The Serapis Flag is unique because of its 8-pointed stars and because its red, white and blue stripes are organized in a pattern not found on other American historical flags. The 13 8-pointed stars are arranged in 3 rows of 4, 5 and 4 on a blue field. The flag is also more square shaped than rectangular.
The Serapis Flag, also known as the John Paul Jones Flag, had its origin in a famous Revolutionary War sea battle called the Battle of Flamborough Head, which was fought just off the east coast of England on September 23, 1779. In the battle, Jones’ small fleet of ships challenged the HMS Serapis, a 44 gun British warship that was protecting a massive merchant convoy of 50 ships returning to England from the Baltic Sea.
When John Paul Jones arrived at Texel, a diplomatic crisis arose. The Netherlands were officially neutral in the British-American war and the Netherlands had not yet officially recognized the United States as a sovereign country. The Serapis was not flying an American flag because the flag from the Bonhomme Richard had been blown off during the battle and went down at sea. This led to the British Ambassador demanding that John Paul Jones be turned over to the English government as a pirate, along with the Serapis, because, as he was not flying the flag of any known nation and he was sailing a captured ship, he was, according to international law, a pirate.