AMERICAN NAVAL FLAGS
OF THE CIVIL WAR
At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the US flag had 34 stars. A 35th star was added for West Virginia in 1863, and a 36th for Nevada in 1864, so that the US Navy flew three different ensigns and jacks during the war. In contrast to the US Army, whose flags displayed many variations and creative touches, those of the Navy were of standard patterns, with the stars in horizontal rows. The naval jack—called the Union Jack—was simply the canton or "union" of the ensign. The commission pennant was very similar to the one used today.
The Confederate States of America followed the US example, using its national flag as the ensign of the CS Navy, the canton from the ensign as the naval jack, and a commission pennant based on the design of the ensign. The first (unofficial) national flag of the Confederacy, nicknamed the Stars and Bars, was thus the CS Navy's first ensign. Early examples had seven stars in the canton, while later examples had from eight to thirteen stars, with eleven stars being most common. In 1863, the CSA's second (first official) national flag—nicknamed the Stainless Banner—was made the naval ensign, with a rectangular version of its canton as the jack. Regulations specified 2:3 proportions for the ensign and jack, but it is likely that there were numerous variations.
For information about USN rank flags of the Civil War era, see US Navy Broad Pennants and Rank Flags, 1800-1940. CS Navy flag officers mostly flew a plain blue rank flag, but there seems to have been no authorized broad pennant for commodores.
Credit: My illustrations of CS Navy flags and pennants are based on information from the late Devereaux Cannon's Flags of the Confederacy site.
UNITED STATES NAVY
NATIONAL ENSIGN & UNION JACK • 34 Stars • 1861-63
NATIONAL ENSIGN & UNION JACK • 35 Stars • 1863-64
NATIONAL ENSIGN & UNION JACK • 36 Stars • 1864-65
CONFEDERATE STATES NAVY
NATIONAL ENSIGN & JACK • 1861
NATIONAL ENSIGN & JACK • 1861-63
COMMISSION PENNANT • 1861-63
NATIONAL ENSIGN & JACK • 1863-65
COMMISSION PENNANT • 1863-65
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