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FLAGS OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION

FLAGS OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION. Many groups designed and flew flags during the Texas Revolution. Other sporadic, short-lived revolutionary movements also produced flags. With the exception of the flag of the New Orleans Greys and some of the flags flown at the battle of San Jacinto, however, none of these flags still exist. Descriptions of them are therefore based on historical accounts that have varying degrees of reliability. Several revolutionary movements predated the revolution. The Gutiérrez-Magee expedition is said to have displayed a green flag. In 1816, Louis Michel Aury's three Galveston Island pirate ships are said to have flown a flag consisting of a white field bordered in red, which in the center displayed a blue sword and olive branch surmounted by a green wreath. Aury is also said to have displayed the 1815–1821 Mexican privateer ensign. Jean Laffite's pirate ships, also based on Galveston Island, are said to have flown the flag of the Republic of Cartagena, which contained a white eight-pointed star on a green rectangle surrounded by yellow and red borders. This flag is sometimes mistakenly identified as the Venezuelan flag. Laffite is also said to have flown the 1815–21 Mexican privateer ensign. He may also have flown a simple red flag and Colonel Long's flag. Two other revolutionary movements that had flags were the Long expedition and the Fredonian Rebellion. Col. James Long's expedition is said to have carried a red-fringed flag similar to the United States flag, showing thirteen alternating red and white stripes and a red union with a white "lone star." Long's flag is possibly the first Texas lone star flag. Haden Edwards's Fredonian Rebellion flag was raised on December 16, 1826, and is said to have consisted of two horizontal white and red stripes with the words "INDEPENDENCE FREEDOM AND JUSTICE" displayed on the white stripe.

From the battle of Gonzales, the first episode in the revolution, to the Texas Declaration of Independence, Texans fought under at least eight flags: Gonzales, Dodson, Scott, Dimmitt, Brown, Red Rovers, Troutman, and Baker. The Gonzales or "Come and Take It" flag was designed and painted by Cynthia Burns and Evaline DeWitt and was allegedly used at the battle of Gonzales in October 1835. The flag may have been carried by Stephen F. Austin's volunteer army to the siege of Bexar. In his book The Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days (1900), Noah Smithwick described this flag as "a breadth of white cotton cloth about six feet long, in the center of which was painted in black a picture of the old cannon, above it a lone star and beneath it the words `Come and take it.'" Charles Mason, who participated in the battle of Gonzales and later married Evaline DeWitt, described the flag as "a white ground with a black cannon in the center, and the motto `Come and take it!' above and below." The Gonzales flag, with or without a lone star, apparently was the first flag used in the Texas Revolution. Sarah (Bradley) Dodson's flag was made about September 1835 and possibly antedated the "Come and Take It" flag. She made the flag at Harrisburg, where her husband, Archelaus Bynum Dodson, assisted in forming a company of soldiers. The flag apparently consisted of three horizontal squares of blue, white, and red, with a white lone star centered in the blue square. Some illustrations of the Dodson flag suggest that the term "square" was not meant to be taken literally and that the squares were actually three vertical rectangles similar to the bars in the Mexican flag. The white star allegedly symbolized that Texas was the only Mexican state in which the star of liberty was rising. The Dodson flag and the 1839 national flag of the Republic of Texas are very similar; in the latter the white and red squares are altered into a white stripe over a red stripe. James Ferguson carried the Dodson flag as far as Cibolo Creek, and it may have been carried at the battle of Concepción and the siege of Bexar. There are also reports that the Dodson flag was flown, along with a bloody-arm flag (possibly either the Dimmitt or Brown flag), over the cabin where the Convention of 1836 met. If the reports are true, it is possible that the Dodson flag was the flag Lorenzo de Zavala proposed for adoption as the national flag. Another lone star flag that may have been at the siege of Bexar is the William Scott flag. It was made in Lynchburg in the fall of 1835 by Charles Lanco with the assistance of Mrs. Joseph Lynch. It is said to have consisted of four yards of blue silk donated by Scott with a painted white star and the word "INDEPENDENCE." The flag was supposedly raised in Lynchburg over the protest of conservative elements that considered the word "independence" premature. James L. McGahey took the flag to the battle of Concepción where he gave it to Thomas B. Bell, who may have also participated in the siege of Bexar.

