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Under Four Flags

Over the past 250 years, shipyarders have seen four sovereign flags flown over the shipyard gates.

British (Old Union) Flag

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.

Betsy Ross Flag

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.

Virginia Flag

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.

Confederate Flag

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 beneath them.

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