SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
DeWitt Colony Flags 1700-1846
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Castile and Leon. Most commonly shown as the flag displayed in New Spain and in Spanish Texas, this banner represented the combined kingdoms of Castile (the castle) and Leon (the lions). Variants using the two symbols were flown by Spanish explorers of the New World including Columbus. (Adapted from C. E. Gilbert Jr. A Concise History of Early Texas: As told by its 30 historic flags.)
The Cross of Burgundy was adopted in about 1520. It was a symbol of Phillip I, Duke of Burgundy, whose son became King Charles I of Spain in 1516. The Cross of Burgundy and variants was probably the most common banner displayed on land and sea in New Spain, particularly by the Spanish military.
The Spanish Flag of 1785 and its variants may also have been flown in Spanish Texas. The banner and its variants employed variations of a shield with the symbols of Castile and Leon and other historic royal alliances topped with a crown in the yellow field of the red-yellow-red tricolor.
In the fall of 1812, the Republican Army of the North comprised of both revolutionaries from south of the Rio Grande and east of the Sabine River under Col. Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara and Col. Augustus Magee gained control of Texas from the Sabine River to the Guadalupe River which included part of future DeWitt Colony and declared the province an independent State of Texas, part of the Republic of Mexico before the independence of Mexico was solidified. As First President of an independent Texas, Gutierrez established the first Constitution of Texas in 1813, but his movement was clouded by the brutal execution of captured Royalist Texas Gov. Salcedo and several of his officers. He was deposed by Col. Alverez de Toledo who renamed the movement the Republican Army of North Mexico and was soundly defeated by Spanish royalists at the Battle of Medina in fall 1813. This solid emerald green flag was thought to have been introduced by Bostonite and former US Army Lieutenant Augustus Magee who was of Irish background.
The first flag of independent Mexico of which the province of Texas was a part, was La Bandera de las Tres Garantias, a white, green and red tri-color with a gold star in each field. This Flag of the United Mexican States adopted in 1825 under the liberal Constitution of 1824 consisting of vertical green, white and red fields is still in use today.
It consists of an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its mouse and talons. According to legend, the Aztec God of War Huitzilopochtli instructed ancient peoples to build an empire where they found the eagle and snake. After years of wandering about, on an island in Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico (Anahuac) they found the sign and there in 1325 AD built the city of Tenochtitlan ("Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus"), now Mexico City. The eagle rests on a fruiting nopal cactus, the red "tunas" a symbol of the human heart in Aztec legend. Under the cactus are republican symbols, scrolls and codices and lower down garlands tied together with a ribbon of three colors, symbolic of both pre- and post-Hispanic Mexico.
DeWitt Colonists lived under the State Flag of Coahuila y Tejas in the 1820s and 1830s. The two stars signified the two regions that comprised the State of Coahuila and Texas. Col. Juan Almonte, aid to Santa Anna, states "the enemy, as soon as the march of the division was seen, hoisted the tri-colored flag with two stars, designed to represent Coahuila and Texas" in his journal entry about the Siege and Battle of the Alamo. Mexican officer and engineer Carlos Sanchez-Navarro, who participated in the siege of the Alamo in Mar 1836 in his memoirs, La Guerra de Tejas, Memorias de un Soldado, shows in a illustration the flag of Coahuila y Tejas flying over the Alamo. It has also been speculated that this banner may have been carried by Capt. Juan Seguin's company at the Battle of Bexar and taken with them to the Alamo garrison. A 1934 article in the San Antonio Express suggests that some historians believed that the stars were blue: "Kennedy, Texas II, 180-181, says that the flag used by Texas was the Mexican tricolor, red, white and green, with two blue stars in the white bar, Bancroft and others agree with Kennedy that this was the Coahuila-Texas flag."
