Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Lone Star Flag Part II

Mary Long's Long Star Flag 1819

In The Lone Star Flag Part I, we learned that the Lone Star flag dates back to 1810 and events in Louisiana.   It is evident that the icon of the Lone Star lived beyond the 1810-1811 Republic of West Florida.  It returned just a few years later, again in Louisiana, among the same group of settlers and citizens.

James Long was a US Army surgeon and served with distinction in the War of 1812 and was present at the famous Battle of New Orleans (January 1815).  After his US Army service, he became a filibuster who led an expedition to seize control of the province of Texas from the Spanish ( a filibuster is a man who wages war upon a foreign country, meaning the man by himself and not operating on behalf of another country's government).

The border between New Spain and the United States was disputed at that time.  The Anglo-Celtic settlers planned a filibustering expedition to outright conquer the province of Texas, a province in northern New Spain.  James Long's comrade in this adventure was José Félix Trespalacios, a citizen of New Spain, who had been imprisoned for instigating a revolt against Spanish rule in México.  The two men gathered some 200 militiamen from their headquarters in Natchez, Mississippi.  

Jim Bowie and Ben Milam, two well known figures in Texas history, were in Long's militia group.  Both Bowie and Milam had prominent roles in the Texas Revolution in 1835-1836.   Long also attempted to recruit the famous French pirate, Jean Lafitte, but his attempts were unsuccessful.  Long's forces were primarily Anglo-Celt frontiersmen and several former French soldiers; a typical Deep South amalgam.

Long's Lone Star flag, version II; 1820

By June 1819 the Long Expedition arrived in Texas. The small army was initially successful and established a republic of sorts.  It did last longer than the ill fated Republic of West Florida. However, as the Spanish organised themselves to confront Long, the republic began to lose impetus. The men became restless and there was no method of expanding upon their success.  The Spanish organised their militia to confront Long's forces.  A number of the Long's men returned to Louisiana.  The Long affair did not end well.  Spanish military units confronted the remaining men in Long's force and quickly routed them.  Long escaped to Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Long was persistent. On his return to Louisiana, he began raising funds to equip a second invasion into New Spain.  In April 1820, he joined members from his first expedition on the Boliva Peninsula (in present day Galveston County, Texas).  He had 300 troops and brought with him his pregnant wife Jane.  There his expedition remained for a year, but only controlled the land under their feet.  Long seized Presidio La Bahía in an attempt to force the action.  The Spanish military counterattacked and forced Long and his men to surrender four days later.  Long was imprisoned in several Mexican towns and eventually sent to Mexico City.  There he was shot to death by a Mexican guard on 8 April 1822.

After Long's misadventure in Texas the Lone Star was next used in the mid 1830s.  It is interesting, that the Lone Star was again used by the same group of settlers and frontiersmen.  It is obvious, they liked the icon, knew its history, and continued to use it.   As the impetus toward revolution gained support in the province of Texas, the Lone Star icon returned. 

The Lone Star is on the Gonzales Banner (the Come and Take It flag), on the Scott Lone Star Independence flag (1835), and on the Golidad flag (1836).  The red Long Lone Star flag was also used in the 1842 Summervell Expedition when Texas troops crossed the Rio Grande and fought in Mier, Mexico.  

Replica of the Come And Take It flag 1835

The cannon that appears on the Come And Take It flag was used briefly at the beginning of the Texian revolution against the Mexican government in October of 1835.  There are two schools of thought on the cannon's fate.  I would urge the reader to explore the topic further.  The important point being, the Gonzales cannon was used in the first skirmish in the Texian revolution, and was a feature on the Come And Take It flag along with the Lone Star. 

Captain William Scott's flag 1835

The Troutman flag was designed by Joanna Troutman, in a response for aid for the cause of Texas in 1835.  Troutman made the flag for the Georgia Battalion of volunteers going to support Texas in their struggle against Mexico.  The flag had two inscriptions, 'Liberty or Death,' on one side, and Ubi Libertas Habitat, Ibi Nostra Patria Est'  (Where Liberty Dwells, There Is Our Fatherland).  The flag was unfurled at Velasco, Texas, on 8 January 1836.  It was used as the Texas national flag after the news of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Troutman Flag 1836

Burnet Flag 1836

The Burnet Flag was used in December of 1836 and later became the national flag of the Republic of Texas.  The Burnet Flag continued on as the Texas state flag until 1879, when it was incorporated into the present day Texas state flag.

Other splendid examples of the Lone Star in use from the mid 1800s include the excellent Republic of Mississippi flag in 1861.  It was the flag of Mississippi after secession from the United States and prior to joining the Confederacy.  It is a very handsome flag with a Lone Star on a blue canton and a magnolia tree on a white field.  After the WBTS this flag returned as the Mississippi state flag, and remained so until the late 1800s.

And then there is the Bonnie Blue Flag, which interestingly enough, has never been an 'official'  flag of any government outside of Texas.  It became popular in the early 1860s in the build up to the Southern secession movement.  The Bonnie Blue Flag remained a symbol of Southern independence, albeit, an unofficial one.  The Bonnie Blue flag continues to be popular and one still sees it use.  It is flown at private homes, at events, picnics, over decks with barbecues going on, at any festive occasion, etc.  It represents the same qualities that all the manifestations of the Lone Star flag represent.... Liberty and Freedom.   It is a good symbol and attractive flag.

The Bonnie Blue Flag

© Barry R McCain

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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

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