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Continental Army (U.S.)


Last modified: 2015-09-19 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | continental army | headman | dragoons | sheldon |
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Colors of the U.S. Continental Army

According to orders of June, 1780, general officers in the Continental Army were to wear blue coats with yellow buttons, lined and faced in buff with yellow buttons, two epaulets and white or buff underclothes (meaning waistcoat and breeches). Prior to this General Washington wore substantially the same uniform, which is why it was adopted later. The colors were chosen because they were the colors of the Whig party in England. The Tories wore blue coats with red collars and cuffs.

The coats worn by Army soldiers played a part in flag design. In May 1779 the Board of War passed a plan on uniform design, in which all soldiers would wear blue coats. However, the facing colors would be different, as follows:

  • White facings: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut
  • Buff facings: New York, New Jersey
  • Red facings: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia
  • Blue facings (white button holes): North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia

The colors of the New Jersey flag (buff, with the shield primarily in blue) were selected due to the fact those were the colors of the state's soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

In addition, the use of blue as the main color for the Army gave that color pre-eminence in the U.S. Of the 13 original states, 7 (New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, South Carolina) use blue as the main color. The first 2 states to join after independence (Kentucky and Vermont) do as well. All the armed forces wear blue as a dress uniform except the Army, although they didn't switch to green until this century and officers still have the option of wearing a blue version of the current uniform. Most executive departments of the federal government also have primarily blue flags (the presidential flag, for example).

Let it be known that all the information on Continental Army uniforms was culled from Uniforms of the American Revolution by John Mollo.

Kurt Stutt, 18 June 1995

2nd Regt. Continental Light Dragoons

[2nd Regt. Continental Light Dragoons flag] image by Randy Young, 12 March 2001

Source: "Flags to Color from the American Revolution."

This flag belongs to the Second Regiment Light Dragoons, Continental Line. The flag is described in the book as "Blue field, canton with gold and blue stripes; gold wings and rays on a dark blue disk; gold scrolls." There is also a little narrative of the flag and its regiment:

"The Second Regiment, Light Dragoons, was first led by Major Sheldon of Connecticut and later by the daring Major Tallmadge of New York who, at Lloyd's Neck, Ft. George and Ft. Slongo, took large numbers of the enemy without losing a man."
Randy Young, 12 March 2001

I came across a "Flag of the Second Continental Light Dragoons" at (image at Considering that it is almost the reverse in coloring of what was reported above (back in 2001) made we wonder which one is right or if one replaced the other. So I did some searching and found these sites about the 2nd Dragoons' flags: - Second Continental Light Dragoons "Sheldon's Horse" - The Second Regiment Light Dragoons, Tallmadge's Troop

The Second Regiment Light Dragoons, Continental Line's original colors are shown at the Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Their units flags were based on 1760s French Light Dragoons units thus using a series of color to set off the squadron colors (red, green, white). (Cavalry regiments were broken down into squadrons then into troops.) The Regiment has 3 squadron colors and 6 troop colors.

The Second Regiment Light Dragoons, Continental Line (later 2nd Legionary Corps) was apparently never properly disbanded and was reactivated in 1978 by Connecticut's Governor and recognized by the 106th US Congress as the modern continuation. While a militia unit, it primarily a historical organization.

Regimental device: A blue disk with upside down white wings out the side with 5 rays/thunders above and below emanating from the disk. An upper scroll reads "2nd Regt Lt Dragoons". The Latin motto on lower scroll reads "Her country calls and her sons respond in tones of thunder." - 2d Dragoon's Regimental Flag or - Original regiment national flag - Reproduced regiment national flag
Description: A square flag with alternating Red then white stripes 13 in total. In the center is a red square bordered with gold and black with the Dragoon's regimental device within but with out the upper scroll.

In 1778 at Pound Ridge, this flag was taken by Banastre Tarleton and held until 2005 by his family. Sotheby's sold the flag for 12.7 million dollars. - Current regiment colors - Photo of Original Troop Flag (faded from blue)
Currently on display at the Connecticut State Library

Description: With 13 stripes alternating white and blue in the canton, this blue background flag has the Dragoon's regimental device in the field. - Second Continental Light Dragoons squadron flag - Photo of Original Troop Flag - currently on display at the Smithsonian (faded from red) - Hierarchy of colors used by the unit - ID as a squadron flag

With 13 stripes alternating blue (or silver) and in the canton, this red background flag has the Dragoon's regimental device sans the upper scroll in the field.

And based on the, there were 2 more Squadron colors, same as the above just with green and white fields.
Steve Shumaker, 5 August 2011

Headman Flag

[Headman flag] image by Randy Young, 13 March 2001

Source: "Flags to Color from the American Revolution."

This flag is listed as "The Headman Flag." The flag is described in the book as "Green field, gold stars (which are in a conjectural arrangement), scrolls, arms, column and Liberty Hat." There is also a little narrative of the flag:

"This flag, belonging to the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology in Washington, D.C., descended through the family of Sergeant Headman, probably from Pennsylvania. It was listed in 'New Standards and Division Colors,' published in 1778, but we do not know what regiments received the colors."
The inscription on the scroll reads "THIS WE WILL DEFEND OR DIE," and the word "LIBERTY" is written on the cap. The flag portrays thirteen arms grasping a column topped with a liberty cap, symbolizing the thirteen colonies united in their fight for freedom.

Randy Young, 13 March 2001