SOLD! for $2,204.00.
(Note: Prices realized include a buyer's premium.)
- Low Estimate: $3,000.00
- High Estimate: $5,000.00
- Realized: $2,204.00
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British Naval Ensign flag, Union Jack on red wool double ply bunting, sewn to a later red backing for support. Four pieces with field. Machine and hand stitching. Rope hoist with canvas fold-over edge. 63" x 100" approximate size. Old tag found attached to the flag reads 'Tampa Bay 1862' and J.G.____/Rockport, Mass. Provenance: Estate of A. Welling LaGrone, Jr., Nashville, Tenn.In order to keep their war economy going, the Confederate States of America was forced to purchase many items from overseas suppliers. While the nations of Belgium, Austria and France all sold implements of war to the Confederacy, their primary supplier was Great Britain. Lacking sufficient hard currency to pay for arms and other needed supplies, the Confederacy used their primary crop, cotton, as a system of barter. All of what was sent to Europe and all of what came back went by ship to and from Southern ports. These ports were blockaded early in the war by the U.S. Navy.The naval blockade was the brainchild of Union General Winfield Scott and it was dubbed the Anaconda Plan, for the large constricting snake that crushed its prey. It was thought that the naval blockade would shut down the Southern ports but Southerners had other ideas. Bermuda, Nassau (Bahamas) and Cuba were trans-shipment points for goods coming from and back to Europe. Large ocean going vessels entered these ports where their cargoes were offloaded onto smaller, and much faster blockade runners. These vessels ran on stealth and guts with captains who were among the wiliest on the seas. Often using moonless nights, these ships were the lifeline of the Confederacy and the Union Navy made every effort to sink or capture them. While a few blockade runners were owned by some of the Southern states or the Confederate government, most were private enterprises. As part of their ruse to gain entrance into Southern ports, these ships often ran under foreign flags. Ships of the era, be they civilian or military, were equipped with the flags of major maritime nations for saluting purposes so using one of them to disguise the vessel was quick and easy to do. Based on research, most of the foreign flags used were either blue or red British ensigns. Typically, the blockade runner would sail under a foreign flag in case they were hailed by a U.S. Navy warship. As the Union Navy got more sophisticated to this ruse, they began stopping most ships under foreign flags for inspection. While this practice got them into some diplomatic hot water, it also captured lots of blockade runners. On May 2, 1862, the U.S.S. R.R. Cuyler, commanded by Lieutenant Francis Winslow of Massachusetts, part of the U.S. Navy Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron, was cruising off Tampa Bay, Florida when she sighted the schooner S.S. Jane. Winslow reported, When first discovered the schooner was steering to the northward (toward the coast of Florida) with the wind
, but on the approach of the Cuyler her course was changed to the southward and westward and an English ensign was hoisted. Once aboard, the Union sailors discovered a cargo of pig lead as well as her recently issued British registry based out of Nassau in the Bahamas. The manifest stated that the Jane was headed towards Matamoros, Mexico (a popular blockade running port that circumvented the U.S. Navy completely) but decided to run the cargo into Florida. Winslow was later promoted to commander but died in 1862 of Yellow Fever. He was First Cousin to Captain John A. Winslow, U.S. Navy, who, while in command of the U.S. S. Kearsarge, confronted and sank the famous Confederate raider C.S.S. Alabama off France in June 1864. The flag taken from the S.S. Jane is an example of the British red ensign. These flags date back to the 1620s when the Royal Navy was expanding. A fleet in battle needed flags to tell friend from foe. As the navy expanded the battle line was divided into three squadrons designated by ensigns of different colors. In 1625 the red ensign was to designate the admirals squadron; a blue ensign designated the vice admirals squadron while the white ensigns flew over the rear admirals squadron. The cantons of the flags bore the Cross of St. George, the symbol of England. In 1707, the Cross of St. Andrews, representing Scotland, was added to the Union canton and in 1801, the Irish Cross was added. These naval flags flew until 1864 when the Royal Navy changed to a white ensign with Union canton and bearing a red Cross of St. George on the field. The red ensign became a merchant marine flag and the blue ensign the banner of the Royal Navy Reserve. This standard continues to today.
It is interesting that this flag is an example of a Royal Navy red ensign and the fact that it was taken in 1862, before the change in British naval colors in 1864, shows that perhaps the S.S. Jane was trying to disguise herself as a Royal Navy ship. After capture, the flag was sent to Massachusetts where it ended up in a Grand Army of the Republic museum. After the museum closed, the flag was stored in an attic until found and sold on the private market some years later. The banner appeared in a relics catalog of Bellingers Military Antiques of Atlanta, Georgia in late 1993. The flag was purchased by Mr. Welling LaGrone sometime after this from another owner. The flag is made is single ply wool bunting, typical for large flags for naval vessels and merchant ships. Its proper construction suggests manufacture at one of the British naval yards who were responsible for making flags for the warships ported there. This system was copied by the U.S. Navy. Attached to the flag is an old tag. On one side, written in pencil, is, Tampa Bay 1862. The other side is not distinct but, J.G.____/Rockport, Mass, can be discerned. In researching Grand Army of the Republic posts in Massachusetts, the only post close to Rockport was the Post 45, Colonel Allen in the famous fishing port of Gloucester. Perhaps the flag came from this post. This is a fine example of a British Red Ensign captured from a Confederate blockade runner with a fully detailed capture history found in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. A copy of Winslows capture report will accompany the documents for this flag to the successful bidder. -Catalog entry by Greg Biggs. Condition: Fragile but intact; numerous scattered holes and minor stains.