After the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Americans wanted a national flag to replace the many individual banners associated with various regiments. To symbolize the union of the states, the Continental Congress adopted the following resolution on June 14, 1777:
"Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
Because the resolution was vague, the flags that followed were varied by each flagmaker. For the next 135 years, the United States flag officially changed 24 times. The 50th star on today's flag was added on July 4, 1960. All United States flags, whatever the design, are valid and may be flown. These historic flags deserve the same honor and respect given today's flag.
The term "Old Glory" was coined by Captain Stephen Driver, a shipmaster of Salem, Massachusetts. As he was leaving on one of his many voyages in 1831, friends presented him with a 24-star flag. As the flag opened to the ocean breeze, he exclaimed "Old Glory!"
In 1837 the captain retired to Nashville, taking his treasured flag with him. By the time the Civil War erupted, most everyone in and around Nashville recognized Captain Driver's "Old Glory." When Tennessee seceded from the Union, rebels were determined to destroy his flag; however, repeated searches revealed no trace of it.
On February 25, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag over the capitol. It was a small flag, and immediately people began asking Captain Driver whether Old Glory still existed. Happy to have soldiers with him this time, Driver went home and ripped at the seams of his bedcover to reveal his original Old Glory.
Captain Driver gently gathered up the flag and returned with the soldiers to the capitol. Although he was 60 years old, the captain climbed up to the tower to replace the smaller banner with his beloved flag. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted, and later adopted the nickname of Old Glory as their own, telling and retelling the story of Driver's devotion to the flag we continue to honor.
Captain Driver's grave in the old Nashville City Cemetery is one of three places authorized by an act of Congress where the United States flag may be flown 24 hours a day.