The Bonnie Blue Flag

Bonnie Blue Flag

The Bonnie Blue Flag is a familiar and beloved symbol of the South. It was the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida, and also served as the state flags of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and North Carolina. Its popularity was largely due to Harry McCarthy’s rousing song of the same name, which is now a part of southern heritage.

On January 9, 1861, just after Mississippi seceded from the United States and became a Confederate State, a blue flag bearing a single star was raised over the capitol in Jackson. The flag inspired Harry McCarthy, a traveling variety entertainer, to write a patriotic song he called “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” He set it to the tune of an Irish folk song called The Irish Jaunting Car. The song quickly caught on throughout the South and by March of 1861, it was almost as popular as Dixie. The official secession flag was the Stars and Bars, but “Bonnie Blue” continued to be used as an unofficial flag by the state and military units throughout the war.

Remembering Heritage: Exploring the Bonnie Blue Flag

The song was so popular that Union General Benjamin Butler outlawed singing it in federal-occupied New Orleans. The number was so well known that the “Bonnie Blue” could be heard on the steamboats sailing the Mississippi River into Vicksburg during the siege of the city. By the end of the war, eleven different editions of the song had been published. “The song of the Bonnie Blue Flag influenced many young men to join the ranks of the Rebel Army,” wrote LSU history professor Gaines Foster in The New Orleans Comet, September 10, 1897.