A flag made by Philip Dimmitt is said by some to have been the first flag of Texas independence, a claim based on the fact that the other 1835 flags were symbols of a separate Mexican state still maintaining allegiance to the Constitution of 1824. According to Nicholas Fagan, the Dimmitt flag measured six feet by three feet and was made of cotton. It is said to have displayed in its center a sinewy arm and hand grasping a bloody sword. This flag was raised at Goliad on December 20, 1835, on the occasion of the Goliad Declaration of Independence. It was taken from Goliad to Velasco, and according to some reports it was allegedly unfurled with and above the Troutman flag on January 8, 1836. Another bloody-arm flag was supposedly designed by William S. Brown of Velasco. The Brown flag is said to have consisted of thirteen alternating red and white stripes like those in the United States flag, with the word "INDEPENDENCE" written on one white stripe. The flag had a blue union with a sinewy arm and hand grasping a bloody sword. It is not known when the flag was made. One story is that after Brown took part in the siege of Bexar, he took the flag to Goliad, where it was unfurled on December 20, 1835. Brown reportedly then took the flag to Velasco, where it-not the Dimmitt flag-was displayed with and above the Troutman flag on January 8, 1836, over the American Hotel. The Red Rovers, themselves dressed in red, brought to Texas a small, square, red battle flag that was reportedly captured at Goliad and taken to Mexico City.

In November 1835, Joanna Troutman made a lone star flag in Crawford County, Georgia. The Troutman flag is said to have consisted of white silk displaying a blue embroidered lone star and the words "LIBERTY OR DEATH" on one side and on the reverse the motto "UBI LIBERTAS HABITAT, IBI NOSTRA PATRIA EST" ("Where liberty dwells, there is our fatherland"). Troutman presented her flag to William Ward's Georgia Battalion, which carried the flag to Texas and unfurled it at Velasco on January 8, 1836, over the American Hotel. The flag was later carried to Goliad, where James W. Fannin raised it on March 8, 1836, to celebrate the news of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The Troutman flag was reportedly destroyed by the wind during the Goliad Campaign of 1836 when it got caught in its halyard. The flag of the San Felipe Company under Moseley Baker also bore a lone star. Gail Borden, Jr., presented it to the company on March 2, 1836. It is said to have consisted of thirteen alternating red and white stripes with the words "OUR COUNTRY'S RIGHTS OR DEATH" written on the white stripes. The Baker flag had a blue and white British jack in the union, and below the union a white star on a green square. This flag closely resembled Stephen F. Austin's proposed national flag, and it may have been designed on the basis of Austin's letter of January 18, 1836, to Borden.

Five flags are associated with the siege and fall of the Alamo: San Fernando de Béxar, Crockett, Coahuila and Texas, 1824, and New Orleans Greys. On February 23, 1836, Santa Anna raised a red flag over the tower of San Fernando de Béxar Church (now San Fernando Cathedral) to proclaim to the defenders of the Alamo that no quarter would be given. There are several theories about what flag was flown by the Texans during the siege of the Alamo. According to David Crockett's journal entry for February 23, 1836, the Alamo defenders flew a national flag "composed of thirteen stripes, red and white alternately on a blue ground with a large white star of five points in the center, and between the points the letters `TEXAS.'" On the same day, Col. Juan N. Almonte wrote in his journal that the Texans hoisted a tricolored flag with two stars, designed to represent Coahuila and Texas. Some writers maintain that this flag was the Mexican red, white, and green tricolor with two blue or gold stars on the white stripe. Others are of the opinion that the Alamo flag was the Mexican tricolor with the numerals "1824" on the white bar, representing allegiance to the Constitution of 1824. The only flag still in existence that allegedly flew at the Alamo is the flag of the first company of the New Orleans Greys, a guidon presented to the Greys by a group of East Texas ladies. It is a blue silk banner displaying an eagle and sunburst with the inscription "FIRST COMPANY OF TEXAN VOLUNTEERS! FROM NEW-ORLEANS." The eagle carries in its beak a banner with the motto "GOD & LIBERTY." After the siege of Bexar, the Greys apparently left their flag at San Antonio when they went on to Goliad and Refugio. It is believed to have been captured by Antonio López de Santa Anna after the fall of the Alamo. On March 6, 1836, Santa Anna wrote his secretary of war and navy, Gen. José María Tornel, "The bearer takes with him one of the flags of the enemy's battalion captured today. The inspection of it will show plainly the true intention of the treacherous colonists and of their abettors who come from parts of the United States of the North." Most historians believe that Santa Anna was referring to the Greys flag rather than the Crockett flag or the various flags based on the Mexican tricolor.

