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Navy finds 46 captured flags that were hidden for 104 years

U.S. Naval Academy sign (Rdsmith4/Flickr)
January 17, 2018

The U.S. Naval Academy Museum recently discovered 46 flags that haven’t been seen by the public since 1913, according to Fox News.

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The U.S. Naval Academy Museum, which is in Annapolis, Maryland, is known for its large collection of flags. Due to the size of the collection, they commonly rotate the flags with some on display, while others are in storage. Ships flew the flags while at sea to distinguish their allegiance. If a ship surrendered, then it would take down its flag and give it to the defeater.

When the museum’s curator opened several boxes with captured British flags from the War of 1812, he discovered that there was another layer of flags that had not been touched for nearly a century.

The 46 flags, which were sealed and preserved, likely have never been seen by anyone who is currently alive.

Charles Swift, who is the museum’s curator, said to the Associated Press that: “More importantly than just seeing them was seeing the colors.”

Swift continued by saying: “It is what struck me immediately. It was sort of dark, but you could see the colors — the vibrant colors — of them having not been in light for 100 years, and so it was exciting.”

The flags originated from a variety of regions, countries and battles. Some of the flags were from the Spanish-American War and several others were from battles in Asia.

One of the flags, which dates back to 1854, was taken from a Chinese pirate fort near Macau. In addition, there were even flags found that are vintage replicas of flags from the Revolutionary War.

The Naval Academy was designated in 1849 by President James Polk as the repository for the Navy’s growing collection of captured flags. Eventually, the flag collection transformed into the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors per year.

More than 800 flags are now on display at the museum, and 250 of them are trophy flags from various battles.

The museum is funded by U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command with the goal of preserving important items related to the Navy.

When asked about the significance of the flags, Camille Myers Breeze, who is the director of Museum Textile Services, told the Associated Press that: “For us to conserve a collection of flags like this that’s historical — not only for its use, but for how it was preserved and how it has been installed here for 100 years for Naval Academy students and visitors to appreciate and learn from,” and that “It’s really our favorite kind of project.”