Thursday, February 16

Forgotten Republic

Over the course of the past three centuries, the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana has served under a variety of flags: the French Fleur de Lis, the Golden Spanish Imperium, the Great Magnolia, the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy, the Star Spangled Banner of the United States, and briefly during the War of 1812, the British Union Jack. But perhaps most intriguing was its tenure under the Bonnie Blue of the Republic of West Florida.

Early in 1802, Napoleon concluded that it would be in his best interest to sell his American colonies to the United States. Negotiations took about two weeks, and the territories—extending from New Orleans to the Canadian border--were sold for $15 million in 1803. The transaction is known in history as the Louisiana Purchase.

But specifically exempt from the sale was the land east of the Mississippi. Over the course of the next several months, the settlers there formed an independent nation extending from the Mississippi in the west to Pensacola Bay in the east and stretching as far north as present-day Montgomery, Alabama. The founders of this Gulf Coast state called their nation the Republic of West Florida and established their capital at Baton Rouge. Thomas Jefferson’s near relative, Fulwar Skipwith was elected president shortly afterward--and it was Skipwith who encouraged the adoption of the Bonnie Blue Flag, the old Celtic symbol of covenantal freedom, as the nation’s official banner.

Independence brought both liberty and prosperity to the region--but it was to be short-lived. On this day in 1810, the sovereignty of West Florida was brought to an untimely and ignominious end when President James Madison ordered a detachment of American cavalrymen under the command of General William Claiborne to conquer the territory for the United States. Legislators were marched out of the capitol building at bayonet-point and forced to pledge allegiance to the federal United States and its governmental emissaries. The Bonnie Blue flag was torn down and replaced by the Stars and Stripes. The conquest was made in the name of American Manifest Destiny--but it remained a point of contention in the region and contributed to its quick acceptance of secession in the earliest days of the War between the States.

Even today in many of the Katrina-ravaged areas of the region, the Bonnie Blue Flag continues to fly as a badge of the Gulf Coast's distinctive identity, heritage, and culture.


s. k. said...

It is highly upsetting that I managed to complete 13 years of public school and then attain a bachelor's degree without even hearing mention of this occurence. What an interesting story!

JNH said...

Shame on me for not having heard of this until now, even living in Mississippi these last 8 years of my life. Thank you for doing in a blog, what might not have been done for me in a lifetime of reading. Your posts are so helpful that I can almost use them to justify reading blogs instead of something a little dustier and palpable... almost

Lawrence Underwood said...

It is a shame that real history is so infrequently taught today. Thanks for this post, Dr. Grant.

The Bonnie Blue is a point of honour and history for many of us in the Deep South. I have one as a tag on the front bumper of my truck.

'Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue flag that carries a single star!'

For the Covenant and Freedom,

covenantpromise said...

I have actually heard this story before. I first heard it in a fantastic teaching series on a covenental and classical christian model of education. This series is called "Legacy of Truth". I obtained these C.D's through covenant media foundation. The teacher on these lectures is none other than Dr. George Grant. Thanks for posting this blog Dr. Grant. There are lot's of other great and otherwise untold stories about the Godly and covenantal heritage of this land. Covenant media's web address is

In Christ,

Jason Parolini

Allison said...

I, too, am ashamed that I grew up near the gulf coast (Geneva, AL) and never knew this part of history. When I recently watched Gods and Generals I was confused by the reference to the "Bonnie Blue Flag" and looked up some general information, but never came up with this. Thanks for the lesson. This encourages me to continue to educate myself about my region's history. And I may need to check out those lectures...

Anonymous said...

Bonnie Blue! The flag twas the cause of 1776 and 1861, all rolled up in a single star.