Bennington Flag History – The Spirit of 76

Jul 16th, 2016

The actual history of the Bennington flag is unknown. The flag is called the Bennington flag because it is widely believed that it was carried at the battle of Bennington during the American Revolutionary War. The Bennington flag is a popular flag that is sometimes called “The Spirit of 76” in reference to the year 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed.


Spirit of 76 flag


Note that the flag has 13 stars and 13 strips, symbolizing the original 13 American colonies. Unlike the United States national flag, the Bennington flag features white, rather than red, in the outermost stripes. Another interesting feature is the seven points on the stars, rather than the standard five points.


Battle of Bennington


A popular legend claims that the original Bennington flag was acquired by Nathaniel Fillmore at the Battle of Bennington. During the Revolutionary War, a British general was informed that military supplies gathered the Americans were being stored in Bennington, Vermont. As a result, he sent a large number of men to capture the supplies. American Colonel John Stark opposed the British in their quest and is said to have flown the Bennington flag during that battle.  The British lost 900 men out of the 1,000 that were sent to capture the supplies. It is said that Nathaniel Fillmore then presented the Bennington flag to Colonel Stark’s army and that flag was made of hand sewn, home spun linen.


Another version of the legend claims that Nathaniel Fillmore carried the flag off the field and passed it down through several generations of the Fillmore family. It is known that, at one time, it was in the possession of President Millard Fillmore, and that Nathaniel Fillmore’s grandson, Philetus P. Fillmore, flew the flag to commemorate the Battle of Bennington in 1877. Because of its association with the Fillmore family, the flag is sometimes referred to as the Fillmore flag.


Bennington Museum


At some point, Mrs. Maude Fillmore Wilson donated it as a family flag to the Bennington Museum. The museum evaluated the flag and dated it from the 19th century based on the machine woven fabric it is made from. If that is true, there are several other speculations to consider. It could have been produced during the War of 1812 to spark sentiment; as a symbol to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence 50th anniversary; or in 1876 as a centennial banner.


The Bennington, or Fillmore, flag is currently housed at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. It is not clear whether it is actually on display.


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