As regular readers know, I am a great fan of heraldry, flags, and identifying emblems in general. On a recent road trip from Georgia to Texas and back again, I was pleased to note a lot of historic flags in use.
1. As we passed into Texas on I-10, we saw six flags flying at the Welcome Center, representing the six sovereign entities that have ruled Texas in the past.
These are, from left to right: the United States, Texas, the Confederacy, Mexico, France, and Spain. Some notes:
• Texas, of course, acted as its own country from 1836 to 1845, between its secession from Mexico and its joining the USA. It retains this former national flag as its state flag. The design is wonderfully simple, even striking, and consequently flown quite a lot by Texans (including massive ones at car dealerships). This positively reinforces civic pride, as Roman Mars notes.
• The Confederate Flag flown is the first national flag with seven stars, which is appropriate as Texas was one of the original seven signatories to the CSA in early 1861. Displaying the Stars and Bars helps to avoid the appearance of the ever-controversial Confederate Battle Flag, which appears on the canton of the second and third national flags.
• The Mexican Flag (Texas was a Mexican state between 1821 and 1836) is actually the version flown in the 1820s, i.e. this:
And not this:
I appreciate such attention to detail!
• Bourbon France is represented by Argent semé de lys Or, i.e. a white field strewn with gold fleur de lys, one of the flags that the regime used:
The “Six Flags” display is popular in Texas; other royal French flags employed elsewhere include Argent three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a white field with only three gold fleur de lys on it) and Azure three fleur de lys Or (i.e. a blue field with three gold fleur de lys). This last one makes for the best flag in my opinion – you want a dark color to contrast with the sky, and with the fleur de lys, even though this one is technically a banner of arms, and not a flag. Here it is at the Alamo:
• Finally, there are several options for the flag of royal Spain. The flag displayed, according to Wikipedia, is Spain’s “navy and coastal fortifications flag 1785-1843, and national flag 1843-73 and 1874-1931.”
Elsewhere, Texans fly a quartered flag of Castile and Leon:
An elaborate war ensign:
Or, best of all in my opinion, the Cross of Burgundy Flag. It’s simple, distinctive, and historically accurate.
2. The Louisiana Welcome Center on I-10 flies two flags, the current Louisiana flag, and the Bonnie Blue Flag (apparently upside down!).
The Bonnie Blue Flag was used by some Confederates as an unofficial emblem; it is immortalized in a song. What people tend not to realize, however, is that this flag had been used earlier by Fulwar Skipwith’s breakaway Republic of West Florida for a few months in 1810, and the I-10 welcome center is in one of these so-called Florida Parishes.
Interestingly, in the Louisiana State Capitol, the Bonnie Blue Flag is shown as light blue. Apparently this was the actual shade of the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Thus, it appears that the RWF and Somalia have something in common.
3. To the immediate left of the Bonnie Blue Flag in the photo above is a flag the reader has probably not seen before.
This is the flag flown by Louisiana between its secession from the Union, and its joining of the Confederacy, in 1861. Not a bad design – I wish they had kept it as their state flag, in the mode of Texas.
(You’ll also note the flag of Republican France on the right in the photo above – Napoleon reacquired Louisiana from Spain in 1800, but then sold it to the United States in 1803.)
(You’ll also note the third national flag of the CSA. It would not surprise me if this gets changed sometime soon.)
4. A similar situation prevails in Mississippi. We drove most of the way from Mobile, Ala. to New Orleans, La. along a coastal scenic route. We thus passed Beauvoir, President Jefferson Davis’s retirement home and now Presidential Library. I did not get any pictures, but Beauvoir doesn’t mess around: flying out front are large versions of the Bonnie Blue Flag, the three national flags of the CSA, the Confederate Battle Flag, the current Mississippi flag, and the Magnolia Flag:
According to Wikipedia, this flag was Mississippi’s official flag from 1861 until 1865; it remained in unofficial use until 1894, when the current state flag was adopted. And we all know the problem with the current flag.
The Confederate Battle Flag on the canton survived a referendum in 2001, but I would have no problem with the governor changing it by fiat anyway, because Confederate symbols have no place connected to current symbols of sovereignty. Furthermore, the Confederacy lasted all of four years, was in defense of a horrible cause, and went down in flames. (Why not a canton of the Union Jack, or the Cross of Burgundy? Those were also episodes in Mississippi’s history – and probably happier ones.) The Magnolia Flag is a nice design and especially appropriate to the state: eleven states were in the Confederacy, but there’s only one Magnolia State.
In the meantime, when displays of all the state flags are needed, the Mississippi flag should probably be placed a little more discreetly than it was at the Superbowl this year:
Or at this citizenship ceremony:
6. In 1965, Thomas J. Arseneaux designed the flag of Acadiana, that is, a flag for those of Cajun ancestry:
I was pleased to learn about this one, because there is a similar flag in Canada: the flag of Acadia is a French tricolor, defaced with a gold star.
7. We spent the night in Gonzales, Texas, and thereby discovered the existence of the Gonzales Flag.
In 1831, the Mexican government had given the residents of Gonzales a cannon for defense. At the outbreak of the Texan Revolution in 1835, however, the Mexicans sent a force to take it back, and the Gonzalans replied with a suitable Laconic phrase, embroidered on an improvised flag. The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement in the Revolution, and inspiring for the Texans, as the Mexicans were forced to retreat without their cannon.
I’m surprised that this flag is not more popular among right-leaning Americans (cf. “Don’t Tread On Me“). Current residents of Gonzales certainly cherish it:
8. Finally, the Louisiana state history museum exhibits an unofficial flag celebrating Louisiana’s admission as the eighteenth state of the Union in 1810.
You’ll notice that this flag has eighteen stars – and eighteen stripes! Actually the official flag of the United States stopped with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes when Kentucky was admitted in 1792, but people kept adding both stars and stripes anyway out of pride. Only in 1818 did official word come down that the number of stripes should revert to thirteen, and the number of stars increase to twenty, for the number of states by that time.