Flags of Mississippi



On 9 January 1861, the Mississippi Secession Convention officially withdrew the state of Mississippi from the Union, and in the words of song, The Bonnie Blue Flag, became the second state to take South Carolina “by the hand.” (It might be noted that the song erroneously identified Alabama as having that honor, but that state did not withdraw from the Union until January 11th.) On 26 January 1861, the committee who had been appointed to devise a state flag and coat-of-arms reported their suggestion for the former:

A Flag of white ground, a Magnolia tree in the centre, a blue field in the under [sic – later corrected to read “upper”]left-hand corner, with a white star in the centre – the flag to be finished with a red border, and a red fringe at the extremity of the flag.

The use of the magnolia tree complimented South Carolina’s adoption of the palmetto tree on her state flag. The blue canton in the upper, hoist corner of the flag was derived from the “bonnie blue flag” flown by the independent Republic of West Florida during its brief existence in 1810. The significance of the red border was not recorded, however, the manner in which it was written in conjunction with the fringe caused some confusion as to the placement of the border. As written it is not clear if the red border with the fringe only decorated the fly edge of the flag or whether the red border circumvented the entire flag while the fringe alone decorated the fly edge. As interpreted by the residents of Mississippi in 1861, the latter opinion predominated.

Mississippi state flag adopted 26 January 1861
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 07 February 2000

Alternate version of the Mississippi state flag adopted 26 January 1861
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 07 February 2000

As part of its supper of sovereignty, the new “Republic of Mississippi” formed a state “Army of Mississippi” consisting of eight regiments. Four brigadier-generals were appointed by the state and the regiments were to assemble at four rendezvous in the state. Four “post” flags were ordered for these rendezvous. This would be the only known state action to furnish the flag adopted in January.

Although the state would not furnish unit flags for the volunteer companies that soon flocked to defend the honor of Mississippi, the patriotic ladies of the state would come to the aid of these companies. While the usual flag furnished to the assembling companies was the Confederate 1st national flag, at least three flags survive that followed the pattern of the state flag adopted on 26 January. Two of these are silk with painted magnolia tree (or in one case, only the magnolia blossom) and the third is made of bunting with applique magnolia tree. In all cases the red border extends around all four sides of the flag (stopping at the canton on one of the three). The red fringe similarly extends around all sides on two of the flags but is attached only to the fly edge on the third. Sizes vary considerably; there was no common size.

Although mainly superseded by the Confederate 1st national flag in March of 1861, two of the three Mississippi state unit flags were in use into early 1862, with one being captured in April and another in May.

Howard Michael Madaus (based on research by Greg Biggs and Howard Michael Madaus.)