Last modified: 2020-07-31 by rick wyatt
Keywords: texas | burnet | texas republic | new orleans grays | grays |
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Texas War for Independence Flags: 1836
War Between the States:
image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 July 2011
The Texas flag described as a white star on a blue field with the letters T E X A S around the star points is a vexillological myth. This is the so-called "Lorenzo de Zavala" flag, which Zavala allegedly designed in March 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos during the convention that drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and the original Texas Constitution. Zavala was a notable figure in Mexican history--he was one of the three drafters of the original 1824 Mexican Constitution.
The convention journals, which I have read the originals in the state archives, reflect that Zavala did propose a flag design, but there is no surviving record of that design. A week or so later, other members of the convention proposed adding a rainbow and stars to Zavala's (unknown) design. Still later, it was proposed to add the letters T E X A S. There is no surviving record that a flag was actually adopted, and it's anyone's guess what the flag would have looked like since no one knows what design Zavala actually proposed.
The fictitious "Lorenzo de Zavala" flag that one sees in flag books comes from the fertile imagination of one Mamie Wynne Cox, a member of the venerable Daughters of the Republic of Texas who published a 1930s era book entitled "The Romantic Flags of Texas." Ms. Cox conveniently ignored the journal entries that discuss the addition of the rainbow and stars to Zavala's unknown design, and she shows art for this "flag." The rest is history!
Ms. Cox also incorrectly identified the proposed pilot flag for the Republic of Texas as the civil ensign (this is the white-blue-red triband, with a white star centered in the blue stripe). As a consequence of her book, I see a lot more "Zavala" national flags and Republic of Texas civil ensigns than I care to.
Charles Spain, 1 May 1996
In the case of the De Zavala flag, it is my OPINION that he COULD have been talking about the Jane Long flag, which she made for her husband Dr. James Long when he invaded Spanish Texas in 1818.
Tom Green, 25 November 2007
speculative image by Pete Loeser, 27 July 2020
In the June 30 (1836) issue of the New York American newspaper is an article stating that the Texan flag is a plain red ground, with a single white star, of five points, and between the points the letters T-E-X-A-S. Do you think the Jane Long red flag with the white star might have been more well known than we realize and this was the national flag that the delegates were talking about at Washington-On-The-Brazos in March of 1836?
Tom Green, 25 November 2007
image by Chris Pinette, 23 March 2000
In 1834 Captain Moseley Baker of Alabama came to Texas and joined the fighting forces raised by William Barret Travis. It was presented to him by Gail Borden, Jr. on March 2, 1836. The flag was given the name San Felipe in honor of the capital of Stephen F. Austin's colony. Written on the White Stripes was the sentence "Our Country's Rights or Death."
Chris Pinette, 23 March 2000
image by Rob Raeside, 2 April 2007
This flag was made by Johanna Troutman of Knoxville, Georgia. In 1835, Colonel Fannin made an appeal for a Georgia battalion to aid the Texas cause. Miss Troutman presented this flag to Colonel Fannin before he returned back to Texas with the volunteers. The flag was first unfurled at Velasco on January 8, 1836. Fannin and his army had found it necessary to surrender on the second day of the Battle at Coleto Creek (March 19-20) following many unfortunate events. They were returned to Goliad where on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, Santa Anna ordered the men to be taken out and killed.
Chris Pinette, 23 March 2000
According to Robert Mayberry Jr. in his book "Texas Flags" (2001), pp. 25-26 - The Goliad Flag was indeed inspired by Joanna Troutman, who with help from her friends made the banner from white dress silk with an appliquéd blue five pointed star on each side. According to this text, the inscription "Texas and Liberty" was inscribed on one side and the Latin inscription "Ubi, libertas habitat, ibi nostra patria est" ("Where liberty dwells, there is my country") was inscribed on the other. This information is substantiated in John H. Jenkins, ed. "Papers of the Texas Revolution 2:494 and in Pope, "A Lady and a Lone Star Flag" p. 11.
