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Bonnie Blue Flag

As the secession crisis intensified, the Bonnie Blue Flag gradually became the unofficial banner of independence and self-government for the Southern states. It waved prominently at political rallies and parades and flew in Montgomery, Ala., while the first Confederate Congress was in session.

The designer of the blue flag with the single white star in the center is unknown, but the banner is believed to have been modeled after the flag of South Carolina and the Lone Star flag of Texas. The single star represented secession, the removal of a star from the Stars and Stripes, and independence in that it stood alone on its field of blue. Sometimes an additional star would be added to the flag for each seceding state. In January 1861, the Bonnie Blue Flag was incorporated as a canton in the flag of the new Republic of Mississippi. The Committee on Flag and Seal of the Confederacy's Provisional Congress passed over the Bonnie Blue Flag and other designs to select instead a flag based on the old Stars and Stripes, a flag that would become famous as the "Stars and Bars."

In the spring of 1861, Harry McCarthy, a variety entertainer and comedian, wrote the stirring marching song "The Bonnie Blue Flag." The lyrics recounted why the South found it necessary to break away from the Union and described each state joining the Confederacy. The song was extremely popular in the South, rivaling "Dixie" as the unofficial Confederate anthem. Union authorities in occupied New Orleans outlawed playing the music or singing the song. Eleven editions of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" had been printed by the end of the war, each with slightly different lyrics. The song lost some of its popularity when, late in the war, Harry McCarthy abandoned the South and went to Philadelphia.

Fascinating Fact: The tune for "The Bonnie Blue Flag" was borrowed from the old song "The Irish Jaunting Car." The tune is still heard today as the fight song for Georgia Tech.

Under the Bonnie Blue Flag; painting by Bruce Marshall
Written by Stephen T. Foster
Printed in USA
8 MCMXCIII Atlas Editions, USA
D3 602 02-09