In 1933, former Texas attorney general John A. Keeling "found" the Greys flag in the National Museum of History at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. That same year members of the Texas Highway Commission made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Mexico to return it to Texas. In 1965 the legislature passed a concurrent resolution sponsored by Representative W. H. Miller that authorized a committee to seek the return of the Greys flag from Mexico. Governor John B. Connally refused to sign the resolution for fear of interfering with United States-Mexico foreign relations. In response, the United States Congress in 1965 passed a resolution sponsored by Senator John G. Tower that urged the Department of State to assist Texas in seeking the flag's return. A third attempt to retrieve the flag began in April 1985, when the Texas congressional delegation sent a request to Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid in connection with the Texas Sesquicentennial. Finally, the legislature in 1991 passed a concurrent resolution sponsored by Representative Ralph R. Wallace III requesting Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari to return or lend the Greys flag to Texas. Like Governor Connally, Governor Ann W. Richards refused to sign the resolution. In a warming of relations between Texas and Mexico, partly due to the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Senator Carlos Truan began discussions with Mexican officials in July 1994 about the return of the Greys flag in exchange for the return of the Toluca, Matamoros, and Guerrero battalion flags to Mexico. In response in part to rumors of a 1985 reward offered to anyone who returned the flag to Texas, Mexican officials removed the Greys flag from public display. Arriaga Ochoa, former director of the National Museum of History in Mexico City, stated in 1965 that Mexico seized several flags besides the Greys flag during the Texas Revolution, but these flags were burned or discarded when the old Museum of Artillery was dismantled in 1917. A search of a 1990 Mexican catalog of flags, however, shows that Mexico has at least two revolutionary lone star flags in addition to the Greys flag. Both of these flags display the red stripe over the white stripe, but otherwise resemble the 1839 national flag. One was seized by Santa Anna in 1836 and the other by General Bravo in 1837 at Brazos Santiago.

