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Naval Flags of the Confederacy (U.S.)

Last modified: 2010-10-15 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | csa | naval jack | jack |
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All major maritime power granted the CSA recognition as a "belligerent", meaning, in effect that the CSA was acknowledged to exist for but not yet granted "diplomatic recognition". CS vessels (naval and mercantile) were frequent visitors to ports in Britain and her colonies (including South Africa and Australia), as well as France, Spain, Brazil and others. The first time a CS naval vessel visited Cuba (The CSS Sumter in 1861) questions were raised about her flag, but once the colonial authorities were pointed to the Spanish royal government's declaration of recognition of the CSA as a "belligerent" all was well.
Devereaux Cannon, 18 January 1999

Naval Jack

[first naval jack] image by Ole Andersen, 14 June 1998
First Naval Jack (Unofficial)

[naval jack] image by Rick Wyatt, 20 November 1997
Second Naval Jack (Official)

To my knowledge, there is only one surviving example of the first jack. It measures 54 inches on the hoist (1.37 m.) and 69 inches on the fly (1.75 m.).
Devereaux Cannon, 13 June 1998


Confederate warships from 1861-63 flew the Stars And Bars/First National flag from the stern while at sea, and the First Naval Jack while in port. This was the blue canton of the First National with the stars in a circle.

After the adoption of the Second National flag in May, 1863, which had the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag as its canton, the Naval Jack changed to the rectangular version of that canton - a version of the Southern Cross. The Second National then replaced the First National flag for the stern.

Greg Biggs, 7 July 2001

While the navy ensign after May 1863 used the Confederate Battle Flag as its canton, the CBF, or a version of it, was never used as the ensign. It was only used as a jack, and that after 26 May 1863.
Devereaux Cannon, 7 July 2001

See FOTC Page

Flying Foreign Flags

The U.S. Navy had a policy of equipping all her warships with complete sets of foreign flags that the Confederates copied basically for their navy. When the Confederates captured the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia in 1861 they captured a large amount of stored foreign flags that were spread around to their own warships - as well as large stocks of imported wool bunting that ended up as future Confederate navy and army battle flags!

Confederate cruisers like the CSS Alabama, CSS Florida, CSS Shenadoah and the like used foreign flags as attempts to disguise themselves while raiding Union commerce on the high seas - not unlike what German raiders would do in World War 2 with merchant ships outfitted as cruisers. But when time for battle came they hoisted their proper national colors. They would also sail under their national colors whenever deemed prudent.

Blockade runners plying the Caribbean also carried foreign flags to help disguise them while at sea as the Union Navy had warships stationed their for interdiction purposes. The main areas for this was around Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba, where the cargo from Europe for the Confederacy was off loaded and reloaded onto small but very fast vessels for the runs to Wilmington, Charleston, St. Marks or Mobile (in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama respectively).

As a point of interest - one of the Confederate Second National flags used by the CSS Alabama - the most famous of the CS raiders - was made in and presented to the ship while she was in port in South Africa. It is at the Tennessee State Museum today on display.

For those with an interest in Confederate naval flags pick up a copy of "Rebel Flags Afloat" by noted CS flags scholar Howard Madaus. It was published as a special edition of the Flag Bulletin from Massachusetts in 1986 (Vol. 25, Nos. 1-2, overall issue number 115).

Greg Biggs, 18 January 1999