Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What were the Gostelowe flags ?

Among the papers in the National Archives in Washington D.C. is a report entitled, "A Return of ye New Standards & Division Colours for ye Army of ye United States of America In Possession of Major Jonathan Gostelowe, Comy. Mily. Stores. "  This return was part of a series done in July and August 1778.  The report describes in great detail a series of 13 new Standards and Division Colours to be issued to regiments of the Continental Army.  They describe the colors and devices on the flags and how many division colors and their colors.  Because of this they are a valuable resource for anyone studying regimental colors of the Continental Army.  It is not known which regiments were issued these flags although some writers have expressed suggestions.  

Here is a illustration of each of the thirteen Standards as well as the information provided about them in the actual "return.". Please note that all color illustrations of these flags are from Richardson's "Standards and Colors of the American Revolution."  I hope this may provide the American Revolution gamer with more information to add historically correct and colorful flags for their table top regiments.  There is actually a lot of flags out there other then the same old same old.

Standard #1. Headman Color.

Number of the Standard: 1st

Their Colours:  Green

No. of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours: Blue and Yellow

The Device of the Standards: A pillow on the top of which is the cap of liberty supported by thirteen hands.

No. Of the Standards:  1st

Their Motto:  This We Will Defend.

Standard #2. United Defense.

Number of the Standard:  22nd

Their Colours:  Red

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours: Green and Yellow

The Device of the Standards:  An arm in armour with a drawn sword in its hand and thirteen drawn swords linked together.

No. Of the Standards:  2

Their Motto:  We are Always Ready.

Standard #3. Harmonious Union.

Number of the Standard:  3rd

Their Colours:  Red

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Blue and Yellow

The Device of the Standards:  A golden harp

No. Of the Standards:  3rd

Their Motto: Majora. Minoribus. Consanant.

Standard #4. America Triumphant.

Number of the Standard:  4th

Their Colours:  yellow

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Blue and red

The Device of the Standards:  Britannia setting on an old stump weeping.  A tree behind her withered, her spear broken, an olive branch lying at her feet, an Indian on the opposite side with his now strung holding an arrow in his hand, by his side a dog (an emblem of fidelity).  Under his feet a shield, behind him a palm tree in full bloom, before the unduan, the sun rising upon the new empire, between the two is game flying towards the Indian holding the cap of liberty and proclaiming: be liberty thine.

No. Of the Standards:  4th. 

Their Motto:  Behold the Rising Empire

Standard #5. Sustain or Abstain.

Number of the Standard: 5th. 

Their Colours:  Blue

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Yellow and Green

The Device of the Standards:  A Thorn Bush and Hand

No. Of the Standards:  5th

Their Motto:  Sustine. Vel. Abstine

Standard #6. Death or Honor.

Number of the Standard: 6th

Their Colours: Yellow

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours: Red and Blue

The Device of the Standards:  The Boar and Spear

No. Of the Standards: 6th

Their Motto:  Aut.  Mors.  Aut.  Vita Decora.

Standard #7. Perseverance.

Number of the Standard:  7th

Their Colours:  yellow

No. of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Blue and Red

The Device of the Standards:  The Beaver and Tree

No. Of the Standards:  7th

Their Motto:  Perseverance

Standard #8. Fight Back.

Number of the Standard:  8th

Their Colours:  Red

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Blue and Red

The Device of the Standards:  The Eagle & Craine.

No. Of the Standards:  8th

Their Motto:  Exitus on dubio est.

Standard #9.  Honorable Remembrance.

Number of the Standard: 9th

Their Colours:  Blue

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Their Colours:  Red and Yellow

The Device of the Standards:  A Laurel Wreath in a Pedestal.

No. Of the Standards:  9th. 

Their Motto:  Si.  Recte. Facies.

Standard #10. Armed Resistance.

Number of the Standard: 10th

Their Colours: Yellow

No. Of the Division Colours: 2

Their Colours:  Blue and Red

The Device of the Standards:  An Arm in Armour With a Sword In Its Hand.

No. Of the Standards: NB.

Their Motto: The Union Agreeable to The Resolve of Congress.  Thirteen Stars is Printed on each Standard.

Standard #11.  American Defense.

Number of the Standard:  11th  

Their Colours:  Blue

No. Of the Division Colours:  2

Blue:  Red and Green

The Device of the Standards:  An Indian Representing America, Laying his Hand on the Cap of Liberty, Placed on a Pedestal, With his Now Strung, and his Dog by his Side.

No. Of the Standards:  11th

Their Motto:  This Is Mine & I'll Defend It.

Standard #12.  Resurgent.

Number of the Standard:    Blank. 

Their Colours:  Blank

No. Of the Division Colours: Blank

The Device of the Standards:  The Plant Acanthus Sprouting  Out On All Sides under a Weight.

