Alpha and Omega on display for one more week

West Point’s Museum, located on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy in New York, has had the first and last flags captured during the Revolutionary War on display for the past two years, but they are fixing to be returned to climate-controlled storage and it could be years before they are seen again.

Dubbed the Alpha and the Omega, the trophy flags were shown to Congress and eventually presented to Gen. Washington. Handed down to Washington’s step-grandson and adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis. Custis gave them to the War Department in 1858 for preservation and they have been at West Point for safekeeping ever since.

King’s Color of the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers), captured at Ft. Chambly, Quebec, on the 17th of October, 1775, and was the first enemy flag captured by the US Army. (Photo courtesy West Point Museum Collection)

When the Rebel forces invaded Canada in 1775, the regiment’s colors were in storage at Fort Chambly on the Richelieu River. The Rebels laid siege to that post with over 400 men and two galleys armed with heavy cannon. The primitive stone installation, built in 1711, was never intended to be defensible against armies armed with cannons. The 83 men defending the post capitulated very quickly. With the surrender of the fort, the colors of the 7th Regiment were captured by the Rebels. The men of the 7th taken prisoner during the defence of Canada were exchanged in British-held New York City in December 1776 and the unit went on to survive until it was amalgamated in 1968 with several other regiments to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimea, Boer Wars, and both World Wars.

The final regiment to surrender in the War of Independence was the Ansbach-Bayreuth Regiment, a German mercenary unit in service to the British Crown, surrendered on 19 October 1781 at Yorktown. (Photo courtesy West Point Museum Collection)

It was sent to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as a trophy and is one of a few regimental trophy flags to survive. This flag is made of white silk damask. One side features a wreath of a green palm and a laurel branch tied with pink ribbon around a crown with the letters “M.Z.B.” for Markgraf zu Brandenburg over date “1775.” A scroll bears the motto, pro principe patria or for prince and fatherland. The other side bears the monogram “S.E.T.C.A.” Sincere et Constanter, Alexander, or truthfully and steadfastly, Alexander, which is motto of the Prussian order of the Red Eagle and the Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreut. The regiment was formed in two battalions specifically for overseas service to Britain in 1775, arriving in New York in June 1777.

They go off display on Dec. 10, so if you are in the area…

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