The Mexican tricolor with modifications to symbolize support of the Federalist system guaranteed by the Constitution of the Mexican United States of 1824 remained the official banner sanctioned by a government of Texas, official, provisional or otherwise. No other flag was officially sanctioned until the naval flag adopted by President Burnet on 9 Apr 1836 just before the battle of San Jacinto on 21 Apr. These banners indicate an evolution from the tricolor of the Republic of Mexico to addition of the words 1824 to removal of the Mexican eagle and snake as sympathy for independence and separation from the central government of Mexico intensified. A banner employing the Mexican tricolors with reference to the Constitution of 1824 was thought to be preferred by a majority of DeWitt Colonists as their official flag in late 1835 and into early 1836 although almost all supported independence as a Mexican State and then a sovereign Republic as they prepared for war with the centralista government.
The design below (top) was that described by Capt. Phillip Dimmit, Commander at Goliad in a letter to Stephen F. Austin of 27 Oct 1835: "I have had a flag made---the colors and their arrangement the same as the old one---with the words and figures, 'Constitution of 1824', displayed on the white in the center." Although the provisional government of Texas never adopted an official banner, it sanctioned a privateer flag of marque and reprisal for those who would prey upon "centralista" shipping in the Gulf of Mexico: "That all vessels sailing under Licences, as Letters of Marque and Reprisal...shall carry the flag of the Republic of the United States of Mexico, and shall have the figures 1,8,2,4 cyphered in large Arabics on the white ground thereof" (bottom right). According to multiple Texas historians including Amelia Williams and John Henry Brown, the Mexican tri-color shown below with the numerals 1824 on the white bar flew over the Alamo during the siege of Mar 1835. Variants on the theme may have been to employ different colors for the lettering on the white background as well as size and orientation (horizontal and vertical) (see 1824 Flag of the Texas Revolution).
Of the multiple banners that flew over DeWitt Colony territory and those under which DeWitt colonists served and died, this famous flag is one which originated solely within and is unique to the DeWitt Colony and a symbol of contribution of the region to the Texas Independence movement. The banner can be said to be the counterpart in concept and message of resistance as the early "Don't Tread on Me" flags of the American Revolution. Some say it was made from the white silk of the wedding dress of Empresario DeWitt's daughter, Naomi, and was flown by DeWitt Colonists reinforced by volunteers from the other settlements at the confrontation with the Mexican army in October 1835 over the Gonzales cannon (Battle of Gonzales). Other reports suggest it was made after the confrontation during the muster at Gonzales for defense of Texas and the assault on Bexar.
Eyewitness DeWitt Colonist Creed Taylor relates in his memoirs (Tall Men with Long Rifles) that following the Battle of Gonzales as the army was being prepared in Gonzales to march on Bexar "the question of a flag came up. Some of our leaders wanted to march and fight under the Mexican national colors; others wanted the eagle, cactus, and snake, eliminated from the flag and in their stead a star. But it was soon ascertained that the boys wanted nothing that bore the slightest resemblance to the flag of Mexico. At a meeting of the officers a committee of five were appointed to select the design for our flag. This committee was to report by three o'clock the next day. And this gave the occasion for the loftiest display of patriotism on the part of the women of Gonzales. They knew that material for a flag was scarce. Before ten o'clock the committee in council was overwhelmed with offers of material of all shades, textures, and fashions. A few silk dresses that had doubtless been worn on state occasions 'back in the states' and were now faded and tattered---but religiously treasured as sacred mementoes of happier days---were brought forward and freely offered. One heroic mother whose sons went down in the Alamo the following March, brought her only pair of green window curtains. It was finally decided by the committee that it was the duty of the Consultation to design and adopt a flag of the new nation; that any action in regard thereto would be premature and not binding; but in view of the present conditions it would be right and proper for the army to have a banner under which to march during the present campaign, and that in keeping with the simplicity that characterized the general make-up of the army the said emblem be as follows: a white field without border, in the center a picture of a cannon, unmounted and without any fixtures whatever, directly over the cannon a five pointed star. Under the cannon and near the lower margin in large letters extending nearly the length of the flag, this inscription: 'COME AND TAKE IT.' The flag committee's report was received and its recommendations accepted, and the following day we had a flag raising, when, for the first time, the Lone Star was flung to the breeze........I must bear witness to the fact that the 'cannon flag' designed and hoisted at Gonzales on October 10, 1835, was the first Lone Star that was ever caressed by a Texas breeze unless the honor should be given to the Dawson [Dodson] Company standard......never recognized by the army as their flag, but a company standard......our 'Cannon Flag' had been left somewhere on the route from Gonzales to Salado. The last I saw of it was when the cannon was abandoned on Sandy Creek. It had been furled and was resting against a sapling nearby. It may have been used as a winding sheet for the old brass gun or it may have been employed for baser purposes."
