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and view the details
Paintings by eyewitness artists give us a priceless view into the world of the American Revolution. The painting shown here is a portrait of George Washington at Yorktown, painted by James Peale. James Peale was an artist just like his older brother Charles Willson Peale.
The painting under analysis right now is obviously based on Charles Willson Peale’s portrait entitled “George Washington at Princeton.” But this painting depicts Washington’s greater triumph at Yorktown.
Its details are extremely valuable. No fewer than 7 flags are visible in this painting. Working from bottom left to top right:
2. The Regimental Color of the 76th Highlanders, which is green and draped across the cannon. A regimental color was the same color as a regiment’s cuffs and lapels. It contained a small Union Jack in the upper left canton and the number of the regiment in the center. As the 76th Highlanders were the only British regiment at Yorktown with green cuffs and lapels, this flag belongs to them.
|A photograph of a surviving Ansbach-Bayreuth flag|
5. Hiding behind the Ansbach-Bayreuth color draped on the cannon is a King’s color of an unknown regiment. No regimental distinctions are visible.
6. Above the 3rd Continental Light Dragoon (holding Washington's horse) is an American flag with thirteen white stars in a circle on a blue canton. Mysteriously, this flag appears to have no red stripes, but only a field of white. Why is this? My conjecture is that it is a regimental standard for a Continental regiment with white facings, and that the unit’s motto/distinction would be in the center. This flag also appears to have a blue cord wrapped just below the spear point.
|Each flag annotated with its identification (if known)|
This concludes our look at the flags of James Peale’s portrait of Washington at Yorktown. Of the seven flags visible, the details of four (two of the 76th Highlanders and two of the Ansbach-Bayreuth regiments) can be substantiated with other evidence. Since this is the case, there seems to be no reason to deny the authenticity or accuracy of the other three flags in this painting. I eagerly await more analysis of the other three flags.