Many people are familiar with the term “Six Flags of Texas”, but how many people are aware that it has more meaning than just the name of a theme park? The Six Flags of Texas actually represent the six nations that at one time had sovereignty over portions of territory that make up the great state of Texas. The following is a brief history of how the six flags of Texas came to be.
The first flag belonged to Spain, which ruled most of Texas from 1519 to 1685 and from 1690 to 1821. The first explorations into Texas were by the Spanish, the first of which was a map making expedition in 1519 led by Alfonso Alvarez de Pineda and Cabeza de Vaca. Soon after came explorers Francisco Vasquez de Coronoda in 1540 and Jaun de Onate in 1601.
The second flag was the royal banner of France. In 1684, French nobleman Rene Robert La Salle founded a colony on the Texas Gulf Coast called Fort Saint Louis. He was hoping to start a settlement in the French Louisiana Territory at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Not realizing he was so far off, 150 people landed on the banks of the Garcitas Creek. Life was extremely hard and their numbers slowly dwindled to about 40 by 1687. La Salle left for the Great Lakes for French re-enforcements but was killed by his own men on the journey. The few remaining inhabitants of Fort Saint Louis were all killed by Karankawa Indians in 1689.
The third flag belonged to Mexico. In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain and the region of Texas became part of Mexico. Many Americans migrated to Texas because of favorable land grants and lax immigration laws. The population of Texas grew rapidly. In 1825, Texas had a population of approximately 3,500, with most of Mexican descent. By 1834, Texas had grown to approximately 37,800 people, with only 7,800 of Mexican descent. Santa Anna was elected president of Mexico in 1832 and soon after sent troops into Texas to force martial law. The Texans first rebelled at Goliad in 1835. A troop of Mexican soldiers had come to get their cannon and the Texians refused – making a flag that said “Come and Take it!” The Texians then took over the city of San Antonio. On March 2, 1836 at the town of Washington on the Brazos, a group of 59 representatives voted to declare Texas independence. Just 4 days later, on March the 6th, Santa Anna led his army to the Alamo where he had all survivors executed. He marched on to Goliad and had everyone shot there as well. General Sam Houston and his army of Texians faced their final battle with Santa Anna along the banks of Buffalo Bayou. They fought and won independence for Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.
Republic of Texas: 1836-1845
The fourth flag belonged to the Republic of Texas. During nearly ten years of independence, the Republic of Texas endured epidemics, financial crises and still-volatile clashes with Mexico. But it was during this period that unique accents of the Texas heritage germinated. Texas became the birthplace of the American cowboy; Texas Rangers were the first to use Sam Colt’s remarkable six-shooters; Sam Houston became an American ideal of rugged individualism. Texas joined the United States on December 29, 1845. The red, white and blue Texas state flag with its lone star (one of two national flags the Republic had in its small time) today flies proudly across the state. Because of Texas’ one-time status as an independent country, the Texas flag is the only of the 50 state flags that can be flown at the same height as the U.S. flag.
United States of America: 1845-1861; 1865-present
Old glory was the fifth flag to fly over Texas. The Republic of Texas, nearly bankrupt and in constant fear of Mexico invasion, formally asked to join the U.S. The U.S. government accepted, assuming all national debt that Texas accrued, in exchange for a vast amount of land that became part of several states, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming.
Confederate States of America: 1861-1865
Texas joined the rest of the southern states in seceding from the Union and forming the Confederate States of America. After a brutal and bloody Civil War that saw more American deaths than any war before or since with over 600,000 casualties.