'....the buttons on the coat of Governor Smith had the impress of a five-pointed star. For want of a seal, one of the buttons was cut off and used."--Guy M. Bryan
Despite DeWitt Colonist Creed Taylor's regional pride expressed in his memoirs concerning the Old Come and Take It flag (Creed's father, Josiah Taylor, was with the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition against Spain in 1813, who some refer to as the first Republic of Texas), the first Lone Star on record in Texas was employed on the Long flag of independence filibuster Dr. James Long in 1819 while Texas was still a province of New Spain.
The state flag of Coahuila y Texas employed five-pointed stars on the white of the Mexican tricolor and the Lone Star may have been adopted to signify the desired independence of the Mexican state of Texas from Coahuila. Various flags of Texas independence movements, Scott's flag of the liberal faction, Baker's flag of San Felipe, flag of the Harriburg Volunteers and the Troutman flag at Goliad all employed the Lone Star.
Burnet Naval Flag. The first official national flag sanctioned by the provisional government appears to be that adopted by President Burnet at Harrisburg, 9 Apr 1836 for the naval service. The flag was approved at Columbia 10 Dec 1836 and was in use as a naval flag as late as 1839. The only known surviving flag, actual or replica (photo left), of the period is from the 1840's scrapbook of Julia Lee Sinks, wife of Austin postmaster George W. Sinks. It is noteworthy that in the Sink's replica the lone star was sewn in gold (similar to a star from the flag of Coahuila y Tejas above and the Burnet flag of the Republic below) in an upper left field of Mexican green rather than blue. In later histories the flag is depicted as the US flag with a single star in the upper left blue field which was described by Guy M. Bryan in a speech to the Texas Veterans Association 1873 "union blue, star central, and thirteen stripes, alternate red and white."
If blue was the true color it was probably adapted from the Lone Star on blue of Scott's flag of the Liberal Faction or War Party with the 13 red and white stripes of the US flag. Instead of the rendition at left, it may have been simply the US flag with a single star in the blue field in the upper left corner with stripes across the entire bottom as in the Sink's replica above. It was thought to have been made by ladies at Harrisburg at the home of Mrs. Jane Harris with whom David Burnet resided at the time. The naval flag was thought to have been designed quickly by Burnet in response to the need to establish identity and elements of a functioning government after San Jacinto. Some say it was intentional to imply sanction and protection of Texian ships by flying the US banner or something closely similar.
Some records indicate a flag exhibiting the Lone Star on a horizontal field of blue between single upper white and lower red horizontal stripes running the full length of the flag was either proposed or used at one time in the Republic of Texas.
The Zavala Flag. Proceedings of the Texas Independence Convention of 11 Mar 1836: "On the motion of Mr. Scates, the Rainbow and star of five points above the western horizon; and the star of six points sinking below, was added to the flag of Mr. Zavala accepted on Friday last. Mr. Taylor introduced the following resolution: Resolved that the word "Texas" be placed, one letter between each point of the star on the national flag." The banner at left is most often depicted as the first official flag of the Texas Republic proposed by Vice-President of the new Republic of Texas, Lorenzo de Zavala. The proceedings appear to indicate that Zavala proposed a simple Lone Star flag which if white on blue was essentially that of Scott's flag of the War Party without the word "Independence," or the left part of Burnet's naval flag. It is unclear whether any of the proposed modifications including the indicated lettering were ever employed.
