US Naval Academy to display captured War of 1812 British flag

British Royal Standard captured by American forces during the War of 1812. Image provided by US Naval Academy Museum

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The U.S. Naval Academy Museum will conduct a viewing of the British Royal Standard this Saturday, April 7, in Dahlgren Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

The British Royal Standard that flew over York (Toronto), Canada was captured by US forces during the War of 1812. Congressional and Presidential directives from more than 150 years require the U.S. Naval Academy to preserve and exhibit captured flags.

“This event is not about our capturing the flag,” said Claude Berube, Director, U.S. Naval Academy Museum. “This is about history, the two-hundred years of peace that have ensued, and cooperation between our three countries.”

This marks the first time since the 1880s that the 35 by 25ft flag has been made available to view in its entirety.

“We have initiated this event as part of a larger preservation project to ensure future generations will be able to see what these flags were and what they meant,” said Berube. “Also [it fulfills] one of our missions, which is to educate midshipmen on their naval heritage as well as inform the general public.”

The US Naval Academy Museum is responsible for the preservation of 60,000 military items in its collection.

“Both Canada and England have things of ours in their museums,” said Berube. “This shows that we respect each other’s history and heritage, and I think that’s particularly important.”

The British Royal Standard was previously in an exhibit case in the academy’s Mahan Hall, where only a portion of the flag was viewable. Along with several War of 1812 ship flags captured by the US Navy, the Royal Standard was removed after a century for curation.

“We preserve and show these things because they tell stories that are still relevant today,” said Charles Swift, managing director and supervisory museum curator of US Naval Academy Museum. “I think that’s the most important thing, that every one of these flags can be used to tell real stories about real people.”

The museum currently has more than 200 battle flags in its total flag collection of more than 600 examples.

After the ceremony, the flag will go to a storage unit for preservation. A long-term conservation plan for all of the flags is still being developed, due to the extent of the collection.

Conservation funds were provided by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

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