Much deliberation and conversation has been had concerning the flags used on the site, so as the designer, I thought I would take the time to reveal my logic. It should be noted that the flags in the photographs are not my design and I have no control over the flags used.
The Red Ensign of Great Britain 1707-1801
The Red Ensign was the first version of the Union Jack. It was the flag that was flown over the thirteen colonies before the American Revolution.
It was in use from 1707-1801. Of interest is that the red diagonals are missing from the white diagonals representing Ireland’s joining Great Britain.
The fact that the Saint Patrick’s Cross is missing from the Red Ensign at the beginning (or end) of the War of 1812 could be from a number of factors…
- Flags at sea, are used to identify nationality of the ship. Friend or foe. It is doubtful that someone, from the heaving deck of a ship, looking at a flag from a distance missing the Saint Patricks’ Cross, would assume “wrong flag” therefore enemy.
- Shipping costs, like nowadays, were expensive not to mention of premium space. If I were living in Canada would I want new rope, material, tools, a great coat and food over a new flag? Probably.
- Historically, Britain was terrible at sending, even needed supplies to Canada. I doubt flags, with what they must have considered a minimal change (the addition of Saint Patrick’s Cross), to be a complete design change.
- In less than two years from the adoption of the Union Jack as we know it today, Britain was at war with Napoleon. Sending new flags to Canada was likely not high on their to do list.
Granted, all these points are speculation, but they are based in reality, historical facts and observation. Therefore, I chose to use the Union Jack as presented in 1801 throughout the site, but more than likely, in most cases, it would be lacking the Saint Andrew’s Cross or a combination of the two.
Regarding the flags in the photos, many of the reenactors cover multiple periods, and as such, may not have the funds or space for separate flags for each period (and the British flag changed a lot toward the end of the 18th century), so indulgence must be requested from the visitor that expects perfection.
The Union Jack 1801 to present
The Union Jack is a composition of three flags, St. George’s Cross, St. Andrew’s Cross and Saint Patrick’s Cross, each shown below.
The Star’s and Stripes 1795-1818
The is much discussion and disagreement as to what the American flag looked like in 1812. “Were the stars in lines, or staggered? Were they laid out point to point, or rotated? Were they in a circle or lines? The arguments are endless but worse, unprovable. One of the only remaining examples is the one that has been preserved from Fort McHenry from 1814.
The Fort McHenry version has 15 stars and stripes and is the only flag to have that, afterward, Congress voted to have a maximum of 13 stripes and varying numbers of stars based on the number of states in the USA, all in various configurations that suited the number of states.
To avoid disagreement and be as accurate as possible, I have chosen to use this example for a couple of reasons.
- The design cannot be disputed as the sample survives
- It was in use during the War of 1812
- It was the flag that the US national anthem was written about.
Personally, I’m fascinated by flags, flag etiquette and flag evolution. I invite comments.