Texas state flag (variant) adopted (as the flag of the Republic of Texas) 25 January 1839
by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., 05 February 2000
At the beginning of the secession movement in earnest in early 1861, Texas was the only southern state to have an official state flag. This was merely due to the fact that Texas was first created as an independent republic in March of 1836 and the “Lone Star Flag” as it became known was the final adopted flag of the Republic of Texas. It began service in January 1839 and this national flag naturally became the state flag with the annexation and admission of Texas into the Union in 1845.
The Act of the Texas Congress adopting the flag on 25 January 1839, also adopted national arms and a national great seal. The pertinent sections of that act read as follows:
Sec. 1.That from and after the passage of this act, the national arms of the Republic of Texas be, and the same is hereby declared to be a white star of five points, on an azure ground, encircled by an olive and live oak branches. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas in Congress assembled, That from and after the passage of this act, the national arms of the Republic of Texas be, and the same is hereby declared to be a white star of five points, on an azure ground, encircled by an olive and live oak branches.
Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That the national great seal of this Republic shall, from and after the passage of this act, bear the arms of this nation as declared by the first section of this act, and the letters “Republic of Texas.”
Sec. 3. Be it further enacted, That from and after the passage of this act, the national flag of Texas shall consist of a blue perpendicular stripe of the width of one third the whole length of the flag, with a white star of five points in the centre thereof, and two horizontal stripes of equal breadth, the upper stripe white, the lower red, of the length of two thirds of the whole length of the flag; anything in the act to which this is an amendment to the contrary notwithstanding.
With the secession of Texas in 1861 from a union it had so joyfully entered in 1845, it is a bit surprising that the Lone Star state flag was not taken up by many of the forming state units who instead exhibited a wide variety of independent flag designs. One likely theory is that since the admission of Texas to the Union in 1845, the state flag had taken a subordinate position in the hearts of Texans to the flag of the United States. After sixteen years under the Stars and Stripes and then its quick admission into the Confederacy with a new and exciting national flag, the Stars and Bars, the Texas flag did not have the exposure to the Texans of that period as it had less than one generation before. It might also be noted that, as a result of the great immigration into Texas in the period between 1845 and 1861, a large percentage of the 1861 population were not in Texas at the end of the Republic in 1845. A contemporary War Between the States photograph shows a Stars and Bars flag flying from the Capitol building in Austin without an accompanying state flag and it is highly likely the Stars and Stripes flew there before it. Again, the use of the state flag by government authorities in any meaningful quantities during this early period is unlikely.
However, the Lone Star Flag was not forgotten. The 1st Texas Infantry Regiment, part of what became Hood’s Texas Brigade, the most recognized of Texan Confederate units, carried a large Lone Star state flag into battle in Virginia. Lost under the most glorious circumstances possible, the near annihilation of the regiment at Sharpsburg (Antietam) in 1862, it was replaced with a black-bordered Lone Star flag that saw more glory at Gettysburg. This type of publicity certainly helped the state flag earn a share of renewed interest in its home state.
Additionally, a few other units would carry the Lone Star flag into battle although the flag would be far from common. The 5th Texas Infantry, also of Hood’s Texas Brigade, would carry a single star flag into battle in the summer and fall of 1862 but recent evidence suggests that perhaps this flag was a first national flag with a single star. However, during the war and even afterwards the flag was thought to be a Lone Star state flag. A few other units also carried Texas State flags but it appears that the use of state flag was not common, although it clearly was not forgotten.
There is strong evidence to suggest that from the Lone Star flag’s inception in 1839 the star was intended to have been pointed towards the top edge with two points towards the bottom edge as can be seen on the flag today. Accompanying the original 1839 act adopting the flag is a contemporary drawing, with the endorsement of President Mirabeau Lamar, showing the star in this position. However, if surviving examples are considered, the exception was apparently the rule with flags made in Texas in the in the period 1839 through 1865. The Lone Star, much more often than not, was tilted to varying degrees with no particular “tilt” the norm. This practice carried over into Confederate national flags made in Texas, where often there was a larger central star surrounded by smaller stars. In these flags the “tilt” in the central star was also a most common feature. One possible explanation could be that as flags were not mass produced in that period and each flag bore the knowledge of the individual maker. With vastness of the state coupled with a scattered population taken into consideration, very little in the way of standardization was achievable, and the need for standardization was certainly not necessary.
With the end of the War Between the States, the Lone Star Flag, covered in glory in the first quarter of a century of its existence, would no longer be an inconspicuous state flag. Its legend would continuer to grow as big as the state it represented. It is probably the only state flag today that can be commonly recognized internationally. Its simple and classic design has reached the status of near immortality.