"The Bonnie Blue Flag"
- The Unofficial First Flag
Originating in the Republic of West Florida in the early 1800's, the Bonnie Blue Flag was the unofficial first flag of the Confederacy.
The first recorded use of the lone star flag dates to 1810. On September 11, 1810 a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for the provincial capitol at Baton Rouge under this flag. They were joined by other republican forces and captured Baton Rouge, imprisoned the Governor and on September 23, 1810 raised their Bonnie Blue flag over the Fort of Baton Rouge. Three days later the president of the West Florida Convention, signed a Declaration of Independence and the flag became the emblem of a new republic. By December 10, the flag of the United States replaced the Bonnie Blue after President Madison issued a proclamation declaring West Florida under the jurisdiction of the Governor of the Louisiana Territory. With this rebellion in mind, this flag was used by the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1839.
The single star stood only for the state/republic that the flag flew over. Keep in mind that as the Lone Star flags began to appear late 1860 (as depicted in the article from the Charleston Mercury), that star stood only for the state it flew in. No one was even remotely thinking of a CSA back then - only seperate republics, which is what the first seven seceeding states declared themselves upon secession. This was to avoid violating the US Constitution's prohibition of "no two states shall enter into a compact with each other."
New nations require new flags, and this brought about the creation of state flags for many of the secceeding states.
The Lone Star concept was twofold. Some states looked at it as a reversal of the US Flag Act of 1818, which is still in effect today. That allows a new star to be added to the flag the 4th of July following the admission of a new state to the Union. Hence, some states looked at single star flags as "taking their star out of the Union".
The states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisana, having been a part of the old Republic of West Florida, may have been inspired by that flag to create single star flags for their own republics since thay had a historical connection. The Mississippi and Louisiana flags were officially adopted. Alabama's was only a secession banner.
Not all Lone Star flags were blue. Many were of other colors as were the stars. But it was the single star depiction that ties them all together.
The Confederate government did not adopt this flag but the people did and the lone star flags were adopted in some form in five of the southern States that adopted new flags in 1861.
In A War Time Journal of a GA Girl by Andrews, she records that her home made Bonnie Blue flag represented the Southern Cause. In the context of secession many states used variations of Bonnie Blue flags to show their independence, but many of these states also had another republic flag, so it seems like the Bonnie Blue represented to the Southerners of the 1860's unity in their independence. Just like the rectangular Battle flag with 13 stars represents the Old South today, the Bonnie Blue represented "the south" to the people in the war.
When Mississippi's Ordinance of Secession was signed on 9 January 1861, it was marked by a ceremony in which the 'Bonnie Blue Flag' was raised over the capitol building in Jackson. Among those who witnessed the event was an Irish comedian named Harry Macarthy, who shortly after wrote and performed the famous song, 'The Bonnie Blue Flag'. (The song "The Bonnie Blue Flag" was justs popular as Dixie in the early 1860's).
Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil
And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!
As long as the Union was faithful to her trust
First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand
Ye men of valor gather round the banner of the right
And here's to brave Virginia, the Old Dominion State.
Then here's to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
Then cheer, boys, cheer, raise a joyous shout