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First Captured U.S. 33 Star Flag, Pensacola, Fla.

Sub-collection: Soldiers & Sailors Military Museum & Memorial

33 Star U.S. Storm Ensign - 1st U.S. Flag captured in Civil War at Pensacola, & USN officer recapture, January 1861
THE FIRST AMERICAN FLAG CAPTURED DURING THE CIVIL WAR. This iconic ghost of an American flag is the earliest documented captured flag from the American Civil War. The flag was hauled down by secessionists on 12 January 1861, a full three months before the firing on Fort Sumter, thus making it the first United States flag so desecrated in the Great Conflict. The above words are inscribed on the provenance from the Soldier and Sailors Memorial, where this flag has been since 1912.

Some of the first action of the Civil War occurred early in January 1861 around the forts at Pensacola, Florida. Florida had just seceded from the Union on January 10, 1861. Perhaps for this reason the original museum tag reads: 'PENSACOLA FLAG'. Some say that the gun first fired in that conflict on the Union side was fired in defense of this flag on 8 January 1861.

During the celebration of the second election of President Lincoln in Pittsburgh, PA in November, 1864, a banner inscribed with, "THIS FLAG WAS TORN DOWN BY THE REBELS AT PENSACOLA AND RE-TAKEN BY THE LATE E.E. BRENNAND," was attached to the flag and hung across Penn Avenue (near Tenth Street). The flag and banner have not been separated since that time. In 1860 Lieut. E.E. Brennand was assigned for duty on the U.S. Storeship "Supply". This vessel, after a cruise of several months in Mexican waters, arrived in Pensacola Bay on January 12th, 1861, just in time to see the U.S. navy yard there and fall into the hands of secession sympathizers. While on shore, Lieut. Brennand captured this flag from a man whom he found trailing it in the dust. Lieut. Brennand arrived in Pittsburgh on February 3rd, 1861, bringing the flag with him. Upon arrival he presented it to his sister, Mrs. John Erwin, and her grandniece, Mrs. John Prichard.

Over fifty years later, on Flag Day, 14 June 1912, the flag was presented to the Allegheny County Soldiers' Memorial by Mrs. P.J. O'Connor, the President of The Society of Daughters of Betsy Ross.

According to chapter 2, Florida in the Civil War, of the Confederate Military History (vol. 11), Senator Yulee wrote from Washington on January 5th, 1861, to Joseph Finnegan at Tallahassee that the immediate and imperative thing to be done was the occupation of the forts and arsenals in Florida. He pointed out that the naval station and forts at Pensacola were first in consequence. At this point there was one company of the Federal artillery on the mainland. It was commanded by John H. Winder, who later became a Confederate general, but at this point he was absent and thus Lieut. A.J. Slemmer was in charge. After hearing these words Slemmer moved his forces to Fort Pickens using one of the vessels in the harbor which was under the charge of Commodore James Armstrong.

On January 12, 1861, the flag was lowered at the navy yard, which, with all the fortifications and munitions of war on the mainland, went into the possession of the State. Two days later, Slimmer's men watched as Southern soldiers moved into the other forts across the channel and removed the U. S. flags one by one. In Barrancas: The First Shots Fired in the Rebellion, by Walter Giersbach. The firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbor historically marks the opening salvos of the Rebellion. However, months before this assault the first shots of the Civil War were actually shot-- hundreds of miles to the south in Florida. On January 8, 1861, United States Army guards heeded a group of men intending to take Fort Barrancas in Pensacola Harbor. At this point, flag Officer Renshaw immediately ordered the National Standard to be pulled down. The post, with ordnance stores valued at $156,000, passed into the hands of the authorities of Florida. The insurgents then took possession of Forts Barrancas and McRay. The two vessels in the harbor, the Supply and Wyandotte, steamed out under the truce, but remained in the possession of the United States officers. Lt. E.E. Brennand was aboard the Supply.

The 80 men under Slemmer at Fort Pickens remained defiant. The following night, a small party of armed men from the mainland reconnoitered on the island and a few shots were fired from the fort. On Jan. 15 Col. W. H. Chase, a U. S. Army officer of Massachusetts who had worked on building the forts and was thoroughly familiar with the Pensacola Bay defenses, visited Fort Pickens with Capt. Farrand. Chase was in charge of all insurgents in that region and Farrand had been second in command at the Navy Yard. Chase obtained an interview with Slemmer and tried to persuade him to avoid bloodshed by quietly surrendering the fort. Col. Chase said in conclusion, "Consider this well, and take care that you will so act as to have no fearful recollections of a tragedy that you might have avoided; but rather to make the present moment one of the most glorious, because Christian-like, of your life." Slemmer did make that a glorious moment of his life, but by refusing to give up the fort rather than handing it over.

