16 november 2022
History of Sint Eustatius Flag Day
This public holiday is a tale of two flags. Unsurprisingly one flag is that of Sint Eustatius. The other is the original reason for this holiday.
As this tiny Caribbean island is a special municipality within the Netherlands, you would be forgiven for thinking that this holiday is about an orange flag or a red, white and blue one. If you thought the latter, award yourself half a point – it is about a red, white and blue flag, but the one with stars and stripes rather than horizontal bands.
On November 16th 1776, the Andrew Doria, under the command of Captain Isaiah Robinson, of the newly created US navy entered Statia’s harbour and fired off a 13-gun salute (one for each of the original colonies). Statia’s then-Governor Johannes de Graaff ordered return fire of an 11-gun salute from Fort Oranje (International protocol at the time required a two-gun less acknowledgement of a sovereign flag.)
This gun salute was the first recognition of the USA as a nation, as that country was at war with Great Britain. This makes Statia the first foreign land to salute the US flag and recognise the country’s independence. The event is known as the “First Salute”.
The presence of the US ship in Statia wasn’t a passing visit. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Statia was known as the “Golden Rock” and the international trade centre for the western hemisphere. Nearly half of all American Revolutionary military supplies were obtained through Statia, making a little-known but extremely valuable contribution to the war against the British.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to St. Eustatius in 1939 to recognise the importance of the 1776 “First Salute”.
The “First Salute” remains a source of pride to the islanders, though the first Statia day celebrations didn’t become official until the 1960s.
Fort Oranje is the site of ceremonies held on Statia Day, though parties, barbecues and celebrations take place across the island from the preceding week.
St. Eustatius also chose this date to adopted its new flag in 2004.