Steve Carol, 24 January 2007
Regarding the Johanna Troutman flag, it is my understanding that she gave her flag to Capt. William Ward as he marched his volunteers through her home town on the way to Texas. Col. James Fannin was in Texas at the time, but was a friend of Capt. Ward and met him and his men as they arrived in Velasco, Texas and escorted them to La Bahia, which the Texans called Fort Defiance. Col. Fannin ordered the Troutman flag raised over the fort when he received news that Texas had declared independence, but the flag was destroyed as the fort was being abandoned because of the arrival of the Mexican Army.
Tom Green, 25 November 2007
image by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 27 July 2020
The New Orleans Grays flag is most likely still in the National Museum in Mexico City but is hidden so no efforts can be made to return it to Texas. All reports I have read that the Grays flag was the one flying over the Alamo when it fell. The mythical pictures of the Mexican flag with the "1824" - the date of the Mexican Constitution that the Anglo settlers were fighting for was basically a flag of attempted reconciliation. When Santa Anna rebuffed these attempts the Texians went with a myriad of Lone Star based flags as symbols of defiance.
The basis for this was the flag of the West Florida Republic of 1810. Not geographically connected to Florida at all - this mini-nation covered the lower parts of the states of Alabama, Mississippi and that part of Louisiana above New Orleans. The capitol was in Baton Rouge. The Spanish governor was overthrown by a band of Anglo settlers fighting under a blue flag with a single white star. That flag went into the folklore of the area including (probably) into the mind of David Burnet - who was living in Natchitoches in 1813.
Greg Biggs, 27 March 1997
I believe the New Orleans Grays Flag has been restored and can be viewed on the internet at the National Museum in Mexico City.
Tom Green, 27 November 2007
From the book "Flags to Color, Washington to Lincoln," and appears on page 18 as "New Orleans Grays, 1836."
Quoted from the book:
"Colors: Blue field; black letters; gold fringe."
"Seeing the opportunity of opening vast territories to settlement - and slavery - Southerners rallied to the cause of Texas independence from Mexico. This flag, captured at the Alamo by Mexicans, is one of the few remaining; it was carried by Louisiana men."
Though it's hard to read, the inscription in the banner being carried by the eagle reads "GOD & LIBERTY," while the words above and below the eagle are "First Company of TEXAN VOLUNTEERS! FROM NEW-ORLEANS."
Randy Young, 2 February 2005
The New Orleans Grays had an even earlier history, in that a group of men from New Orleans went to Mexico in 1835, were captured and executed. President Santa Anna used the lack of a response from the USA to force through a law designating anyone captured bearing arms against Mexico to be pirates and were to be executed as soon as they were captured. This was the reason given for the Goliad Massacre in 1836, which some historians say was the motivation for the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto later that year. Many of the men from New Orleans were killed at Goliad, therefore the cry, "Remember Goliad" as well as the more famous cry, "Remember the Alamo."
Tom Green, 2 February 2005
The flag can now be seen at
Manuel Gabino Villascán went to the museum and made a special drawing of the
Gray's flag for me to use on Historical Flags - see "First Company of the New
Orleans Grays 1836" (source)
Pete Loeser, 1 September 2014
The first Constitutional Convention met at Washington on the Brazos in March of 1836, and flying over the hall was this flag designed and made by Sarah Dodson. She originally created it for her husband Archelaus Dodson, a member of the Robinson Company of the army volunteers formed at Harrisburg, Texas. After serving at Gonzales, this company marched under the Dodson flag to San Antonio to help capture the Alamo. The volunteers then returned to their homes after San Antonio had been taken from the Mexicans, not realizing that Santa Anna was marching toward Texas. After the Mexicans crushed the remaining forces at the Alamo and massacred the Texans at Goliad, the Robinson Company was assigned to protect retreating civilians. This exodus was known as the "Runaway Scrape." (source)
Pete Loeser, 27 July 2020
image by Chris Pinette, 29 April 1997
Burnet later emigrated to Texas and became the first President of the Texas Republic. He designed their first flag - which was blue with a gold/yellow star on the field. See the connection? There is no documented paper trail on this but Burnet's Louisiana heritage and the time frame is just too close to miss. The Burnet flag was replaced by the current state flag in 1839.
