Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maryland's State Flag: Historic Symbols of Unity

The state flag of Maryland is both distinctive as well as a symbolic history of the state's roots. It is based upon the heraldic designs of two English families, the Calverts and the Crosslands, the parents of the first Lord Baltimore.

The state flag of Maryland rated in the top 5 by NAVA for its design
The yellow and black bars represent the Calvert family, the first Lord Baltimore's paternal side. The red and white key pattern represents his maternal side, the Crossland family.

During colonial times and all the way up to and including the Civil War, the bumble bee colors of yellow and black generally represented Maryland. In fact, colonial descriptions of Maryland flags only describe flags using the yellow and black combination.

Though Maryland was a part of the Union, it was an eastern border state and it also had a large and active population that was sympathetic to the Confederate cause. During the Civil War, Confederate sympathizers began to show support of their cause by wearing "secessionist cockades", decorative rosettes common to the time – much like campaign buttons or bumper stickers are used today.

Lord Baltimore's coat-of-arms
Secessionist cockades, however, were made in a variety of color schemes from red and white; blue; or red, white and blue together. To make it even more complicated, Union cockades also existed in border states like Maryland and were in a similar color scheme: red, white and blue; or Union blue.

Confusion aside, in Maryland, a red and white secessionist color scheme apparently was adopted to show support of the southern cause:

"'Secession colors' appeared on everything from yarn stocking and cravats [men's neckties] to children's clothing. People displaying these red-and-white symbols of resistance to the Union and to Lincoln's policies were vigorously prosecuted by Federal authorities" (

Binding the nation's wounds ...
With these badges of protest in mind, the current flag of Maryland contains another layer of symbolism: that of unity rising out of disunity.

Made from a design of four quadrants of repeating design, the flag's colors not only date to the founding of the colony, but they also reflect the divisive times of the Civil War. The colors of both sides – secessionist red and white as well as traditional Maryland yellow and black – are used in equal parts in order to create the Maryland flag.

Reproduction cockade, c.1860
 First flown October 11, 1880 at the 150th parade marking Baltimore's founding (, the flag was also flown October 25, 1888 at the Gettysburg Battlefield in a ceremony dedicating memorial monuments to the Maryland regiments from the Army of the Potomac ( It also was flown by the Maryland National Guard's Fifth Regiment in 1889. This design became the official state flag of Maryland in 1904.

Maryland is one of the original 13 colonies. It is the 7th state to join the new nation. It adopted its first state constitution on November 8, 1776. Its statehood date is April 28, 1788, the date it signed the federal Constitution.

Finding ancestors who were slave
Maryland makes it easy to do an online search of the slave records of Prince George's County from 1808 -1869. To search the Freedom Records archive, follow this link

Flag of Maryland's 4th Regiment of US Colored Troops

Civil War regimental flag of the Maryland 4th US Colored Troops
Originally 6.5' high and 6'wide, the flag of Maryland's 4th Regiment of US Colored Troops is the only surviving regimental flag from the 25 regiments of African American soldiers. It is hand-painted and hand-stitched onto silk and was carried into battle (

Let it fly!
Maryland Dept. of State
Maryland Historical Society (
Maryland State Archives (

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