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West Florida Republic(U.S.)

Last modified: 2020-01-04 by rick wyatt
Keywords: west florida | florida | alabama | bonnie blue |
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[Flag of West Florida] image by Rick Wyatt, 6 September 1998

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The C.S.A. had no official flag for the first 24 days. The first flag widely used in the Confederacy was the Bonnie Blue, which was displayed throughout the war. It was the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida. This area extending from the panhandle of Florida to the Mississippi River was included in the Louisiana Colony of France in 1682. When Louisiana was ceded to Spain in 1762, West Florida went to Great Britain. There was a world war in the late 1700's. During that war, Spain took West Florida from Great Britain in 1769. The British also lost many other North American Colonies during that world war. In 1800, Louisiana was returned to France. Spain claimed that the sale did not include West Florida. In 1803, France sold the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. West Florida had many British settlers, but was ruled by Spain. They rebelled in 1810 and established a republic. It was absorbed by the U.S. a short time thereafter and became part of the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The tradition of a free republic continued and when these states withdrew from the United States, they used variations of this Bonnie Blue Flag.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 29 April 1996

The West Florida Republic consisted of the lower part of Alabama from the Perdido River west to what is now Mississippi.
Greg Biggs, 26 March 1999

West Florida included the Louisiana Parishes east of the Mississippi River. They were the only part of Louisiana not included in the Louisiana Purchase.
Margaret Wells, 15 February 2003

[Flag of West Florida] image by Dave Martucci, 2 September 2019

The Virginia News of Richmond VA published a first hand report on 27 November 1810, a letter from Natchez dated 11 October 1810 that stated “Not long after the independence of West Florida was declared, I had the honor of visiting the fort at Baton Rouge, which was in the hands of the Republicans, … their flag is blue with a white border, and a large star in the centre …”
Dave Martucci, 2 September 2019

In doing research about the flag of the REPUBLIC OF WEST FLORIDA (first usage of the Bonnie Blue flag) I came across several discrepancies about the dates this flag was in use, and indeed when the Republic itself existed. This prompted me to do some research and I found the following information (cross checked with other sources) about the history of the Republic of West Florida and the actual dates of usage.

"On Saturday, September 11, 1810, a troop of dragoons under the command of Major Isaac Johnson set out for the provincial capitol at Baton Rouge. At the head of the column rode a colour sergeant carrying a blue flag with a single, five-pointed white star. This flag had been made a few days before by Mrs. Melissa Johnson.

Together with other republican forces under the command of Colonel Philemon Thomas, these men captured Baton Rouge without loss to themselves, imprisoned Governor de Lassus, and on September 23, 1810, raised their Bonnie Blue Flag over the fort of Baton Rouge. Three days later, John Rhea, president of the West Florida convention, signed a Declaration of Independence, and the lone star flag became the emblem of a new republic.

The Republic of West Florida was short-lived. When Spanish rule was removed from the country with neither the use of American troops nor risk to itself, the government of the United States was interested in asserting its claim to West Florida. On October 27, 1810, President James Madison issued a proclamation declaring West Florida under the jurisdiction of the governor of the Louisiana Territory. On December 10, 1810, the flag of the United States replaced the Bonnie Blue flag over Baton Rouge, and the Republic of West Florida passed into history."
Dr. Steve Carol, 10 February 2005