to Lu Hickey
of Flag, War of 1812 Naval Hero
At The Hampton Roads Central Library
A NATION'S GRATITUDE?
Designer of Our Present USA Flag in Unmarked Grave for 95
W. Tazewell - 1967
and the Northwest Territory might now be British if Reid had
not engaged them in what has been called one of the world's
most decisive naval battles.
Thomas Manning, an amateur historian, knew the story of
Captain Samuel Chester Reid, designer of our present flag.
Manning had reason to believe that he might be buried at
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N. Y. As cemetery supervisor he
had ready access to the old, faded records. His search was
rewarded with success, and he discovered the unmarked grave
where the naval hero of the war of 1812 and Congressional
Medal of Honor winner had remained unknown and unrecognized
for almost 95
years. Further investigation verified that the Reid buried
there was the naval hero. Manning obtained the support of
Brooklyn Congressman Francis E. Dorn, local veteran's groups
and other organizations to properly mark Reid's last resting
place. The greatest difficulty was in locating the surviving
descendants to receive permissions for the monument.
Old Glory Post No. 48 of the American Legion responded by
marking the grave with a flag and wreath until the erection of
the monument, according to David Terada, now resident of
Norfolk. Terada was then Commander of the Brooklyn Post
and is now Americanism Chairman of Norfolk's American Legion
Post No. 60. On October 28, 1956, the efforts of the Reid
Memorial Committee met with fruition. Having been authorized
by Act of Congress a granite monument and flag pole were
dedicated during colorful ceremonies. Secretary of the Navy
Charles S. Thomas gave the principal address and Terada laid a
wreath for Kings County veterans organizations. The ceremonies
were attended by two of Reid's descendants, Col. Louis
Sanders, a great-grandson, and Samuel Chester Reid, 4th, a
designed the third version of the Stars and Stripes in 1818 at
the request of a Congressional Committee headed by Peter H. Wendover, Representative from New York City.
The original flag of the United States of America was created
by Resolution of Congress on June 14, 1777, with thirteen
stars and stripes. The second Flag Act was passed in 1794 to
authorize fifteeen stars and fifteen stripes due to entry of
Vermont and Kentucky into the Union. By 1818 there were twenty
states and entry of others was expected soon. It was
impractical to continue to add stripes as more and more states
were admitted. So, Wendover's committee adopted Reid's
proposal that the stripes be fixed at thirteen with one star
for each state. On acceptance of the design by Congress, Mrs.
Reid made the first new flag with silk provided by the
government. It was flown from the Capitol dome on April 13,
1818. The twenty stars were formed in "one great
luminary" as a large composite star.
Notwithstanding the later establishment by President Monore of
the arrangement of stars in equal rows, they were non-uniform
many flags. As late in 1857 stars were seen in the form of
large stars, as a lozenge, diamond or circle, and even as an
Chester Reid was born in 1783, son of John Reid, a Scottish
lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
His father was captured in an expedition against New London,
Conn., in 1780, and was paroled in the custody of Judge
Chester of Norwich. He married the judge's daughter, Rebecca.
The son became a powder monkey in the U. S. Navy as a boy and
served under Commodore Truxton as a midshipman. In the War of
1812 he was made captain of the privateer, GENERAL ARMSTRONG.
His ship was pursued by a British squadron when he left New
York in September, 1814. Through his skill he escaped during
light winds by pumping water on the sails and by towing by
rowers in the ship's boats. On the afternoon of September 26
he entered the harbor at Fayal in the Azores. A squadron of
three British ships arrived soon afterwards, with 136 guns and
2,000 men. The GENERAL ARMSTRONG had seven small guns and 90
men. In the evening the British attacked with four smaller
boats and were beaten off. Later, at midnight, fourteen boats
with cannonades and 600 men attacked the Americans again. The
British succeeded in boarding the GENERAL ARMSTRONG after
heavy losses from cannon fire. In hand-to-hand combat with the
courageous crew the British were repelled with many dead and
wounded. Reid dueled and killed the British leader with his
cutlass. Reid moved all of his guns to one side of his ship by
cutting new gun ports during the night in anticipation of
further attacks. With the light of dawn the 18-gun CARNATION
came in and received a withering fire from the ARMSTRONG,
taking so much punishment that she left the battle. As the
larger British ship PLANTAGENET with 74 guns began moving in
for the kill, Reid scuttled his ship.
the next day Captain Reid was invited to tea with the
surviving British officers at the British Consulate.
Notwithstanding the objections of the American consul, Reid
accepted, ignoring the possibility of a trap. He was cheered
and welcomed by the British officers as a brave and
resourceful foe. General Andrew Jackson later told Capt. Reid
that "If there had been no Battle of Fayal, there would
have been no Battle of New Orleans." Reid had delayed the
British expedition against New Orleans for ten days allowing
Jackson to arrive there earlier. Thus, Louisiana and the
Northwest Territory might now be British of Reid had not
engaged them in what has been called one of the world's most
decisive naval battles. Capt. Reid received many honors and
was a popular naval hero. The Thanks of Congress and the
Medal of Honor were awarded to him along with a gold sword
from the State of New York and a silver tea service from the
City of New York. The sword is in the Metropolitan Museum and
the tea service is in the Museum of the City of New York.
the War of 1812 Samuel Chester Reid became harbor master for
New York City. He made many innovations including a signal
code for U. S. vessels and the use of the semaphore system for
speedy advice on ship arrivals. He devised a method of rapid
signaling by land which permitted messages to go from New York
to New Orleans in two hours. Having served his country well in
peace and war, Capt. Reid died in 1861 at the age of 78. He is
due the gratitude of the Nation, and our recognition on Flag
Day as the designer of our present flag. His grave is now a
symbol of our patriotism and dedication.
A descendant of Samuel Chester Reid, Mrs. Elizabeth Virginia
Johnson, was living in Portsmouth, Va. in 1967. It was noted
in _The Virginian-Pilot_ of Feb. 26, 1967, that Mrs. Johnson's
mother's oldest brother, W. B. Reid, married a direct
descendant of Betsy Ross. This Mrs. Reid made a Confederate
flag to be flown during the Civil War atop a paper mill at
Neuse River Falls, N. C.
_Sunday News,_ Brooklyn Section, July 31, 1955, p. B22.
"Seek Reid Kin For Okay on Memorial Plac"
_The Virginian-Pilot,_ June 14, 1987, p. C2, "Old Glory:
Contrary to legend, Betsy Ross didn't sew it," by George
_Who Was Who,_ Historical Volume, p. 508, biography of Samuel