Under Four Flags
Over the past 250 years, shipyarders have seen four sovereign flags
flown over the shipyard gates.
The first flag raised over the yard was the
British (Old Union) flag. It was the official yard banner from 1767 until
1775. After the British fled the area, the state of Virginia inherited the
yard. The United States did not have an official flag until 1788 as most
American units fought under their own pennants.
Since the Virginia Navy occupied the shipyard, the colonial flag that
reads 'Don't Tread On Me' was probably hoisted daily until the Betsy Ross
design replaced the dozen or so that were used from 1775 to the end of the
war. The flag used by the Virginia Navy may have had a disjointed snake in
13 sections representing the original colonies sewn in the background. Some
may find the design unpleasant, but its message was clear.
The first official flag was the United States
flag supposedly designed by Betsy Ross and adopted by Congress as being
most representative of a united country. The winning design had the
traditional 13 alternating red and white stripes and a circle of 13 white
stars sewn on a blue background.
It wasn't until 1861 that the shipyard added
another flag to its collection. On April 21st, the day after Union forces
burned and evacuated the shipyard, the seceded Commonwealth of Virginia
raised its flag over the industrial post.
The Virginia flag flew less than one week.
The Confederate Navy then claimed the shipyard
and raised the state flag of the Confederacy in 1862. The flag resembled
the Betsy Ross flag, but had only seven stars.
After the shipyard was recaptured that same year, the American flag was
raised for a second time and has flown over the shipyard ever since.
Replicas of the four sovereign flags are still flown occasionally at the
shipyard's Fourth Street gate as a memorial to all who worked and fought