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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Guilford Courthouse Flag

by Robert C. Voigt, 2006

The Guilford Courthouse Flag. Courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh.The Guilford Courthouse flag, also known as the North Carolina militia flag, is one of several early variations of the U.S. national flag. According to oral history, troops of the North Carolina militia carried the flag at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on 15 Mar. 1781 during the American Revolution. The flag featured a unique configuration of stars and stripes, with an enlarged white canton displaying 13 blue, 8-pointed stars bordered by alternating red and blue stripes. A partially complete specimen of such a flag can be found in the North Carolina Museum of History.

Guilford County Flag, made circa 1781-1795. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.The lack of reliable evidence establishing the Guilford Courthouse flag at the time of the Revolution has caused many historians to question its authenticity. Regardless of whether the flag was actually present at the time of the Revolution or was a later creation, its unusual dimensions and color combinations make it one of the more interesting and attractive early American flags.


Henry W. Moeller, Shattering an American Myth: Unfurling the History of the Stars and Stripes (1995).

Margaret Seden, Star-Spangled Banner: Our Nation and Its Flag (1993).

Additional Resources:

Cooper, Grace Rogers. "Thirteen Star Flags: Keys to Identification." Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology  Number 21. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 1973.

National Park Service. "The North Carolina Militia Flag." National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Mastai, Boleslaw and D'Otrange, Marie-Louise. The Stars and the Stripes. The American Flag as Art and as History from the Birth of the Republic to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1973.

Image Credits:

The Guilford Courthouse Flag. Courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh.

"Flag, National, Accession #: H.1914.246.1." Circa 1781-1795. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

Origin - location: 

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