John William Draper, in his 1867 publication of History of the American Civil War, states, "In connection with the capture of the navy yard at Norfolk it may be mentioned the disgraceful surrender at Pensacola in Florida by the officers having charge of it, and the honorable defense of Fort Pickens." Florida had seceded on Jan. 10, 1861, and immediately made a demand for the yard. At the time when the American flag was hauled down at the navy yard and the stores of guns and munitions turned over to the insurgents, Fort Barrancas was abandoned. But this scene of military disgrace was not consummated. What a fabulous piece of American History, this flag and its attached pennant- the first American flag captured and then recaptured at the start of the American Civil War and then used to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's re-election. Is there a more iconic American flag?

Noted Civil War historian and Civil War flag expert & authority, Greg Biggs, has written the following report on this historic Pensacola flag: U.S. 33 Star Flag Taken at Pensacola, FL, January 12, 1861, by Greg Biggs. In December of 1825, the United States Navy ordered the establishment of a naval yard near Pensacola, Florida. This order sought to utilize the finest natural deep-water harbor along the Gulf of Mexico. The complex was largely complete by the 1850s and it encompassed the town of Warrington, located a few miles west of Pensacola. Three forts were built to defend the naval complex and port. The forts were Barrancas (built on the site of an old Spanish fort, Bateris de San Antonio de Barrancas, and incorporating some of its defenses into the new one), which was on the navy base itself and had a Advanced Redoubt covering its land side; Ft. McRee, which was built on a spit of land extending into the main channel west of the yard; and Ft. Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. The last fort was the largest and most heavily armed of the three, with 250 guns, which covered the seaside, the main channel and Warrington and Pensacola on the coast. However, it had not been occupied since 1850 and needed some work to be of use in early 1861. Only two of the forts survive today as Ft. McCree has sunk into the channel over time.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20th, 1860 and sent emissaries to her sister states urging them to follow her path. By January 1861, secession winds were blowing in Florida and, like some of her Deep South neighbors she did not wait for secession to act. On January 5th Senator David Yulee advised Joseph Finnegan, a member of the state secession convention (and future Confederate general), to seize the navy yard and forts at Pensacola. Both Yulee and fellow Florida Senator Stephen Mallory, future Confederate Secretary of the Navy, would do all they could to help prepare their state for action. The next day, a Florida militia company, the Quincy Guards, seized the U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee, FL. On the 7th, state forces seized Ft. Marion in St. Augustine and Ft. Clinch at Fernandina. In this same time frame, Georgia state forces seized arsenals and forts in that state as did the Alabama Volunteer Corps in theirs. The following day, January 8th, brought two notable events. First, an Ordinance for Secession was introduced at the state convention in Tallahassee. Secondly, Col. William Chase of the U.S. Army, by this point retired and a railroad magnate (and the engineer officer that supervised the building of the areas forts) was ordered by Florida's Governor Madison Perry to take hold of the forts and naval yard at Pensacola.

At the navy yard, U.S. Army Lt. Adam Slemmer, commanding Co. General of the 1st United States Artillery, posted guards at Ft. Barrancas, fearing such a move. He also transferred the posts ammunition to a more secure site, made the fort's guns ready for action and raised the drawbridge. Near midnight a body of men approached the fort, which was usually not occupied, intending to take it. The fort's guard challenged the body, and when he did not receive an answer, he fired. Thus, this can be considered the first shot of the American Civil War.

On January 9th, Slemmer received orders from Washington to take measures to prevent the seizure of the forts in Pensacola harbor by surprise or assault, consulting first with the commander of the navy yard. Commodore James Armstrong commanded the yard. Both officers had been meeting for several days to plan how to hold the area with less than 50 Army troops and two Navy vessels in the harbor. The meetings also included their fellow officers USN Lt. Francis Renshaw, Cdr. Henry Walke, skipper of the USS Supply (a sail-powered supply ship which arrived at the Navy Yard earlier in the day), and Lt. Otway Berryman, commanding officer of the USS Wyandotte, a screw-driven steamer. Both ships were considered Fourth Rate vessels and were armed with cannons, four and five guns respectively, although the Supply was not technically considered a warship. It quickly became apparent that there were not enough Federal forces to hold all three forts and the navy yard, so it was decided to transfer all troops and munitions that could be carried to Ft. Pickens. There, pending reinforcements, the force could hold out the longest. What could not be moved was to be destroyed.

