- Historic Sites
Exploit At Fayal
A lonely, gallant battle fought by the designer of our flag set the stage for Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans.
June 1959 | Volume 10, Issue 4
But there was one more service to his country for which Reid deserves lasting recognition. Since 1795 and all through the War of 1812, American armies and ships had flown a flag of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. Several states had joined the Union since that time, and now clamored for recognition.
Reid had long felt that the flag wasn’t truly representative, and when his advice was sought by a congressional committee investigating new designs—its chairman was a personal friend—Reid was ready. He suggested that the fifteen stripes be reduced to thirteen as a permanent honor to the original thirteen colonies, and that a star be added to the existing fifteen for each new state admitted to the Union. His recommendations were accepted, and a bill embodying them was signed by President James Monroe on April 9, 1818. In honor of her husband’s assistance, Mrs. Reid was given the privilege of fashioning the first flag ol the new design; it flew for the first time over the Capitol on April 13.
Reid later served as New York’s first harbor master and instituted such improvements as the Sandy Hook lightship and a ship-to-shore telegraph system for reporting arrivals. He ended his career in 1855—as a 72-year-old sailing master in the Navy—and died in 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War. But his greatest service to his country had been rendered in a much earlier war—on that September night in 1814 when, against terrific odds, he stood his ground and made his place in history—at a distant port called Fayal.