Confederate States Navy Rank Flags

Admiral’s Rank Flags

Admirals and commodores are termed “flag officers”, because these officers are entitled to fly rank flags. A “flag ship” is the ship in the fleet on which the commanding admiral or commodore is found, and on which his flag flies in the place of the commission pennant.

In the US Navy from 1858 to 1866, an admiral flew a plain rectangular flag, of either blue, red, or white, depending upon his seniority, blue being the most senior. Commodores flew similar coloured “broad pennants”, which were swallow-tailed, tapered along the top edge, and decorated with white stars (blue on the white pennant), matching the number of States in the Union.

 Blue flag of Admiral Franklin Buchanan
flown on the CSS Tennessee in Mobile Bay
by Wayne J. Lovett

Admiral Franklin Buchanan, who commanded the CSS Virginia during her foray at Hampton Roads, Virginia, later commanded the CS naval forces during the battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama. His flagship was the CSS Tennessee, on which was flown as his rank flag a plain blue flag, similar to that flown by a senior admiral in the US Navy of the time.

There is some evidence that Commodore William F. Lynch, flew a Confederate States Revenue Service ensign as his command flag on the flagship of his squadron at Roanoke Island, North Carolina. There is no evidence at this time, however, of a system of rank flags for commodores of the CS Navy.

Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 05 February 2000