Armstrong agreed to place his two vessels under Slemmer to move the supplies, but he was dilatory in getting his vessels moving, which cost him valuable time. Slemmer threatened Armstrong by offering to report to Washington that he had done all he could to defend the area and that the Navy commander was not cooperating as he had agreed. Fortunately, the Wyandotte had just come out of dry dock (despite the efforts of pro-secessionist workers to keep her disabled) and was soon taking on supplies and towing the Supply to Ft. Pickens along with barges and flat boats. Slemmer's troops, unable to carry all of the powder to Ft. Pickens, began to dump it into the bay while other stores were also destroyed. All of the guns in Ft. Barrancas that faced towards the bay were spiked.

By the end of January 10th all stores from Barrancas and the Navy Yard that could be carried were in Ft. Pickens. Slemmer's troops were augmented by 30 musket-armed sailors from the USS Wyandotte by order of her commander. Earlier in the day Florida had become an independent nation, seceding from the United States. On January 11th, Slemmer, his meager land force now bolstered by the guns of the two vessels anchored by Ft. Pickens, began to feel more secure about his predicament. His feelings were soon dashed when Walke told him that Armstrong, now informed of Florida's secession, had ordered the USS Supply to return to the Navy Yard. Concurrent with this news, Lt. Berryman told him that he was under orders to sail towards Cuba with the Wyandotte very soon. Slemmer was livid and fired off a note to Armstrong. Armstrong replied that the USS Supply was technically not a warship and that prior Navy orders were for it to take on stores at Pensacola and sail for Vera Cruz to re-supply the U.S. Navy squadron there. By the time these exchanges had been completed it was too late for the USS Supply, which needed to be towed to the Navy Yard by the Wyandotte due to unfavorable winds, to actually move. However, the intrepid crew of the supply ship took one of its launches and sailed over to Ft. McCree, occupied only by a keeper and his wife, and broke down the gates of the fort. They destroyed most of the posts powder, some 20,000 pounds, by dumping it into the sea and spiked all of the guns facing Ft. Pickens. Lt. Henry Erben, one of the McCree raiders, upon arriving in the Navy Yard, asked Armstrong for permission to destroy the facility's munitions and was refused.

In the meantime, since January 9th, Florida's two senators were telegraphing Gov. Perry that U.S. Army reinforcements were on the way to Pensacola and that the forts had to be seized by state troops before their arrival. They also informed Perry that William Chase had built the forts and knew them well and that troops from Georgia and Alabama would help. Chase had already been planning for such an event since late December 1860 and, now a colonel of Florida State Troops, was ready to go. Since early January, Chase had been in Alabama working with Governor Moore to elicit the help of his Alabama Volunteer Corps in taking the forts at Pensacola. It was well known in the Deep South that if the Federals continued to hold the forts it would be a strategic nightmare threatening Mobile and the lower parts of Georgia. Gov. Perry had approved Chase's plan on the 6th and the next day Chase was in Mobile with the blessing of Alabama's governor, to get troops to seize Ft. Pickens.

Returning to Florida, Chase learned that Slemmer's move to Pickens had thwarted his plan, so he decided to take all the troops he could to Pensacola. Help was on the way from Alabama. On January 9th, Col. Tennant Lomax along with 225 men of the 2nd Battalion, Alabama Volunteer Corps, took the train towards Pensacola. After marching for 40 miles, where the line was not yet complete, the tired men arrived in town late on the 11th. These companies included the Montgomery True Blues, Tuskegee Light Infantry, Wetumpka Guards, Metropolitan Guards and the Independent Rifles. For some, this was the only war-time action their units would ever see as many of the AVC companies disbanded not long afterwards. The people of Pensacola welcomed them as heroes. They were soon reinforced by two local Florida companies, the Pensacola Rifle Rangers and the Pensacola Guards, both of whom had formed not long after President Lincoln's election. All troops were ordered to formation by 11 AM on January 12th.