A banner was described which would be essentially the Burnet naval flag with a white Lone Star on blue in Davy Crockett's putative autobiography, Life of David Crockett, "we have had a large national flag made; it is composed of thirteen stripes, red and white, alternately, on a blue ground with a large white star, of five points, in the center, and between the points the letters TEXAS....we set about raising our flag on the battlements [of the Alamo]."
Proceedings of the Independence Convention at Washington on the Brazos, 12 Mar 1836 stated: Mr. Childress introduced the following resolution: "Resolved that a single star of five points, either of gold or silver, be adopted as the peculiar emblem of this republic; & that every officer & soldier of the army and members of this convention, and all friends of Texas, be requested to wear it on their hats or bosoms; which was adopted."
The Lone Star. The current Lone Star flag of first the Republic and then the State of Texas was proposed by William H. Wharton 27 Dec 1838 at the Third Congress of the Republic in Houston and approved 25 Jan 1839. Historically, the flag is said to have been designed by Dr. Charles B. Stewart with concensus by a flag committee chaired by Oliver Jones of seven signers: Thomas Barnett, Richard Ellis, Thomas J. Gazley, Sterling C. Robertson, William B. Scates and Lorenzo de Zavala. Others contend the actual designer and group who approved it is unclear. Archival sketches show the current Lone Star flag and Texas State Seal drawn by Peter Krag. It is thought that an improvised seal used provided by Dr. Stewart for the official mark on a treaty between the provisional Texas government and the Cherokees may have influenced design of the Lone Star banner and seal. On 28 December 1835, it is said the Cherokees demanded a seal or official marking. Dr. Stewart was secretary to provisional governor Henry Smith and related:
Senator Oliver Jones spoke for the committee in presentation of the final design "The committee beg leave to make some remarks of the ground upon which their conclusion is founded. The President ad interim devised the national flag and seal, as it were, in a case of emergency, adopting the flag of the United States of America with little variation, which act was subsequently ratified by the law of December 10, 1836. The then adopted flag was expedient for the time being, and has been specially beneficial to the navy and merchantmen on account of being so much blended with the flag of the United States. But the emergency has passed, and the future prospects of Texas are of such flattering nature that her independence requires that her arms, seal, and standard should assume an independent character by a form which will not blend them with those of any other nation. Besides these considerations, the committee would beg to state that, inasmuch as the proposition made by this republic in her incipient stage of national existence to the United States of America for an annexation to the American Confederacy has been withdrawn by the minister plenipotentiary of this government at the court of Washington, and as the wish of the majority of the people of Texas, so far as is publicly known, is in favor of sustaining an independent station among the nations of the earth, we regard the transition of the single star into the American constellation and the merging of the single Texan stripe with the thirteen stripes of the United States of America inexpedient. The committee are convinced of the necessity of adopting a separate and distinct standard and arms for the republic. . . . Therefore your committee beg leave to offer a substitute amending the original bill referred to them, accompanying the same with a specimen of the arms, the seal, and the standard."
Mrs. Looscan remarks in her article in Wooten's Comprehensive History of Texas that it was appropriate that the Hon. Oliver Jones introduced the flag of the independent Republic since he was "one of the noblest patriots and the last representative of the colonists of Texas in the Mexican Congress prior to opening of hostilities....." The committee's proposals were approved by President Mirabeau Lamar, Speaker of the House John Hansford and President of the Senate David Burnet.
In addition to the Burnet naval flag and the Burnet second flag of the Republic, the earliest surviving replica of the contemporary banner is from the Sink's scrapbook of the 1840's. In contrast to the Burnet flags in the same book, the Lone Star was in a field of bright pure azure with no trace of green. According to Guy M. Bryan in a speech to the Texas Veterans Association in 1873 the flag was
SONS OF DEWITT