by the Westmoreland County Historical Society and IBWCP
Founded on May 16, 1775, John Proctor’s Independent Battalion Westmoreland County Pennsylvania … were the first American Troops with the first battle flag west of the Allegheny Mountains.
In 1775 it comprised of present day Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, Green, Beaver, Indiana, Allegheny and parts of Butler and Armstrong Counties.
This is where the white man could look over the rivers of the Allegheny, Ohio and Kiskiminetas. North and west of these rivers was the Indian country, and the only deterrent the red man knew was the Westmoreland County Border men, with his cursedly fatal Pennsylvania Long Rifle and his Long Knife after which he is named by the Indians, “Shemanese” meaning Long Knives.
Before the news of the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1776 had reached Westmoreland County, the settlers of this western border gathered at the courthouse in Hanna’s Town which was the county seat, six miles north of present day Greensburg. This meeting occurred on May 16, 1775. These Frontiersmen of the borderland framed that day the famous Westmoreland Resolves, a copy of which was sent to the Committee of Safety in Philadelphia. These Resolves stated the inhabitants of Westmoreland relief measures for the people besieged in Boston, Massachusetts, they would raise money and supplies to defend their homes and state. They were unanimous in proclaiming that freedom from Great Britain should be a primary act of the people, and that they would form themselves into a body of armed and disciplined troops to defend the Western border of the Colony.
One year later on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia the Declaration of Independence was framed, incorporating all the resolves that were proclaimed more than a year before on the western border in Hanna’s Town. The initial body of troops raised in Pennsylvania West of the Allegheny Mountains was from among those men who met at Hanna’s Town in the summer of 1775. Three Battalions of Riflemen were first formed under the command of John Proctor who was the Sheriff of Westmoreland County at the time; he was given the rank of Colonel. They served under various officers both in Washington’s Army in the East and against the Indians on the Western frontier borders from 1775 until 1781, and later until 1795. These men marched under their own battle flag made by the sister of Captain Craig, a resident of near the present day New Alexandria.
The original flag was in the archives of the state of Pennsylvania at Harrisburg but is now housed at the Fort Pitt Museum. This flag predates the Stars and Stripes by two years, is here described in replica: A British red ensign bearing the cross of St. George and St. Andrew in the upper left corner has on its crimson field the following letters: JP IBWCP. These stand for “John Proctors Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County Provincials.” The coiled rattlesnake and the ringing words “Don’t Tread On Me.” The symbolism being, anyone who treads on the rattlesnakes that reside in Westmoreland County does so at his own peril.
Recent research suggests that this flag was most likely commissioned from a Philadelphia flag maker. It is painted on silk, and the painting was obviously done by a skilled artisan. Its design reflects the sentiments of the residents of Westmoreland County, expressed in the Hanna’s Town Resolves of May 16, 1775, when Proctor’s Militia was organized.
The flag measures 76 inches by 70 inches. The field of the flag is red silk. The canton in the upper right hand corner consists of individual pieces of red, white and blue silk and forms two crosses. The red on white represents the English cross of St. George; the white on blue the Scottish cross of St. Andrew. The retention of the British symbol on the flag indicates that the inhabitants of Westmoreland County, although ready to resist the tyrannical acts of the British Parliament, still considered themselves loyal subjects of King George III.
In the center of the field is a rattlesnake coiled to strike. The snake’s 13 rattles signify the American colonies. The rattlesnake is painted directly on the silk, as is the lettering and decorative scrollwork. The gold banner is lettered in black, “DON’T. TREAD. UPON. ME.”; the first two letters of the word UPON have flaked away over the years. Unlike the rattlesnake on other early flags, the snake on the Proctor flag faces right toward the symbol of the British Empire, presumably prepared to attack. Above the snake is the monogram of John Proctor and the letters, “I.B.W.C.P.”, 1st (or Independent) Battalion, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (or Provincials).