At least four flags flew at the battle of San Jacinto-one Texan and three Mexican. The San Jacinto battle flag, brought to Texas by Sidney Sherman, was allegedly painted by James H. Beard and presented to the Newport (Kentucky) Rifle Company by Katherine Isabelle (Cox) Sherman, Sherman's wife. The flag is made of white silk with the painted figure of a partially bare-breasted woman grasping in one hand a sword over which is draped a streamer with the words "LIBERTY OR DEATH." The flag was probably based on Eugène Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People; the woman in the flag is said to symbolize Liberty. On August 5, 1836, Texas presented the flag to Mrs. Sherman, and it was kept in the family until 1896, when it was presented to the state by the daughters of Isabelle and Sidney Sherman, Lucy Craig, Belle Kendall, and Carrie Menard. In 1925 the flag was lent to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who worked with Representative Preston L. Anderson to have it restored in 1932 for $500. The restored flag was presented to the state on April 21, 1933, and placed in the House of Representatives chamber behind the speaker's rostrum. It was removed for further restoration costing $18,000 in November 1989. It was then determined that the flag's reverse was better preserved, so the flag was reversed. The restored flag was returned to the House chamber on April 19, 1990. Gen. Sam Houston wrote shortly after the battle of San Jacinto that Texas troops had seized vast amounts of Mexican property, including three general standards of the Mexican army. At least two of these flags are still in the state's custody, the Toluca battalion flag (inscribed "Batallon Activa de Toluca") and the Matamoros battalion flag (inscribed "Batallon Matamoros Permanente"). The state has one other Mexican battle flag, the Guerrero battalion flag (inscribed "Pe. Batallon Guerrero"), which may have been the third flag captured at San Jacinto. The three flags are green, white, and red tricolors bearing the names of their respective battalions and differing versions of the Mexican coat of arms. The Guerrero flag was restored in 1932, but the banner was finished on the wrong side so that the inscription reads backwards. The Toluca flag was restored in 1966. In 1967 the legislature authorized the Texas State Library and Historical Commission to give temporary custody of the Toluca flag to the San Jacinto Monument and Museum, where it is now displayed. In 1969 the legislature unsuccessfully offered to exchange the Toluca flag for the New Orleans Greys flag. The Guerrero and Matamoros flags are stored in the Texas State Archives. It is periodically discussed whether Texas should retain the three Mexican flags as legitimate spoils of war or return them to Mexico as a display of friendship and goodwill.

Finally, there were three flags that flew after the revolution-the Morgan flag, the Burroughs flag, and the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande. In September 1836, Thomas Jefferson Morgan organized a company of soldiers in Washington, Pennsylvania. He had a flag made that is said to have consisted of a lone star and the words "LIBERTY OR DEATH." The flag was flown in front of the courthouse, where it angered some that were not sympathetic with the Texas cause. Militia officers ordered Morgan to remove the flag, but he refused and threatened to have anyone shot that disturbed the colors. A compromise was reached in which Morgan displayed the flag in front of his residence. The flag was brought to Texas in December 1836 when the company reported to Camp Independence. Capt. George H. Burroughs's company of cavalry arrived in Texas in September 1836 carrying a flag presented by Mary Love of Zanesville, Ohio. The Burroughs flag is said to have been light blue with a white border and the words "ZANESVILLE, OHIO" on the bottom. It was fringed with gold, and in the center it displayed a dark blue rectangle with a gold star and the letters "TEXAS" between the points of the star. Above the dark blue rectangle was a golden eagle holding a streamer bearing the words "HERO OF SAN JACINTO"-apparently referring to Sidney Sherman. In December 1874 the flag was said to be in the possession of the Austin Statesman, but its current location is unknown. The central design of the Burroughs flag, a dark blue rectangle with a gold star and letters "TEXAS," may be the origin of the mythical "Zavala flag" that is often described in books. The flag of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande was adopted in January 1840 and supposedly consisted of two horizontal stripes, white over black or possibly blue, and a red vertical stripe at the hoist bearing three white stars to represent the three Mexican states that declared independence: Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum in Laredo flies a reconstruction of this flag. See also FLAGS OF TEXAS, GOLIAD CAMPAIGN OF 1835.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, April 15, 1990. Mamie Wynne Cox, The Romantic Flags of Texas (Dallas: Banks Upshaw, 1936). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 16, 1994. John H. Gámez, "The Controversy over the Alamo Battle Flag," Raven: A Journal of Vexillology 1 (1994). Charles E. Gilbert, Jr., Flags of Texas (Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican, 1989). Museo Nacional de Historia, Banderas: Catálogo de la Colección de Banderas (Mexico City: Secretaría de Gobernación, 1990). David Ott, "Nine Months along the Texas-Mexico Border: The Rio Grande Flag," Flag Bulletin, March-April 1981. Whitney Smith, "What Flag Was Flown by the Pirate Jean Laffite?," Flag Bulletin, July-August 1994. Waco Tribune-Herald, December 26, 1965. Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

Charles A. Spain, Jr.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Charles A. Spain, Jr., "FLAGS OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/msf02), accessed October 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 11, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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