The Bennington Flag: A Pre-Constitutional Symbol of Freedom

The Bennington Flag: Symbol of FreedomLike many flags championed by the Patriot, Constitutionalist and Second Amendment movements, the Bennington Flag is older than the Constitution itself. As the “76” in the canton probably gives away, the flag dates back to the revolutionary period, from the Battle of Bennington in 1777. The battle didn’t actually take place in Bennington, Vermont, but rather about 10 miles away in what is now Upstate New York.

In some ways, the flag is easy to ignore. It looks much like the more iconic Betsy Ross Flag, but there are several crucial differences. First, there is the “76” in the canton. Second, the top stripe of the 13 stripes is white, rather than the more customary red. Third, the canton is much taller than the official American flag, or its earlier equivalents. (Usually, the canton takes up the corner of the top seven stripes. On the Bennington Flag, however, it takes up nine.) Finally, the stars on the flag have seven points rather than five.

Commonly known as the Bennington 76 flag, it enjoys increased popularity at times when America is reconnecting with its revolutionary roots. For example, the Fillmore Flag, a version of the Bennington Flag allegedly from the Battle of Bennington itself, may have been flown at a 50th celebration of American independence. It was also popular in 1876 for America’s centenary, and 1976 when all things “Spirit of ‘76” were the rage.

All pre-Constitutional flags have a rich lore associated with them, and the Bennington Flag is no exception. While historians dispute it, legend has it that the actual flag from the Battle of Bennington was retrieved from the field by Nathaniel Fillmore, Sr. – the grandfather of Millard Fillmore, last of the Whigs. This flag, known as the Fillmore Flag, entered the family’s possessions and was once owned by Millard Fillmore himself. He later passed it on to Philetus P. Fillmore, who flew the flag for the Battle of Bennington’s cenetary. Maude Fillmore later allegedly donated the flag to the Bennington Museum.

The Battle of Bennington is a lesser-known battle from the American Revolutionary War and the Bennington Flag is a more obscure pre-Constitutional flag. So what happened at the Battle of Bennington?

The battle saw a force of 2,000 Continentals, mostly made up of New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen, square off against a force of less than 1,500 loyalist forces of Brits and their Hessian mercenaries. The Continental forces were augmented by the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont, whose flag, that of the Vermont Republic (who had North America’s first written constitution), is much better known than the Bennington Flag.

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