13 star U.S. Flag - Navy Boat Flag used at the amphibious landings at Ft. Fisher, North Carolina, Dec 1864
This heavily damaged, 13 star, wool US Navy Boat Flag is typical of the type of flags used to indicate the nationality of small boats that had been dispatched from larger vessels. In 1864 the proper compliment of stars on a United States flag would have been 35, but in the 1850s the aesthetic reasons. It was less expensive if the navy did not have to alter the star count on all flags when a new state joined the Union, and the full complement of stars so crowed the canton they were difficult to distinguish. Practically, it was less expensive if the navy did not have to alter the star count on all flags when a new state joined the Union, and aesthetically because the larger number of stars crowded the canton and made the flag difficult to distinguish from a distance (such as out at sea).

This flag was used on one of the small boats of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter's fleet when it attempted to capture Fort Fischer, a powerful bastion protecting the Confederacy's last open port, located in Wilmington, NC. According to the paperwork accompanying the flag, the boat was involved in a sortie against the fort in late December of 1864. This was undoubtedly referring to the attempted assault on the fort that took place from December 25th- 27th. During this action, occurring primarily during the night-time, the ensign was ravaged by shot and shell from the fort, one passing through the flag and killing a bluejacket.

Such battle damaged flags from naval actions in the American Civil War are extremely rare. This is mainly because there were few amphibious actions during the American Civil War and even fewer where small boats were involved in combat. The damage to this flag includes holes from a shell shot and bullet holes. The heading itself has also been shot away but the rope header is still attached to the upper hoist. Bloodstained and damaged, the flag was preserved in a private collection in Pennsylvania until its eventual sale in the 1980s to the Crow Art Partnership of Dallas, Texas.

Exhibition History:
Crow Art Partnership Collection,
Dallas Texas.

• U.S. Navy, 1864.
• Acquired by Richard H. Keller of Great War Militaria, Chambersburg, PA until 1985.
• Crow Art Partnership Collection, Dallas Texas, until 2007.
• Acquired at auction from the Crow Art Partnership Collection, Dallas, Texas, via Heritage Auction Inc., at the 24 June 2007, Civil War Grand Format Auction, in Gettysburg, PA.

ZFC Significant Flag
Item is Framed


US Navy "Boat" Flag , Dave Martucci's Flag Pages, 10 October 2011, from:

First Battle of Fort Fisher, Wikipedia, 10 October 2011, from:

Heller, R.E., private correspondence, 13 March 2008.