Commodore Armstrong, seemingly secure in the Navy Yard some miles away, was oblivious to the large force now arrayed against him. Certainly rumors and some verifiable intelligence had reached him, but being cautious, he did nothing to destroy or move the valuable military stores that still remained on the base. He later claimed that he was not ever ordered to do so. His actions, or lack thereof, would earn him a court-martial. It took two hours for the Secessionist troops to march from Pensacola to the Navy Yard, which was only defended by 38 Marines under Captain Josiah Watson. Armstrong's world soon crashed around him when a Marine guard informed him that several hundred troops with two state commissioners (and seemingly a lot of townspeople) were waiting at the main gate of Ft. Barrancas to see him. Indeed, all of the Alabama troops and the Pensacola Rifle Rangers, under Col. Chase, were arrayed in front of the fort when Cdr. Ebenezer Farrand, Armstrong's executive officer, arrived to see for himself. After talking to the two commissioners: Richard Campbell, representing Florida, and Capt. Victor Randolph, representing Alabama, the party went to Armstrong's office to continue negotiations. Realizing his hopeless situation, Armstrong agreed to surrender. He telegraphed Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey and informed him that there was a demand for the surrender of Ft. Barrancas and the Navy Yard and, faced with overwhelming odds, at 1:30 that afternoon he struck his colors.

The lowering of the flag ceremony was respectful of Armstrong's predicament. Post quartermaster William Conway refused Lt. Renshaw's orders to lower the colors. He later received a medal from grateful citizens in California for his deed. Allegedly, it was Renshaw that lowered the flag, although a New York Herald letter dated January 29, 1861 written by him does not state, specifically, that he lowered the colors but that a senior lieutenant, upon order from Armstrong, hauled down the time honored flags. Besides the Navy Yard's garrison flag, a blue pennant, signifying Armstrong's command, was also lowered. In their place was hoisted the company colors of Alabama's Metropolitan Guards, which was the only flag available in Lomax's battalion. The Supply and the Wynadotte were not included in the surrender.

Over the next three days (and operating under a flag of truce), all surrendered personnel were paroled and placed aboard the USS Supply along with their baggage and belongings. The Supply then set sail for New York on January 16th, arriving on February 4th. The Wyandotte was ordered to follow on January 18th. The Supply returned to Pensacola with a load of supplies for the garrison at Ft. Pickens in April. After the surrender, the state troops moved quickly to occupy Fts. Barrancas, McCree and the Navy Yard. What they captured was tremendous 338 guns of all types, mostly large caliber, over 12,000 projectiles and over 40,000 pounds of cannon powder. Also captured was a huge dry dock. On January 13th Chase ordered that a new flag be hoisted upon the flagpole of Ft. Barrancas until further notice from the state secession convention. The flag was like that of the United States except that it bore a single white star in its blue canton.

In the aftermath of the surrender of Ft. Barrancas and the Navy Yard, Commodore Armstrong was found negligent on two counts at his court-martial and suspended from duty for five years. Both Lt. Renshaw and Commander Farrand would resign their US Navy commissions and join the Confederate Navy, as would some other officers and men of the Navy Yard. Tennant Lomax would become colonel of the 3rd Alabama Infantry and serve in the Confederate Army of the Potomac (later renamed the Army of Northern Virginia) and would be killed at the head of his regiment at the Battle of Seven Pines. Henry Walke, relieved of command of the Supply after arriving in New York, was court-martialed for bringing the paroled personnel to the city but received only a reprimand. He would go on to the Western Rivers Navy Squadron and take command of the timber-clad gunboat the USS Tyler in late 1861 before transferring to the new ironclad USS Carondolet in early 1862. He commanded this vessel from the Ft. Donelson Campaign and he was promoted to captain in August 1862. After the promotion, he was given command of the ironclad USS Lafayette before moving onward with the command of other ships. Lt. Slemmer, in Ft. Pickens, would refuse three surrender demands over the next several days starting with one on the same day as the Barrancas surrender.

Ft. Pickens would not receive heavy reinforcements until April 11, 1861 and Ft. Sumter would be fired upon the next day in Charleston, SC. For whatever reason, several shiploads of troops remained at sea instead of landing at Pickens during the months after the surrender of Ft. Barrancas. Had they landed sooner, the Civil War would probably have broken out in earnest in Pensacola instead of South Carolina. Despite a couple Confederate attempts to take Ft. Pickens, including by storm on October 9th at the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, the post was destined to remain in Federal hands. The Confederates would abandon the Pensacola area entirely in early May 1862.

