The "Grand Union" flag, as it's now called, was the first flag to represent the united colonies of America.
On Jan. 1, 1776, George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, ordered the flag to be raised from Prospect Hill in Somerville (Somerville was part of Charlestown then).
At the time, the Siege of Boston, sparked by the battles of Lexington and Concord and most well known for the Battle of Bunker Hill, had been taking place for eight months. For many troops in the Continental Army, enlistment was up on Dec. 31, 1775. Morale was low.
That same day, British forces sent copies of King George III's speech to Parliament, in which the monarch declared war on the colonies, to the American forces.
In response, Washington ordered the national flag to be flown from the most visible point, which was Prospect Hill. It sent a message of unification and resolve, and it helped bolster morale.
On Jan. 1, 2012, Somerville celebrated the 236th anniversary of this event.