Tom McMillan

Our Flag Was Still There: The Star Spangled Banner that Survived the British and 200 Years―And the Armistead Family Who Saved It

Millions of Americans have seen the original Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian Institution, paying tribute to a tattered old flag that, more than 200 years ago, signaled victory over the British at Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.

But few know how it got there. Or why.

Author and historian Tom McMillan digs deep into story of the most famous flag in U.S. history, highlighting the unique role played by three generations of an enduring military family. His new book, OUR FLAG WAS STILL THERE: The Star-Spangled Banner that Survived the British and 200 Years – And the Armistead Family Who Saved It, uses never-before-published letters and documents, and rare photos from the private collections of Armistead descendants to reveal:

  • George Armistead, commander of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812, wanted a “flag so large the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance;”
    Armistead took the big flag home as a souvenir after the battle, in violation of army regulations, and it remained in the private possession of his family for 90 years;
    Why more than eight feet of material were cut away in small pieces over the years;
    How grandson Ebenezer Stuart Appleton came to be in charge of the flag, hiding it in a vault for 27 years, and why he decided to give it to the Smithsonian;
    The millions of stitches added and removed from the flag in preservation efforts.

[Added July 20, 2023]

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      Photo of Tom McMillan

      Tom McMillan spent a lifetime in sports media and communications, but his true passion is history — and “Our Flag Was Still There” is his fourth book on American history. Tom has served on the board of directors of Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center, the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, and the Antietam Institute. He also is a member of the marketing committee of the Gettysburg Foundation and, along with his wife, Colleen, is a volunteer ambassador at Antietam. He is retired after a 25-year stint as VP of Communications for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

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