AN HISTORICALLY INTERESTING FIFTEEN-STAR AMERICAN NAVAL JACK FROM THE ANGLO-AMERICAN WAR OF 1812, comprising four conjoined blue bunting strips with fifteen appliquéd five-point stars, canvas sleeve with three suspension loops on the hoist edge, with a manuscript note pinned in the lower left canton inscribed Capt. Thomas R Brown US[N] / This flag was used in the / War of 1812, E.B. -- 61 x 36in. (155 x 91.5cm.); together with an oil on canvas laid down on board oval portrait of Thomas Brown in the uniform of Lieutenant of the U.S. Navy, circa 1807, unsigned -- 12 x 9½in. (30.5 x 24cm.); and his Captain’s commission signed by President James Monroe and dated for 3rd March, 1825, (3), Provenance: Brown family to US book trade; sold to a European collector 1998. Captain Thomas Brown (circa 1785-1828), born in Philadelphia, served in the United States Navy seeing action in both the First Barbary War (1801-5) and the Anglo-American War of 1812. In 1803 he served as a midshipman aboard the Philadelphia with Lt. Stephen Decatur under Commodore Edward Preble on the Constitution and distinguished himself with Decatur when they burnt their ship rather than lose it to enemy action. When Decatur was killed in 1804, Brown acted Second in Command of the squadron. Brown was promoted Lieutenant on 27 March 1807, when it seems likely this portrait was painted., Brown went on to serve in the War of 1812 under Commodore Isaac Chauncey at Sacket’s Harbor, battling for control of Lake Ontario. At the start of the war, the British had command of the lake due to the existence of the Provincial Marine Squadron headed by the 20-gun corvette Royal George. This squadron was not intended for any aggressive action in the war, however very early on it was clear this would not be the case. On 19 July 1812 Commander Hugh Earl led the Provincial Squadron into sight of Sacket’s Harbor and opened fire. Lieutenant Woolsey, in command of the harbour at the time, returned fire, damaging Royal George. Not prepared for any action, Earl and his squadron hastily retreated. Realising the need for a naval presence on Lake Ontario, Chauncey was placed in overall charge at Sacket’s Harbor that August. On arrival, Chauncey went about building a squadron, and bought many ships, including the Governor Tompkins, which carried a single 32-pdr long gun, a 24-pdr and four 32-pdr Carronades, of which Brown was in command. That autumn, Chauncey’s squadron, including Oneida and Governor Tompkins, set out to destroy the Royal George. After an inconclusive engagement on 9 November, they were more successful a few days later on the 12th and destroyed the British schooner Two Brothers and the merchantmen Mary Hatt and Elizabeth - within two months Chauncey had run the Provincial Squadron off Lake Ontario. After a heavy winter, in which both sides tried to build new warships, the largest joint operation between the U.S. army and navy since their inception, took place: the Battle of York. Chauncey’s squadron, along with 1,700 troops, was successful in its attack on the Canadian port and, in addition to forcing the British to withdraw, captured the Duke of Gloucester which, at the time, was described as a ‘decaying’ schooner and was put to use by Chauncey as a floating magazine. After this success, Chauncey’s squadron went on to capture Fort George causing the British to relinquish control of the lake for the rest of the war. Brown was promoted to Commander on 1 March 1815 and Captain ten years later. At his death on 28 November 1828, Brown left a widow, Emma Brown (who wrote and initialled the note pinned to the jack), and two children, Eliza and Isaac. The fifteen-star flag was used by the United States between 1795 and 1818 and was the second incarnation of this iconic design. Like the Royal Navy, American naval vessels flew three flags: the ensign at the stern, the jack at the prow, and the commission pennant at the main mast.
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