The flag was not flown from a pole. The staff was inserted through the sleeve on the canton side of the flag and carried by the color bearer of the battalion.
Samuel Craig, Sr., who with his three sons, John, Alexander, and Samuel, Jr. served in the Revolution, was the original color bearer. Although many individual members of Proctor’s Battalion fought in the Revolutionary War, the Proctor Battalion did not fight as a group in the Revolution, and it is not known if this flag was ever carried in battle. It is in remarkably good shape, and bears no signs of the mayhem of battle.
On Colonel Proctor’s death, ca. 1810, the flag was sent to General Alexander Craig, the son of Samuel Craig, Sr. The flag remained in the Craig family until 1914 when Jane Maria Craig of New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, the great-granddaughter of Samuel Craig, Sr., donated the flag to the State Library at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Later, it was transferred to the William Penn Memorial Museum, and is currently at the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh.
Proctor’s Flag was designated the official flag of Westmoreland County in 1973, the county’s bicentennial year.
The Independent Battalion Westmoreland County Pennsylvania is a Reenactment Group portraying frontier life in South Western Pennsylvania.
The present-day IBWCP Reenactment Group was formed in 2007 at Old Hanna’s Town with 13 members. We are of varied backgrounds and professions, all with a passion for the history of our country, specifically the 18th century Western Pennsylvania frontier. Our goal is to educate ourselves and others in the lifestyles of our predecessors. We use these skills not only in public reenactments, weekend treks and canoe trips, but in many cases, everyday life. Our focus time period spans the years 1750 thru 1783, encompassing the French and Indian, and Revolutionary Wars.
Who are the reenactors? Louise Tilzey-Bates, 45, of Westmoreland Heritage, interviewed some of her fellow militia members during last month’s colonial court days at Hanna’s Town:
- Wade Klingensmith, Jr., 39
- Caled Holt, 21
- Joseph Holt, 56
- Tom Klingensmith, 60
- Steve Kubicko, 50
- Scott Henry, 44
What is your current occupation?
W. KLINGENSMITH: DTR Truck Driver
C. HOLT: Oil Company Laborer
J. HOLT: Oil Company
T. KLINGENSMITH: Well Driller
KUBICKO: Social Studies Teacher
HENRY: QC inspector
TILZEY-BATES: Marketing/Heritage Tourism
How long have you been reenacting?
W. KLINGENSMITH: 8 years
C. HOLT: 7 years
J. HOLT: 5 years
T. KLINGENSMITH: 8 years
KUBICKO: 10 years
HENRY: 9 years
TILZEY-BATES: 2 years, but also worked as a docent at Historic Hanna’s Town since 2010.
What drew you to this period in history?
- W. KLINGENSMITH: I have always been interested in this period, and what it took to build this nation.
- C. HOLT: my Father taking me to events at a young age. Old movies also sparked my interest in history. My love for history is a life style for me.
- J. HOLT: It was the local history that you can see and walk on every day … seeing names on street corners and putting a face and it’s history to it.
- T. KLINGENSMITH: Personal interest, ancestors involved in Western PA, French & Indian War and Revolutionary War.
- KUBICKO: I fell in love with history as a little boy when Mrs. Phyllis Darley taught Social Studies at St. Colman’s School in Turtle Creek. Eventually, I saw the Art of Robert Griffin and wanted to be part of this hobby. I am one the founding members of today’s I.B.W.C.P.
- HENRY: I have always been interested in the founding of this country. I do reenacting to make sure that the people that built our country and our history are remembered.
- TILZEY-BATES: I’ve always loved history, since I was young girl, thanks to my Dad’s influence and encouragement. One of my first ‘historical’ memories is going on a field trip to the National Trust property, Montacute House, built during the English Elizabethan period and being greeted by reenactors dressed in period dress. They showed us the lifestyle of Elizabethans, and it was just one of those defining moments as a child that made me want to learn more about history. I’ve always been fascinated by the English Georgian period in history and naturally gravitated toward the French & Indian War / Revolutionary War period when I moved to the US.
