steaming up

Bonnie Blue Flag

The Bonnie Blue Flag, a single white star on a blue field, was the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida. In September 1810, settlers in the Spanish territory of West Florida revolted against the Spanish government and proclaimed an independent republic. The Bonnie Blue Flag was raised at the Spanish fort in Baton Rouge on September 23, 1810. In December, West Florida was annexed by the United States and the republic ceased to exist, after a life of 74 days.

Influence on Texas and California flags

In 1836, The Bonnie Blue served as the inspiration for the first flag of the Republic of Texas, known as the Burnet Flag. It was replaced in 1839 by the currently used Lone Star Flag, which also bears a single star.

The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag was also the inspiration for the red star in the 1846 Bear Flag of California.

Civil War usage

The Bonnie Blue Flag was first used by the Republic of West Florida when they declared their independence from Spain. The original territory of West Florida was divided up among four Southern states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. When Mississippi seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861, as a sign of independence, the Bonnie Blue Flag was raised over the capitol building in Jackson. An Ulster immigrant named Harry McCarthy was present, and later wrote The Bonnie Blue Flag ("bonnie" being a Scottish word meaning "beautiful") which became a popular marching song, and led to the flag being used as an unofficial flag of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Typically, the refrain is:

Hurrah! Hurrah!
For Southern Rights, Hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a Single Star!

The Bonnie Blue Flag holds special significance to the Texas brigade. The song was premiered by lyricist Harry Macarthy during a concert in Jackson, Mississippi, in the spring of 1861 and performed again in September of that same year at the New Orleans Academy of Music for the First Texas Volunteer Infantry regiment mustering in celebration. The New Orleans music publishing house of A. E. Blackmar issued six editions of The Bonnie Blue Flag between 1861 and 1864 along with three additional arrangements. The tune was so popular that Union General Benjamin Butler was said to have arrested and fined Blackmar for daring to publish it.

General Longstreet writes in his memoirs: "My mind was relieved by information that my resignation was accepted, to take effect on the 1st of June 1861. In our travel next day we crossed the line into the State of Texas. From the gloomy forebodings of old friends, it seemed at El Paso that we had entered into a different world. All was enthusiasm and excitement, and songs of "Dixie and the South" were borne upon the balmy air. But the Texas girl did not ascend to a state of incandescent charm until the sound of the first notes of The Bonny Blue Flag reached her ear. Then her feet rose in gleeful springs, her limbs danced, her hands patted, her eyes glowed, her lips moved, though she did not care to speak, or listen to any one. She seemed lifted in the air, thrilled and afloat, holding to the 'Single Star' in joyful hope of Southern rights."

When Mississippi seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861, as a sign of independence the Bonnie Blue Flag was raised over the capitol building in Jackson. On January 26, 1861, Mississippi officially adopted a new flag, which included the Bonnie Blue Flag in its canton and a magnolia tree in its center field (known as the Magnolia Flag). This flag remained in use until 1894.

Current usage

The flag is still used to represent the South, and for some is a way of representing favor for the doctrine of states' rights. Since the flag pre-dates the Civil War and is not associated with slavery, it is considered to be a less-offensive alternative to the Confederate Battle Flag.

Today, the flag flies in most of the Florida Parishes of Louisiana, and is used on road signs along Interstate 12, which has been designated the "Republic of West Florida Parkway."

HMGS-South uses the flag in reference to the organization's location and appreciation of history especially for activities related to miniature wargaming.

A nearly identical yet unrelated flag, portraying a single star on a blue field, is normally displayed during U.S. military ceremonies indicating the presence of a United States Navy rear admiral (lower half) or an Air Force brigadier general. Marine Corps or Army general officers display a simliar flag with a red background and an appropriate number of white stars corresponding to their rank (brigadier general, one star; major general, two stars; lieutenant general, three stars; general, four stars). These flags are generally displayed separately from the American Flag by attachment to a secondary flag staff. Smaller flags for Army generals are also known as "personal" flags and are displayed in their office spaces.

Popular culture

In the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell and the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler decides to call his newborn daughter "Bonnie Blue Butler" when Melanie Wilkes remarks that her eyes are "as blue as the Bonnie Blue Flag" (emphasized by the girl's blue clothes, while Scarlett wears mainly green garments). In the 2003 movie Gods and Generals, the ode to the Bonnie Blue Flag is sung in front of the Confederate Army. In the 2005 movie Sahara, a Confederate ironclad warship is said to be steaming up the Niger River under a "banner of a single star," likely a reference to the Bonnie Blue Flag.

See also


Listed are general notes and footnotes for References, below.


  • West Florida by Ann Gilbert.

External links

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