USN Lt. Edward E. Brennand, according to the Naval Official Records, went West after Pensacola serving with Henry Walke on the ironclad USS Carondolet. In February 1862, in the Ft. Donelson Campaign, Brennand is listed as a Master's Mate for the ironclad earning Walke's plaudits for his conduct in the naval bombardment at Ft. Donelson on February 14th, in which the ironclads were defeated. By February 17th, Brennand was listed as First Master. On July 15, 1862, he was wounded in the engagement with the Confederate ironclad CSS Arkansas as she ran the fleet above Vicksburg, Mississippi. The vessel was struck some 13 times, most of the shots penetrating the casemate. Recovered and back in action by January 1863, Brennand, in Walke's absence, was listed as Acting Volunteer Lieutenant in temporary command of the Carondolet based at Island No. 10. That same month, Henry Walke was transferred to the command of the USS Lafayette and Brennand was chosen to command the tin-clad gunboat USS Prairie Bird, a thinly armored converted stern-wheeler steamship bearing eight 24-pounder guns. The vessel was stationed on the White River for much of the year.

As part of the Mississippi River Squadron, Brennand and his crew carried out anti-guerrilla patrols and convoyed supply ships. On June 15th, men from his ship and the USS Marmora destroyed the town of Gaines Landing, Arkansas in retaliation for guerrilla attacks. In July 1863, Brennand earned the commendations of Acting Rear-Admiral David Porter for his service. He continued in this duty until November 14, 1863 when, according to Edward Callahan's List Of Officers Of The Navy of the United States (cited in the bibliography), he was accidentally killed. Callahan has the entry listed as Acting Volunteer Lt. Edward C. Brennand instead of Edward E. Brennand. This is, most likely, a typographical error, as Callahan's book does not show any entry for an Edward E. Brennand.

Lt. Brennand's Flag Forts like Pickens and Barrancas, as well as military posts, were served by two large flags. One was the garrison flag and the other was the storm flag, the storm flag being the smaller of the two. Since the primary flags were quite large, storm flags would be hoisted in times of storms, their smaller size creating less strain on the flagpole and on the flag itself. These storm flags were typically made of single-ply wool bunting, similar to flags issued to warships. The single-ply bunting allowed for more air to pass through the flag than did double-ply bunting. Confederate battle flags of the Army of Northern Virginia pattern as exemplified in both the Richmond and Charleston Depot models, were made of double-ply bunting. Based on the photograph of the Brennand flag, it too was made from single-ply bunting.

The Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States in 1861: The garrison flag is the national flag. It is made of bunting, thirty-six foot fly, and twenty-foot hoist. It has thirteen horizontal stripes of equal breadth, alternately red and white, beginning with the red. In the upper quarter next the staff is the Union, composed of a number of white stars, equal to the number of the States. The stars are located on a blue field one-third the length of the flag and extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top. The storm flag is twenty feet by ten feet and the recruiting flag is nine feet nine inches by four feet four inches. The description of the flag being offered for auction is an 8-foot regulation U.S. Navy 33 star ensign (stenciled on the hoist edge Storm Ensign). The flag, as issued, measured 8 by 4 feet. Obviously, the flag, although marked storm ensign, is not of the size stated in the Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States. This probably means that the flag in question belonged to the United States Navy, which apparently had different regulations in place for storm flags.

Howard Madaus, in his book Rebel Flags Afloat, mentions at least two Confederate Navy storm flags issued to warships. Since the Confederate Navy basically copied their regulations from the United States Navy, these can be useful for comparison purposes. The main battle flags for warships are called ensigns and are flown from the stern of the vessel. Vessels were also issued storm flags (storm ensigns) for the same purposes as forts and posts on land, as mentioned before. The storm ensign of the CSS Shenandoah (Museum of the Confederacy) measures 34 inches by 50 inches. Another surviving storm ensign, for the CSS Chicora (Citadel Museum), is of similar size, 33 inches by 49 inches. This makes them roughly three by four feet in overall size. If storm ensigns for U.S. Navy warships of the time were of similar size, then the flag in question is not from a warship. Additionally, U.S. Navy regulations for ships do list flags of various sizes for the ensigns of warships based on their rating. The ensign for a ship of the Number One rating is listed as being 19 feet by 36 feet. The ensign for a Number Eleven rating is 4.2 feet by 8 feet. Flags for ships rated 10 through 14 are considered to be boat flags. Since the flag is marked storm flag, we can eliminate the possibility of this flag being a Number 11 rating ensign.