What do you enjoy most about reenacting?
- W. KLINGENSMITH: Battles, friendship, going back to a period in time where things were done differently.
- C. HOLT: What I most enjoy about reenacting is the food, family, historical talk, battles and just the friendship from others that also the passion for the same time period. Escaping into the 18th century is a stress reliever that takes all the cares away. Trying to live the way our founding fathers and families and people lived back then is something I love to recreate and also live. My hobby has changed the way I live and how I learn. The way battles were fought and the experience of fighting. How to do basic things they would have done in every day life and try to learn the hardship they had to go through.
- J. HOLT: Talking to the public, showing them it was done two hundred years ago. How hard basic survival was. To see children’s faces light up getting involved in the act, and not realizing they are learning history as well. I enjoy reenactment events where it is not so scripted, such as The Grand Encampment and Cook’s Forest French & Indian War event. Camarderie is where like minded people sit around and tell historical stories and being able to speculate or add your thoughts what you think could have happened.Escaping into the 18th century is hard work and costly, so the people who do this love it. Sleeping in a tent when snow is all around or rain soaks through to your skin for a weekend, you’re there.
- T. KLINGENSMITH: Doing living history, showing public 18th century living, and our nation’s history, specifically Western PA. Opportunity to live as our ancestors did, experiencing every day pleasures and pitfalls. Sharing with like-minded friends.
- KUBICKO: Being able to share OUR HISTORY with the public … it’s an extension of my career. I am an active outdoors man who has combined my love of history with camping and have met some of my best and most trusted friends through this hobby.
- HENRY: The like-minded friends and educating the public, since so little of this time period is taught in schools. Demonstrating the battle tactics of the period and the lifestyle of the frontier and militia is important. This nation wasn’t built by George Washington and Daniel Boone alone. History remembers the famous names but forgets all the common people that worked, fought and died because of their beliefs and hopes to create their own country. To live their lives as they saw fit. Some of my family served in the very militia unit we portray. All of these people deserve to be remembered.
- TILZEY-BATES: For me it’s two things… First, it’s education. It’s the best thing for children and the public to observe Living History, it brings the past alive and demonstrates to the public how our ancestors would have lived on the frontier in the 18th century. Life was harsh, you had to be resourceful and resilient and if we can get that across then we have done our job. If I can spark an interest for history for a child, just as the Elizabethan reenactors did for me when I was 9 years old, then I am doing my job. It’s also about continuing to learn about this period in history. The second factor for me is escapism: I love getting dressing up in period garb, lacing up the stays and walking out as an 18th century woman. The camaraderie between reenactors is like extended family, we all cherish a love of history. Attempting to live the 18th century lifestyle for a weekend is immensely satisfying, enjoyable but sometimes challenging – especially with inclement weather, but the enjoyment outweighs a little bit of rain! Visiting different historic sites for encampments and events, meeting other reenactors, sharing stories and historical facts is also a big bonus.
We are proud to commemorate the spirit of these men and women, each time we gather to shoot or camp, the battle flag of the first American troops West of the Allegheny Mountains flies high above us. Some of the names to which we and this Country owe great thanks are, Gen. St. Clair, Col. Wm. Crawford, Col. George Rogers Clark, Capt. Wm. Linn, Simon Kenton, Capt. Sam Brady, Betty Zane, Mad Ann Bailey, Lewis Wetzel, David Duncan, Daniel Boone, Gen. Anthony Wayne and hundreds like them, with a spirit that could not be crushed. Our Nation stands today because of the courage and determination, of thousands of frontier men and women, who gave all for a new life, and to found a new Nation.
We are honored to be their heirs, and humbled in the shadow of their accomplishments. Remembrance is the greatest respect and honor we can give them.
Huzzah , Huzzah , Huzzah !!!