Our Varnum Memorial Armory Curator, Patrick Donovan, was reading a first-hand account of the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers at the Battle of New Bern in the U.S. Civil War, and came across the names of the ship captains who made up the naval force accompanying the expeditionary force. He faintly recognized one of the names: Thomas P. Ives. Back at the Varnum Armory Museum, he went through the stacks of archival boxes to find one labeled: “Ives flags, Civil War”.
Born and raised in Rhode Island, Thomas Ives was one of the wealthiest people in the country at that time and was, apparently, very patriotic. When the U.S. Civil War broke out, he donated his private yacht, Hope, into Federal service as a U.S. Revenue Cutter (predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard). He commanded his now well-armed boat in the Mid Atlantic area and fought to enforce the blockade. Later, he commanded the USS Picket and participated in Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition, which aimed to shut down important Confederate ports.
On March 14th, Captain Ives participated in the operations that resulted in the capture of the important coastal city of New Bern. He would go on to fight Rebel blockade runners and Rebel shore batteries putting his life at great risk. In one fight, his ship was destroyed and sunk, yet he survived to fight another day.
The signal flags pictured here, as well as the 30-star (1848) Union Jack flew aboard his yacht, Hope, during the U.S. Civil War in 1861.