No. Of the Standards:  12th

Their Motto:  Depressa. Resurget.

Standard #13.  United We Stand.

Number of the Standard: Blank

Their Colours: Blank

No. Of the Division Colours: Blank

The Device of the Standards: Thirteen Darts

No. Of the Standards: Blank  

Their Motto: Blank

There is a question were any of these Standard and Colours ever issued.  There is no definitive documentation either way.  But there is possibly other hints of confirmation.  Thomas Hughs of the British 53rd Regiment of Foot while a prisoner in Lancaster Pennsylvania made this observation.  "Jan: 19 (1780) A Regiment of 400 men with 6 pieces of brass cannon marched in a great parade into town - The cannon are some of those taken from Burgoyne.  The troops were well clothed and are part of the southern reinforcement.  They  have three Standards, one in the center of the Regiment, and one in the middle of each wing.  The colours were blue, red and white, with the 13 stripes in the corner of each. "  The captured Waxhaw colours are also very similar to the Standard and Colours #7.  The exception is one of the Grand Divison colours which is yellow and not red.  But with that exception very similar.  So it is possible that colours of these patterns were issued and carried in the field.  The description by Thomas Hughes also  Suggests that these were carried by battalions in the approved manner.  And this makes a interesting possibly way to organize and display your late war Continental regiments and Colours.

So, it is possible that these Standard and Colours were issued and used in the field late war by Continental line regiments.  For the American Rev War  gamers these add a very colorful and useful  addition for our American Regiments.  They also offer a alternative to non historical flags on the table top.


A Return of Some Continental Army Regimental Colors of 1778"

Holst, Donald W. and Marko Zlatich

MCH, 19 (Winter 1967), pp. 109-115.

Richardson, Edward W.  Standards and Colors of the American Revolution.

Philadelphia, 1982.


  1. I’ve seen some Virginia regiment reenactors using flags of various field colors, that have simply a white scroll with the regimental number on it. For example, IX Regiment. This is similar to the last flag on the right in the last picture at the bottom of your posting. So I have used such flags for my Virginia Continental regiments.

    So if I’m following your essay correctly, would a regiment have a Gostelowe flag plus two colors with just the scroll and regiment number? The other two colors would be in the color mentioned with each individual Gostelowe flag.

  2. I have used that groups flag for my Maryland and Virginia Continental regiments!

    Yes, it appears from the British officers journal entry that it could be a Gostelowe type flag in the center with a division color on either wing. And it is possible that some regiments added numbers or such to their division colours. But it is a guess based on some possible examples like a new 2nd Rhode Island colour in Stone's book.

    Of course some regiments might have gone their own way and made their own colours. See the portrait of Colonel Walter Stewart of the 2nd PA. Regiment. Is this their regimental standard? Or a division colour?

  3. There is so much we do not know. And so much that has been lost. Which makes this fun to go down a rabbit hole searching bits of information.

  4. Another interesting article Mark - its great to have the resources available to dig into these arcane details. Flag no 10 is a real "Throw Back" - its very reminiscent of ECW flags from 125 years earlier!

    1. They do look very much like ECW flags especially the motto. I know a good number of individuals from the New England colonies returned to GB to fight on Parliament side. And a good number of them returned after. So an interesting connection I had not thought about before you brought it up. How interesting!

  5. G'Day Mark, thank you for posting your research, it's great to have the information in one place. Can we expect to see one of the standards appear in your army? Cheers Greg

    1. I have a number of them already in my 1776 regiments. But I will be adding more!

      Thank you for the kind words. I hope that the materials I post can be of service to others out there.

  6. It would certainly be more interesting for an ‘army look’ than endless Betsy Ross... er, which is what I have done... Never mind. Something for when I swap out my plastics for Hinchliffe!

    1. In my earlier Rev War armies I had the same. For the longest time that was all we had. Now, as more interesting flags become available we can add more interesting flags to our armies. I have found it far easier to change a flag then repaint a figure.

      BTW it is great that Hinchliffe is still available! I will have to add some to my army. I had a bunch in the late 1970's

  7. Excellent flags. I do hope they were used in the field.

    1. Those flags captured by Tarleton and recently sold at auction suggest they were.

  8. I am glad I found your site. Some of the best information on American revolution flags I've ever found.
    Speaking to this site as a group,America needs you and people like you more than ever,keep up your intellectual works and hobby.
    You are appreciated.
    Mossimo,16 ,student at Sarasota Military Academy,Florida

  9. Nice detailed shots of these flags. I would love to do versions of these! One day...



  10. To me its a pity that these colors are not more widely available. No disrespect intended to other manufacturers of flags

    Now, if you would someday find the time and resources to do these that with his be amazing incredible.