Greg Biggs, 27 March 1997
From the February 1992 edition of the South Texas Law Review, titled "The Flags and Seals of Texas," by Charles A. Spain, Jr:
The first official flag [of the Republic of Texas] was approved by the Texas Congress on December 10, 1836: "Be it further enacted, That for the future there shall be a national flag, to be denominated the 'National Standard of Texas,' the conformation of which shall be an azure ground, with a large golden star central." This flag is known as David G. Burnet's flag, named after the president of the ad interim government. ...Mr. Spain goes on to explain that, although President Burnet's flag was never explicitly replaced as one of the Republic's official flags by the Lone Star Flag, the need for a separate war flag ended with statehood in 1845. Also, the state legislature revised the code of laws in 1879, and repealed all laws not explicitly re-enacted - thereby ending any legislative sanction for Burnet's flag.
The national standard served as the Texas flag for all purposes except for the navy until the adoption of the Lone Star flag in 1839. From that point forward, the national standard continued as the de jure war flag until Texas achieved statehood in 1845. The national standard was not completely replaced by the 1839 Lone Star Flag because the 1839 Act was merely an amendment to the 1836 Act. The 1839 Act specifically provided that the national standard was to remain unaffected: "Be it further enacted, The national standard of this Republic shall remain as was established by an act to which this is an amendment."
Colonel Philip N. Luckett organized the Third Texas Infantry in the summer of 1861. The men of the Third came largely from Central Texas, specifically Bexar, Gillespie, San Patricio, and Travis counties. As these counties were heavily populated with recent German immigrants and persons of Mexican descent, a large number of the regiment's men were foreign-born. The Third Texas Infantry saw little action during the war, their morale was low, the men verged on mutiny, and desertion was frequent.
The Third was first assigned to the defense of San Antonio (1861-1862), then moved to Brownsville and Galveston in 1863 where they protected cotton shipments and guarded against raids from Mexico. In 1864, they were stationed along the lower Brazos and San Bernard rivers, and occupied much of their time firing at Union gunboats along the rivers. The regiment really only saw one battle during the war when they participated in the Red River campaign and fought in the Battle of Jenkins Ferry on April 30, 1864. On May 26, 1865, General Edmund Kirby Smith officially surrendered the regiment at Galveston, it was disbanded, and the troops returned to their homes. (source)
Pete Loeser, 11 July 2013
According to Dallas Herald, issue of 1863-08-26, the flag was presented to the Third Texas Infantry by a Mrs. Phelps of New Orleans, who had had it made while residing in Havana, Cuba before having arrived in Texas. The reversal of blue and red colors is attributed to Mrs. Phelps' misunderstanding of the correct color pattern of the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag. Several other Confederate battle flags from the Trans-Mississippi Department which display the same color reversal are nowadays also thought to have been made in Cuba.
This flag is 45in wide and 48in long, with gold fringes 1.5in deep. The saltire is fimbriated white and the stars and inscriptions are silver. The central star measures 4.5in and other twelve stars measure 2.5in in diameter.
Source: Flags of the Confederacy website: www.confederate-flags.org/confederate%20trans-mississippi%20department-4\.html
Tomislav Todorovic, 12 July 2013
image from Pete Loeser, 27 July 2020
From: Battle Flags of Texans in the Confederacy by Al Summrall:
Without argument the most ornate of the known Confederate battle flags, the regimental color of the Twentieth Texas Infantry had one distinctive feature that might be easily overlooked by the novice or amateur historian: Unlike the overwhelming majority of Texas produced First National type battle flags, this banner lacks the large central star within the circle of stars in the canton.submitted by Devereaux Cannon, 15 January 2002
The thirteen stars would indicate an 1862 or mid-1863 manufacture. As this unit primarily served in coastal defense, the large 4 x 8 foot flag would not be considered unwieldy or unusual. The illustration cannot adequately convey the grandeur of this magnificent color in its prime.
A flag with this much gold color would be surprising only if it were not made of expensive silk--which, of course, it was!
This magnificent flag rests in the collection of the Texas Confederate Museum, United Daughters of the Confederacy--Texas Division.
The illustration shows the motto within the circle of stars as "OUR HOMES and OUR RIGHTS".