As attention in our state turns (once again) to the state flag, a portion of which is the Confederate battle flag, voices are being raised over the topic of changing the Mississippi state flag. State Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn says the state flag has become “a point of offense that needs to be removed.”
We haven’t heard much from Trent Lott since he resigned his Senate seat on November 26, 2007, barely two days before his brother-in-law, Oxford’s famed tort lawyer Dickie Scruggs, was arrested for bribing a Federal judge. Lott became a lobbyist, co-founding the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, later acquired by law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs. He serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), where he focuses on issues related to energy, national security, transportation and congressional reforms. Lott is also a co-chair of BPC’s Energy Project.
Now, though, he has waded into the Confederate flag issue. Lott, famous for some past racially charged remarks, told CNN this week that the state flag should be changed to the Bonnie Blue flag, “because that’s what the Mississippians carried at the Battle of Monterrey.” For those who ask, “What was the Battle of Monterrey?” we offer a much simplified explanation.
The Battle of Monterrey
The Mexican War (1846-1848) was the U.S. Army’s first experience waging extended conflict in a foreign land, and was the training ground for nearly all the major commanders, both North and South, who later fought in the Civil War. At the battle of Monterrey, September 21-24, 1848, General Zachary Taylor led the U.S. Army of Occupation to defeat General Pedro de Ampudia of the Mexican Army of the North. The Army of Occupation, a force of U.S. Regulars, Texas Rangers and Volunteers, including a company of Texas and Mississippi Volunteers, and the 1st Mississippi Rifles, commanded by Taylor’s former son-in-law, Colonel Jefferson Davis.
Ampudia had been ordered by Santa Anna to retreat to Saltillo and fortify there, but disobeyed his orders, believing that he could gain greater glory by stopping Taylor at Monterrey. Ampudia’s army of 10,000 was well entrenched, but Taylor’s smaller force made large gains in the first two days of battle, at the cost of substantial losses. On September 23rd, Taylor called upon the Texan volunteers to teach the U.S. Regulars techniques for fighting in the city. Armed with the new “urban warfare” skills, the Army of Occupation moved house to house, rooting out Mexican soldiers hiding on rooftops and inside the thick, adobe-walled houses of northern Mexico. Taylor and Ampudia agreed to a two month armistice in return for the surrender of Monterrey.
Taylor was criticized by President Polk for signing an armistice with Ampudia, insisting that the US Army had no authority to negotiate truces, only to “kill the enemy.” However, some argued that Taylor’s victory here began the defeat of Mexico. Many Mexican soldiers became disenchanted with the war. In a well-fortified, well-supplied position, an army of ten thousand Mexican soldiers had resisted the U.S. Army for three days, only to be forced into surrender by American urban battle tactics, heavy artillery and division in the Mexican ranks.
The Bonnie Blue Flag
The first recorded use of the lone star flag dates back to 1810, when a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for the Spanish provincial capitol at Baton Rouge under this flag. They were joined by other republican forces and captured Baton Rouge, imprisoned the Spanish Governor and raised their flag over the Fort of Baton Rouge. Three days later the president of the West Florida Convention, signed a Declaration of Independence and the flag became the emblem of a short-lived new republic.The people of the republic called their standard the Lone Star Flag. But the “republic” was annexed by the United States within 90 days, and the Lone Star was replaced by the U.S. flag.
The lone star flag was used by the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1839; could not find any references to this flag at Monterrey.
Then, when the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, they adopted the former Republic of West Florida Flag, as many had ties to the West Florida rebellion. The Bonnie Blue flew over the state’s secession convention. For this reason, the flag is sometimes referred to as the first flag of the Confederacy, but it was never officially adopted as a Confederate flag. Although never officially one of the national flags of the Confederate States of America, it was considered one by the soldiers and southern people. The units from Louisiana and Texas adopted the Bonnie Blue as their official banner of the Confederacy.
While the precise colors of flags varied by maker, the Lone Star has a background hue of sky blue, while the Bonnie Blue is closer to navy. As for the Bonnie Blue, it isn’t clear when the design took on that name, but it was some time between the Republic of West Florida and the Mississippi secession.
We are willing to accept Lott’s statement that Mississippians carried the Bonnie Blue into the Mexican War, but hours of research today could not verify that information. The closest we could come was one possible Texas Volunteer flag; it was the same flag, except with the word “Independence” below the star.
Battle of Monterrey connections aside, we wonder if this flag can meet the test for those whose agenda is to erase all official “memory” of the Confederacy. Additionally, we would point out that Trent Lott may not have thought this statement through any more thoroughly that he did the one publicly singing the praises of Strom Thurmond’s political past.
And, if you’d like to read more on the flag issue.