Bonnie Blue Flag/The Lone Star
The “Bonnie Blue Flag” (also known as the “Lone Star Flag”) is often linked to the Confederacy. However, the flag had its origins long before any southern state seceded from the Union. The first recorded use of this flag was in 1810 when it was used to represent the Republic of West Florida, a republic of English speaking inhabitants of southern Alabama, Mississippi, and portions of Louisiana east of the Mississippi River who rebelled against the reign of Spanish government and overthrew Spain’s provincial Governor de Lassus at Baton Rouge. The republic lasted barely three months, dissolved after the annexation of Louisiana’s portion of the disputed land to the United States territory.
A flag with a single star showed up again later to represent the Republic of Texas, which adopted a lone star variation for its official flag in 1839.
But it was the “Lone Star” flag’s use by Mississippi following that state’s first week of secession from the Union in 1861 that linked the flag forever to the Confederacy. Irish-born actor Harry McCarthy witnessed the raising of the blue secession flag over Mississippi and was inspired enough to pen a song entitled “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” linking the flag forever to the Confederacy. When the song was first played in New Orleans before a mixed audience of Texans and Louisianans, it was received with an outburst of approval that was nearly riotous. The song became one of the most popular songs of the Confederacy, second only to “Dixie.” The popular tune had many versions, with troops substituting its original lyrics. The printed handout below shows one such example written by a member of the Washington Artillery, entitled The Lone Star Flag. In this version of the song, the “Lone Star Flag” refers to both the Texan and Confederate independence flags and praises Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder, commander of the District of Texas, who recaptured the city of Galveston from Federal authorities.
The symbolism of the Lone Star is independence and was used often during the 19th Century in the southern United States. Its blue field represented truth upon which was placed a single white star, representing purity. It was displayed originally in West Florida’s independence from Spain, later in Texas’ independence from Mexico, and at the outbreak of the War Between the States, in the South’s attempted independence from the United States. The Lone Star was looked upon by many Southerners as a reversal of the US Flag Act of 1818, which allows a new star to be added to its flag on the 4th of July following the admission of any new State to the Union. Hence, Southern States looked at the single star flag as “taking their star out of the Union”.