Boat ensigns also typically had only 13 stars. The description further states that Secessionists at Pensacola, Florida at the Naval Fort hauled down the flag on Jan. 12th, 1861. However, first, there was no Naval fort. This statement must refer to Ft. Barrancas, which was within the naval base complex. Secondly, if Ft. Barrancas was equipped with a regulation storm flag, then this banner is too small to have served that purpose. Thus, the flag that Armstrong pulled down, and seemingly did not surrender to the Florida/Alabama state forces (and probably took with him), must have been the fort's regulation garrison flag. No accounts from the Southern side state anything about keeping the flag once it was hauled down. Additionally, nothing from the reports of the day indicate bad weather where the garrison flag would have been replaced with the storm flag. Continuing the Navy connection, and since there is no documentation of any other U.S. flags being removed from other flag poles of the Navy Yard, we must turn to the possibility of it being the storm flag for the Navy Yard itself and that it had been removed from the flag storage locker for the yard. The flag is listed as a U.S. Navy storm ensign, which helps make a more positive tie to it being a naval flag. Research into the regulations for flags used at Navy Yards has not yielded anything conclusive to date, but it can be presumed that they too had their equivalent of garrison, post, and storm flags to be used on the flagpole of a base. Navy yards supplied most of what naval vessels needed to remain at sea doing their duty, and they maintained a large stock of flags for those purposes.

A review of the flags taken from the U.S. Navy Yard at Gosport, VA (near Norfolk) is illustrative of the numbers and types of flags that could be found at such a facility. Rebel Flags Afloat mentions that 343 flags, mostly distinguishing flags of foreign nations, were taken at the yard by Virginia state forces. Additionally, a large supply of bulk wool bunting was taken at the yard, some 130 pieces (each piece measuring 40 yards in length with widths running from 12 inches to 18 inches), was also captured. The flag in question bears 33 stars. The 33 star U.S. flags came to pass on July 4, 1859, after the admission of Oregon on February 14th of that year. The Flag Act of 1818, still in effect today, states that on the 4th of July after the admission of a new state, their star would be added to the flag of the United States. Therefore, this flag is the proper model to have been in use at the Navy Yard in January 1861. 34 star flags would replace them on July 4, 1861 after the admission of Kansas on January 29, 1861. The description of this flag alludes to it being trailed in the dust of a city street, and this flag could have been drug through the streets of Pensacola in celebration.

The story states, however, that USN Lt. E. E. Brennand, who brought the flag back to his home in Pittsburgh, PA, saved the flag from this fate and took it with him when the USS Supply, on which he served, left the port. It further states that Brennand arrived at his home in Pittsburgh, PA on February 3rd, 1862. There is a problem with this, however. Brennand was still at sea on the USS Supply at this time, which did not arrive in New York, according to the ships log abstracts in the Navy Official Records, until February 4th. It would have taken at least a full day of travel to reach Pittsburgh. The flag was donated sometime later to the Sailors & Soldiers Museum of Allegheny, PA. by Brennand's son and it is probable that the provenance was written at this time. It is quite likely that Brennand's son had the date of his father's arrival at home incorrect. The USS Supply spent three days loading people and their belongings on board for the trip to New York. Brennand most certainly was on and off the ship during this time helping to load its cargo. He undoubtedly had contact with the secessionists occupying the Navy Yard and Ft. Barrancas during this time. However, no evidence of a mob taking any U.S. flags has been found in any period newspaper articles, the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, or Pensacola In The Civil War, written by George F. Pearce.

