Last month, on the tenth, I started a two part series about the twelve lesser known flags that flew over Texas from 1835-1836 before the battles for Texas Independence in 1836. This post is about the second set of six. I hope you enjoy learning about them.
Most people have heard of Six Flags Over Texas, a fun theme park that opened in the summer of 1961. Through the years it's been the home for the first log flume ride, the Runaway Mine Train roller coaster, and the Texas Cliffhanger, the first freefall ride. Great fun, but not the focus of my post today.
Six flags of government have flown over Texas, Spain (from 1519 to1685), France (from 1685 to 1690), Spain (from 1690 to 1821), Mexico (from 1821 to 1836), Republic of Texas (from 1836 to 1845), United States (from 1845 to 1861), Confederate States (from 1861 to 1865), and United States from 1865 to the current period. These are interesting because they got us where we are today.
The ones I want to share, though, are the lesser known flags of Texas Independence from 1835-1836. Since there are twelve flags in this time period, I'll divide them up into two segments. The following descriptions are used in whole or in part from, http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/indepenflgs.htm. All attempts will be made to give credit where credit is due.
Baker's Flag of San Felipe. According to the Telegraph and Texas Register, San Felipe, 5 Mar 1836 "....the English Jack showing the origin of Anglo-Americans, thirteen stripes representing that most of the colonists in Texas are from the United States; the Star is Texas, the only state in Mexico retaining the least spark of the light of Liberty; tricolor is Mexican, showing that we onced belonged to the confederacy; the whole flag is historic."
It was dubbed the San Felipe flag and based on ideas expressed to Gail Borden Jr. by Stephen F. Austin in the enclosure to a letter from New Orleans of 18 Jan 1836: "I shall preach independence all over the US wherever I go--What do you think of the inclosed idea of a flag." The flag was presented to the company of volunteers commanded by Captain Moseley Baker (John P. Borden, 1st. Lt.) by Gail Borden Jr. in the name of "two ladies" from the area as they marched from San Felipe 29 Feb 1836 for Gonzales. Capt. Baker made a speech to his company in response to the presentation referring to the flag "this banner of independence." He said "first in your hands is placed the Texas flag; let you be the last to see it strike to the invading foe! Let no other feeling ever glow in your bosom than that expressed in the motto on your banner, 'Our Country's Rights or Death.'.....Let us all raise our hands to heaven and swear, 'The Texas flag shall wave triumphant or we will sleep in death!'" It was claimed to have been flown at San Jacinto by those in Sherman's division. (Modified from Gilbert, Flags of Texas).
Flag of the New Orleans Greys. Two groups of volunteers from New Orleans joined the Texas resistance to the Mexican centralista dictatorship. Members of the Greys participated in the Siege and Battle of Bexar, the Alamo and Goliad. The bright blue silk banner of the first company with an eagle bearing a banner stating "God and Liberty" is thought to have flown over the Alamo among possibly other flags. It is said to have been retained and transported to Mexico as a symbol of foreign military intervention in the affairs of Mexican Texas. The flag is said to have deteriorated in storage over the years at various locations in Mexico and it is unclear how much of the original still exists versus additions in restoration. Several attempts have been made to obtain the flag for traveling exhibition or even return to a site in Texas or the US. (Image modified from Gilbert, Flags of Texas)
San Jacinto Liberty Flag of Sherman's Volunteers from Newport, Kentucky. Although there was no single banner representing the Texian Army at the time, of those that were probably displayed, this flag is most commonly associated with the Battle of San Jacinto. This banner was presented to Sherman's Newport Volunteers upon their departure for Texas by the ladies of Newport, Kentucky. Capt. Sherman's new bride, Katherine Isabel Cox, was chosen to make the presentation. Thousands are said to have waved the company off as they departed by steamer from Cincinnatti on the Ohio River. Legend says that Private James A. Sylvester was given a long red glove (a white glove in some accounts) by the daughter of the host at a departure dance just before leaving for Texas which he tied on the flag staff. It was said to be a "talisman" and inspired the ranks at San Jacinto.
Flying the flag, Sherman's regiment met Gen. Houston in Gonzales after the Alamo defeat and followed him into the Battle of San Jacinto. In Aug 1836, the flag was returned to Mrs. Sherman at Frankfort, KY with a letter: "Velasco, August 5, 1836, War Department. This stand of colors, presented by the ladies of Newport, Kentucky, to Captain Sidney Sherman, is the same which triumphantly waved on the memorable field of San Jacinto, and is by the government presented to the lady of Colonel Sidney Sherman as a testimonial of his gallant conduct on that occasion. A. Somerville (signed), Secretary of War. Approved: David G. Burnet." The flag was kept by the family for many years and later returned to the State of Texas in a ceremony in the House of Representatives in 1933. It was placed in custody of the Daughters of the Texas Revolution. The above artist's depiction is thought to be close to the original banner brought from Kentucky. The banner on the sword says "Liberty or Death." Over the years, artist's renditions and historical narratives describing the flag vary in the clothing on the upper body of Liberty. Wooten's color plate depicting the flags of Texas in his Comprehensive History of Texas in 1898 show an out of focus, diffuse, fully-clothed Liberty similar to the Statue of Liberty in New York. The rendition in Gilbert's 1968 edition of A Concise History of Early Texas: As told by its 30 historic flags depict Liberty's upper torso fully covered with a transparent blouse while the 1994 edition shows the depiction above. Attempts at restoration of the original banner are also thought to have altered the details of Liberty's clothing. The original flag was placed in a glass case behind the Speaker's podium in the House of Representatives in Austin. Reportedly insignia on the banner is barely detectable due to fading during storage and display over the years and the actual flag is only displayed from the backside which where an image is more discernable when the House is in session. (Image modified from C. E. Gilbert, A Concise History of Early Texas: As told by its 30 historic flags)
Suggested Independence Flags of Austin, Wharton and Archer. After the Independence Consultation of November 1835 in San Felipe, Stephen F. Austin, Branch T. Archer and William H. Wharton were sent to the United States to seek aid. In New Orleans they designed and proposed elaborate flags of independence that were never adopted, but highly symbolic of the current state of the evolution toward independence. Austin proposed a flag including the symbols shown at left, the British Union Jack indicating the origin of most Anglo-Texians, the colors of the banners of both the US and Mexico (red, white blue and green), the Lone Star for an independent Texas and the Latin words "Lux Libertas" to symbolize that Texas was the lone star of libertarian principles (light of liberty) in the Mexican Republic.
At the convention in November 1835, despite intense debate, the objective remained independent statehood in a Federal Mexican Republic under the Constitution of 1824 rather than a full declaration of independence as a sovereign Republic. Most prepared for the latter and the seemingly inevitable impending war. Others saw that long term independence might require the overt protection of the United States and eventual annexation. Wharton and Archer insisted on replacement of the Mexican green stripe with union blue. Moreover, they suggested a sun rather than the star with George Washington's head in the center and the words shown in the banner at left. In a letter to her brother Stephen Austin in New Orleans of 1 Jun 1836, Mary Austin Holley wrote from Lexington, Texas "Miss James has painted your flag on silk--Sun Washington and all--it is beautiful--it is to be presented by Henrietta--with an appropriate speech written for her by myself--Friday afternoon--How interesting to have you here! It is to be in Mrs. Harts lawn....All the military were to parade....I furnished the silk for the flag--Gen. McCalla the Staff and spear head."
Below are links that may be of additional interest:
I hope you've enjoyed this post about a turbulent time in Texas history in the beginning fight for Texas Independence. I am passionate about my birth state and not bashful when it comes to sharing.
Thanks for visiting with Sweethearts of the West!
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