The early days of the American Revolution led to the use of many flags as the colonists struggled with the aims of the revolt, whether rights within the British Empire or outright independence. Early designs tended to be modifications of British flags until the colonials took the path of independence in 1776. From that point on, the flags of the United States took their own distinct path.
An ensign used by British naval and merchant ships, the Red Ensign is the British flag initially favored by the colonists, and all designs of American flags descended from this banner.
First used by George Washington on January 1, 1776, this modification of the British Red Ensign became in effect the first national flag of the United States. This flag was never officially sanctioned by the Continental Congress but is considered the first flag of the United States and was in use from late 1775 until mid 1777. This flag was an alteration of the British Meteor flag. In its blue canton was the red cross of St. George, signifying England, and the white cross of St. Andrew, signifying Scotland. The 13 stripes signified the original colonies. Retaining the British Union in the canton indicated a continued loyalty, as the Americans saw it, to the constitutional government against which they fought. On January 1,1776, this flag was first raised on Prospect Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts. At this time, the Continental Army came into formal existence. At the time it was known as the continental colors because it represented the entire nation. In one of Washington's letters, he referred to it as the "Great Union Flag" and it is most commonly called the Grand Union today.
This is the flag design that legend says was created by Betsy Ross for George Washington.
This was the flag of the early colonist who had joined together in the protest against the British impositions on American economic freedom. One such protest was resistance to the Stamp Act, on October 7, 1765. A delegate from each of the nine colonies formed the "Stamp Act Congress" . They petitioned the king and parliament, the act was repealed on March 18, 1766. The flag of nine red and white stripes that represented these "Sons of Liberty" became known as the "Rebellious Stripes." On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty protested the parliament's Tea Act, an action that became known as the Boston Tea Party . The colonists' believed the tax to be a violation of their legitimate economic liberty. Three and a half years after the Tea Party the thirteen colonies had come together in their decision to fight for independence and the nine stripes had grown to 13. The Sons of Liberty would rally under a large tree which became known as "The Liberty Tree".
One of the original 13 star flags, the "Stars and Stripes" was probably the most commonly used variant.
The American Stripes flag was flown on American Merchant Ships during the Revolutionary era.
This unique flag was flown at the headquarters of General George Washington during most of the Revolutionary War.