The whole affair of the surrender of the fort was handled with grace and dignity by both sides. Brennand may well have come across someone going through the Navy Yard flag locker pulling out flags and, upon seeing this storm ensign, decided to drag it on the ground. Brennand may have taken offense to this and seized it from him. Additionally, the Navy Yard was in Warrington and not Pensacola. There is also no written record of the USS Supply being at Pensacola, but direct evidence from Commander Walke's log abstracts that it was anchored just off the Warrington Navy Yard after ferrying supplies to Ft. Pickens along with the USS Wyandotte, and taking on passengers, based on Armstrong's orders. The Pensacola attachment is probably just an error on the part of whoever wrote the provenance. Regarding its condition, the flag does, however, exhibit severe damage above what wear and tear from normal use would cause, so there is no reason to doubt that portion of the provenance. The flag is in shreds; therefore the abuse was obviously quite extensive.

Further history of the flag states that it was flown again to celebrate the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln in November 1864 by the cheering people of Pittsburgh. During this time a banner was attached to the flag telling of its taking at Pensacola by the late E. E. Brennand and that he had retaken the flag from the rebels. This banner and the flag have been together ever since. Considering Brennand's action and when it occurred, one can most certainly make the claim that it was the first Union flag to be taken and retaken during the Civil War.

The flag is authentic to the early Civil War period, as one can surmise due to the number of stars on the flag, its single-ply bunting construction and, most convincingly, the provenance for the flag. According to the provenance it descended from the family of USN Lt. Edward E. Brennand, a lieutenant who had an illustrious naval career before his untimely death in November 1863. His son donated it to the museum from whence it comes today, confirming a direct connection to this officer. The flag does exhibit rough treatment and was probably abused by someone at the Navy Yard despite the lack of evidence of any mob celebrations of the surrender. It is my opinion that the flag was probably removed from the yard's flag locker by an individual and treated quite roughly while in his possession. Then, Brennand seized the flag back from this person (or couple persons), something that would have been very difficult to achieve from a mob, especially considering that he was working under a flag of truce at the time. This flag was, most likely, the storm flag of the Warrington Navy Yard based on its size and the fact that Brennand's ship was busy evacuating the staff of that yard where he certainly came into contact with Floridians while doing so. It is living proof of the love of his nation's flag that Edward E. Brennand saved it from long term capture.

Greg Biggs Military Historian Clarksville, TN August 16, 2007 Sources: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the Civil War, Series I, Vol. 4, Vol. 19, Vol. 22, Vol. 24 and Vol. 25 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1896) List Of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 Compiled From the Official Records of the Navy Department (Edward W. Callahan, Registrar, Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, L.R. Hamersly & Co., New York, 1901) U.S. Civil War Navies website www.tfoenander.com Pensacola In The Civil War, Pensacola Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 2, Spring 1978 Pensacola In The Civil War: A Thorn In The Side of the Confederacy, by George F. Pearce (University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 2000) The Civil War In Florida, Vol. 4 Florida's West Coast and Panhandle, Lewis G. Schmidt (Privately published, Allentown, 1992) Warships Of The Civil War Navies, Paul H. Silverstone (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1989) The Flags Of The Union: An Illustrated History, by Devereaux D. Cannon Jr. (Pelican Press, Gretna, 1994) Rebel Flags Afloat: A Survey of the Surviving Flags of the Confederate States Navy, Revenue Service and Merchant Marine, by Howard Michael Madaus (Flag Bulletin No. 115, January-April, 1986, Vol.XXV, Nos. 1-2) The American Flag: Two Centuries Of Concord and Conflict, by Howard Michael Madaus and Whitney Smith (VZ Publications, Santa Cruz, 2006) Columbus (GA) Times, February 9, 1861 Baltimore American, January 24, 1861 CONDITION: As can be seen in the photographs of this flag, much of the stripes are worn and missing; however, the canton is fairly complete with all 33 stars. The hoist is sound. Markings on hoist are very good. Attached pennant is intact with one approx. 2 x 2 hole and several large stains. Pins that attach hoist to celebration pennant have been removed but remain with flag and pennant.

First American Flag captured in the American Civil War, January 1861. See James D. Julia auction catalog for complete details by noted historian Gregg Biggs. He was a colleague of Howard Madaus. This flag has remained obscured to history in the Soldier Sailor's Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since being deposited there in 1861 by US Navy Captain E.E. Brennand who retook it from the Rebels. Its story has been forgotten for many decades. It is a historically notable flag whose story should be retold.

