Friday, May 11, 2018

The Lone Star Flag, part 1


Republic of West Florida 1810-1811

I have a great interest our heritage and people.  This includes many different aspects of them from ancestry, to culture, society, history, etc. and with that preamble,  I focus on an early banner used by the Anglo-Celts.  This chapter of their history takes place in what is now the state of Louisiana.  A flag with a single star, a Lone Star, had its beginning in 1810 in the short lived Republic of West Florida.  It was and is a simple design, a single white star in a blue field.  

For those not familiar with the Anglo-Celts, they are the Irish, Scots, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Scots-Irish, and English, in any form or combination.  The term normally refers to these people in their Diaspora in the USA, Canada, and Australia, and the other places they settled around the world. Anglo-Celt is also applied to the descendants of these people.

I first heard the term Anglo-Celt used by Texas historian T R Fehrenbach, who wrote Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans.  He used the term to describe that large group of indigenous Americans, meaning those early settlers and their descendants.   Most modern historians incorrectly apply the term Scots-Irish to this group.  However, they were diverse people, but within the context of the British Isles and Ireland.  They developed into a people with a shared heritage, values, related ethnicity, etc. T R Fehrenbach used the term to describe the people that settled in Texas from 1820 into the early 1900s.  And that is where the story of their banner comes in.  The Anglo-Celts originated the Lone Star flag as their symbol in 1810 in Louisiana.

After the America Revolutionary War, Spain regained control of the territory of West Florida.  This was located in east Louisiana, across southern Mississippi, southern Alabama into the western Florida Panhandle.  Anglo-Celtic settlers flooded into this area in the early 1800s.  These families were of Irish, Scottish, Scots-Irish, English, and Welsh ancestry.  Some were new immigrants and many were descendants of families that had migrated to the Colonies in the 1700s. There was an issue with so many Anglo-Celts settling in this area.  West Florida was under Spanish rule and these were extremely independent minded Anglo-Celts. The situation was not unlike the one they found in Texas just fifteen years later.  


West Florida 1800

The Anglo-Celts had conflicts with the Spanish officials in West Florida.  The settlers took action to remove themselves from Spanish rule.  With the large Scots-Irish component present, a revolution was inevitable.   

From June to September 1810 leaders in the settler communities held secret meetings which eventually escalated to open conventions.  These took place in the Baton Rouge District of what is now Louisiana.  A consensus was reached and the settlers moved to establish an independent Republic of West Florida, with its capital located at St Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.  On the morning of 23 September 1810, the Anglo-Celtic militia attacked Fort San Carlos in Baton Rouge.  The Spanish troops were ready and firefight ensued.  The Anglo-Celt militia prevailed and gained control of the area from Spain.  

The militia used the first Lone Star flag on that day.  The flag was a single five pointed star on a blue field. The flag was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Issac Johnson, who commanded the Feliciana cavalry, the militia force that made the attack.  The exact shade of blue in the flag's field is not known, but was believed to be a lighter blue than a navy blue. The flag was popular from its beginning.

Area in control by Republic of West Florida 1810
The flag endured and variations of the flag have been in use since that day.  However, the Republic of West Florida was short lived.  After their successful take over of West Florida, the leaders of the revolt became mired in politics.  The United States refused to recognise the new republic.  

On 27 October 1810, United States president, James Madison, proclaimed that the USA should take possession of the new republic on the dubious basis that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase.  The lands of the new republic were located east of the Mississippi River, which were not part of the Louisiana Purchase.  

Governments, being governments, the USA managed to read the various treaties and agreements in such a way that it was suggested (sort of) that the lands east of the Mississippi River could in fact, more or less, be included in the Louisiana Purchase and therefore, could be annexed into the United States.   It was not legal, but it was effective.


Fulwar Skipworth governor Republic of West Florida
By this time, the Republic of West Florida had chosen a governor, Fulwar Skipworth (keeping the long standing tradition of Southerners having unique names).  President Madison ordered William Claiborne, the USA military governor of Orleans Territory to take possession of the Republic of West Florida.  The West Floridians refused to submit.  

Governor Fulwar Skipworth proclaimed that he and his men would 'surround the Flag Staff and die in its defense.'  Bold talk and they meant it, and it was a bonnie flag.  Governor Skipworth did have some support from the French, but alas, it was in the form of words and an opinion only.  The French negotiator of the Louisiana Purchase, François Barbé-Marbois, agreed that the Baton Rouge district, or the Republic of West Florida, was considered part of Florida, as it was east of the Mississippi River.  But, might makes right, and it became a moot point.

USA military governor Claiborne ordered 300 United States soldiers from Fort Adams under Colonel Lenard Covington to move into the fledgling West Florida Republic.  On 6 December 1810, Colonel Covington and his troops moved into Baton Rouge.  Matters escalated quickly. The militia of the new republic were not looking forward to a war with the United States.  On 10 December 1810,  Governor Skipworth and his legislature entered negotiations with the USA.  Given the circumstances, i.e. an overwhelming show of military force,  Governor Skipworth accepted President Madison's annexation proclamation. Congress passed a joint resolution which was approved on 15 January 1811. 

So came the end of the short lived Republic of West Florida.  But, its Lone Star banner lived on and is still in use.


© 2018 Barry R McCain