British Ensign

British Ensign

(1707 - 1801)

A square version of the Union flag on a field of red served as the ensign (or national flag at sea) and as the unit colors of British army regiments—with a red, yellow, or blue field, depending on the branch of the military. In the American colonies, the Union Jack on a red field also became a multipurpose flag commonly used on both land and sea.

Britain created the colony of Georgia in 1732, and James Oglethorpe and the first settlers arrived at Yamacraw Bluff in February 1733. Clearly, they brought the ensign (and probably the Union flag), as evidenced by the 1734 engraving of Savannah attributed to Peter Gordon. In the scene, a large flag is shown flying from the guardhouse, plus numerous British ensign flags on the ships in the river. When Georgia celebrated its 250th birthday in 1983, this flag was carried in the reenactment of Oglethorpe’s first meeting with Tomochichi (see photo on this page).

Perhaps the common availability of British ensigns on naval vessels helps to explain why this flag was so widely used on both sea and land in the American colonies.

British Ensign View large image

British Ensign (1707 - 1801)
Source: Ed Jackson

British Ensign View large image

Detail from 1734 Savannanh Town Plan Showing British Ensign on Ships and Guardhouse
Source: Engraving Attributed to Colonist Peter Gordon

British Ensign View large image

British ensign shown in reenactment of landing of James Oglethorpe and first Georgia colonists at Yamacraw Bluff (Savannah) on Feb. 12, 1983
Source: Ed Jackson