Exhibition History:
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, 1912 to 2007

University of California - Santa Cruz
Board of Councilors Meeting, Rare Flags Exhibit
Santa Cruz, CA
7 June 2012

Museum of Art & History
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz Collects
11 August - 25 November 2012

• United States Navy, 1861.
• Capture by unindentified Florida Militiamen, January 1861.
• Recaptured by Lt. Edward E. Brennand,, USS Supply, January 1861.
• Gifted to Lt. E.E. Brennand's sister Mrs. John Erwin, and her grandniece, Mrs. John Prichard, February 1861.
• By descent in the Brennand, Erwin & Prichard families until 1912.
• Donated to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, until deaccession, 2007
• Sold via James D. Julia Auctions of Fairfield, ME to Zaricor Flag Collection, 2007.


Madaus, Howard M.- Whitney Smith, The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict, VZ Publications, Santa Cruz, 2006.

Madaus, Howard Michael, Rebel Flags Afloat: A Survey of the Surviving Flags of the Confederate States Navy, Revenue Service and Merchant Marine, Flag Bulletin No. 115, January-April, 1986, Vol.XXV, Nos. 1-2)

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the Civil War, Series I, Vol. 4, Vol. 19, Vol. 22, Vol. 24 and Vol. 25 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1896)

Callahan, Edward W., Registrar, List Of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 Compiled From the Official Records of the Navy Department Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, New York, L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901.

U.S. Civil War Navies, from: www.tfoenander.com

Pensacola In The Civil War, Pensacola Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 2, Spring 1978

Schmidt, Lewis G., Pearce, George F. , Pensacola In The Civil War: A Thorn In The Side of the Confederacy, Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 2000

The Civil War In Florida, Vol. 4 Florida's West Coast and Panhandle, Privately published, Allentown, 1992

Silverstone, Paul H., Warships Of The Civil War Navies, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

Cannon, Devereaux D. Jr, The Flags Of The Union: An Illustrated History, Gretna, Pelican Press, 1994

Columbus (GA) Times, February 9, 1861

Baltimore American, January 24, 1861

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection


Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 49
Length of Fly 77


Comments on Star Measurements The stars are located on a blue field one-third the length of the flag and extending to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe from the top.


Size of Hoist 2


Is it framed? yes
Frame Height 56
Frame Length 113.5
Comments on Frame Store flat or vertical


Number of Stars 33
Are there stars on obverse? yes
Are there stars on reverse? yes


Number of Stripes 13
Color of Top Stripe Red
Color of Bottom Stripe Red
Has a Blood Stripe? no


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Wool
Comments on Fabric Bunting


Type of Weave Plain


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse

PDF Files
Gallery Copy


Research Documents


Condition Fair
Damage Used, worn, soiled, creased, wrinkled, severe fabric loss
Trending to fair
Displayable yes


Date 1861


Exhibition Copy University of California - Santa Cruz
Board of Councilors Meeting, 7 June 2012

Rare Flags Exhibit

Santa Cruz, CA, June 7, 2012: The Zaricor Flag Collection exhibited 34 flags and artifacts at the University of California Santa Cruz Campus for the Board of Councilors Meeting.

United States 33 Star Storm
Ensign, 1st Flag Captured
in Civil War

Date: January, 1861

Media: Banner, cotton canvas and paint; Flag, wool bunting, machine stitched,
cotton hand sewn, double appliqué stars with linen canvas heading.

Comment: This iconic ghost of an American flag is the earliest documented
flag captured during captured the American Civil War. The flag was captured
by Florida secessionists at Pensacola, on January 12, 1861, a full three months
before the firing on Fort Sumter, thus making it the first United States flag
captured in that Great Conflict.
The flag was later retaken by United States Navy Lt. Edward E. Brennand
from the storeship USS Supply, who while ashore under a flag of truce, seized the
flag back from the secessionists, who were desecrating the flag by trailing it in the
Lt. Brennand returned to his home in Pittsburgh and left the flag in the
care of his sister, Mrs. John Erwin, and her grandniece, Mrs. John Prichard. Lt.
Brennand did not survive the war, but his relations used the flag in November
1864 to celebrate the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln by attaching it
to a commemorative banner and displaying it across Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. The flag and banner have not been separated since that time.
A careful look at the flag reveals several of the stars are joined only by the
slenderest of threads, symbolically much like the Union in the Civil War.

Provenance: Acquired at auction in 2007 by the Zaricor Flag Collection
(ZFC2510) from the Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum & Memorial,
Pittsburgh, PA, via James D. Julia Auctions, Fairfield, ME. www.FlagCollection.com