Flag Day remembered by Fort St. Joseph Historical Association

Published 5:29 am Wednesday, June 15, 2005

By By EMILY DREITZLER / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The Fort St. Joseph Historical Association celebrated Flag Day Tuesday with an informative historical presentation on the history of our nation's flags by Robert Ahrens at the Niles District Library on Tuesday evening.
Ahrens, a member of The Fort St. Joseph Historical Association for less than two years, enlightened his fellow members with the history of 12 different flags, ranging from the Revolution to the present day. "I have been interested in history since I was a little guy," said Ahrens. Ahrens shared his love for history and vast knowledge on each flag as they were displayed.
The first flag that Ahrens presented was the Rhode Island flag when it was a member of the 13 colonies. This flag depicted a light blue anchor in the center with 13 yellow stars in the upper left corner on behalf of the 13 colonies. This flag represented the rebellious reputation Rhode Island had acquired after taking over a British sailing ship at one of its ports.
Ahrens next talked about the first national flag of the 13 colonies, also known as the Grand Union flag. George Washington first flew this flag in Cambridge, Mass. and it was the first flag to unite the 13 colonies.
Ahrens then discussed the John Ball Jones flag. This flag depicted the13colonies desire for independence. The flag portrayed a rattlesnake with the words 'Don't Tread on Me' displayed beneath it.
As America entered the Civil War and prepared for great change, the design of our nation's flags underwent immense change as well. One of the several flags Ahrens presented was the 35 star flag that was adopted by the Union in the middle of the Civil War. "The Union constructed their flags of silk, whereas nowadays, flags are made of nylon," stated Ahrens as he pointed to the flag.
The Confederacy displayed three different flags during different time periods and Ahrens owns a version of each one. The first flag of the Confederacy was labeled the 'Stars and Bars' flag.
The second national Confederate flag was also the Confederate's naval flag and caused great confusion due to its almost completely white appearance. Although there was a small confederate symbol in the upper left corner, if that symbol was not seen by the Union soldiers, it looked as if the Confederate was displaying the white flag of surrender.
The final flag of the Confederate helped to dispel the embarrassment and confusion that the second Confederate flag had caused by the addition of a red bar on the right side of the second flag's design. Shortly after adopting this flag, the Union defeated the Confederacy. "This flag is probably one of the shortest lived national flags in any country of the world," stated Ahrens.
The oldest flag in Ahrens collection is over 100 years old. "This 45 star flag was originally adopted in 1896 and displays three rows of eight stars and three rows of seven stars horizontally,' explained Ahrens. This flag also represented America in the Spanish-American War.
Ahrens has been actively collecting flags for several years. "I have bought all the flags I own at flag stores. I fly the appropriate flags in front of my house on the battle dates that they correspond to," said Ahrens.
The Fort St. Joseph Historical Association formerly owned the Fort St. Joseph Museum and released it to the city in the 1990s. "There is an unusual amount of information here. If I have a question dealing with history, all I have to do is address it to the members and somebody will know the answer," said The Fort St. Joseph Historical Association President Kathleen McCormick. The Fort St. Joseph Historical Association has concluded their meetings for the summer and will continue in September.