockwood, White Plains, N.Y."
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples; more than anyone worldwide.
The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: There is minor to modest soiling, and there are minor tack holes along the hoist with associated tiny stains, but there are no significant condition issues.
|Collector Level:||Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything|
|Flag Type:||Sewn flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1890|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1910|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|