The Bonnie Blue Flag
The Bonnie Blue Flag was an unofficial banner of the Confederate States of America at the start of the American Civil War in 1861. It consists of a single, five-pointed white star on a blue field.
The Bonnie Blue flag is said to have inspired the famous battle song of this name was made of silk by the ladies of Jackson, Mississippi, and presented by Mrs. Homer Smythe to the Honorable W. S. Barry, president of the convention that adopted the ordinance of secession in the House of Representatives at Jackson, on the 9th of January, 1861. The presentation of the flag occurred after the announcement of the passage of the ordinance. It was waved aloft by President Barry as “the first flag of the young republic,” and “the members saluted it by rising, the vast audience present uniting in shouts of applause.”
A description of this beautiful flag sent by the Honorable Dunbar Rowland, Director of the Department of Archives and History, State of Mississippi, is as follows:
A flag of white ground, a magnolia tree in the center, a blue field in the upper left-hand corner with a white star in the centre, finished with a red border and a red fringe at the extremity of the flag.”
In May, 1901, Colonel J. L. Power, Mississippi’s venerable Secretary of State, stated in the New Orleans Times-Democrat that Harry McCarthy, an Irish comedian, was in the hall when the vote on the ordinance was taken; that he wrote the song that day, and on the night following he sung it in the Spengler Theater.
Colonel Power also stated that he put the song into type for the first time from the author’s manuscript, afterward printing one thousand copies for McCarthy. Six months later the song was printed in sheet music form by A. E. Blackmar, of New Orleans, and dedicated to General Albert Pike.
The September, 1904, issue of The Keystone, published in Charleston, South Carolina, contains the statement of Doctor Frank Samuel Casper, now a resident of Austin, Texas, but born and brought up in the little town of Raymond, Mississippi, that Harry McCarthy composed the original Bonnie Blue Flag song in that town and sung it at a ball which was given to the Raymond Fencibles, a militia company, before Mississippi had seceded. Doctor Casper says this was the song McCarthy sung in Jackson.
As the States seceded, verses were written to mark their entrance into the Confederacy, and the order of their secession changed, which is historically incorrect, as will be seen by the subjoined accepted copy of the song as it appeared after Tennessee had withdrawn from the Union.
The Bonnie Blue Flag Song
We are a band of brothers, and native to the soil,
Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil ;
And when our rights were threatened the cry rose near and far:
“Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star!”
Hurrah! hurrah! for Southern rights hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.
As long as the Union was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and like brothers, kind Were we and just ;
But now when Northern treachery attempts our rights to mar,
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.
First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand;
Then came Alabama, who took her by the hand;
Next, quickly, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida
All raised the flag, the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.
Ye men of valor, gather round the banner of the right;
Texas and fair Louisiana join us in the fight.
Davis, our loved President, and Stephens statesmen are;
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
And here’s to brave Virginia the Old Dominion State
With the young Confed’racy at length has linked her fate.
Impelled by her example, now other States prepare
To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.
Then here ‘s to our Confedracy! Strong are we and brave;
Like patriots of old, we ’11 fight our heritage to save;
And rather than submit to shame, to die we would prefer;
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.
Then cheer, boys, cheer! Raise the joyous shout!
For Arkansas and North Carolina now have both gone out;
And let another rousing cheer for Tennessee be given!
The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag has grown to be eleven.
The Confederate Veteran, of May, 1901, says that Harry McCarthy enlisted in the Confederate army from Arkansas. After a time he was granted a discharge, and continued his career as actor at Richmond and other points.
He wrote other war verse, but none so popular as this song which rang alike through camps and homes. He died in California in extreme poverty, it is said, a year or two ago.