Texas History Detective: Zavala Flag

Note: this is the first in a new series where I share information on things I’ve been researching, but don’t yet have enough to write a full blown article. I’m hoping someone reading will be able to provide other information, or even pick up the ball and run with it themselves. – Mark 

The First Flag of the Republic
Whenever I mention the Zavala flag, someone is bound to inform me that it never existed. Or that yes, Lorenzo de Zavala designed a flag, but we have no idea what it looked like.

I’ve always had a problem with this, given that the design and name have such a long association. The idea didn’t just fall out of the sky. The design also appeared on the back of Republic of Texas “red back” currency. 

So where did it come from?

Allow me to present two pieces of evidence that have been overlooked.

First, there is the deposition of Juan Reyes, who was one of the Soldados captured at San Jacinto. He and three companions escaped and made their way back to Mexico before Filisola and the rest of the army. (Hat tip to Dr. Gregg Dimmick for mentioning this at the San Jacinto Symposium a couple years ago.)

In his deposition to the Mexican Government, Reyes reported: 
“The enemy carried two flags: one with the America (woman) painted white with a blue ribbon, the other all blue with a big star in the middle and many little ones, all white.”

From a distance and in the heat of battle, it would be very easy to think the letters between the points of the star on the Zavala flag were smaller stars.

Second, there is a notice that appeared in the April 10, 1869 edition of the Houston Times. It read:
“The first Lone Star flag was made by Mrs. Zavalla (sic), the wife of President Zavalla (sic). It was taken to Galveston on the morning of January 1, 1863, by the late William Gammell, and was lost at Virginia Point. If anyone is in possession of this valuable relic they should deliver it to the old veterans at San Jacinto, on the 21st inst.”

So maybe it would more proper to call it the Mrs. Zavala flag.

William Gammell was a private in Wyley’s company which was part of Sherman’s Second Regiment of volunteers, which formed the Texian left at San Jacinto. He was a gunsmith and settled in Lynchburg.

Virginia Point is where the railroad bridge to Galveston leaves the mainland. On the morning of January 1, 1863, it was where General Magruder staged his troops for the Battle of Galveston. 
Hope you find this interesting.

If you have any information that would flesh out this story further, I’d love to hear from you.

2 replies »

  1. David Martin
    This above article is peculiarly similar to what I posted in Dec. 2019 of mine and Greg Dimmick’s research on this subject……….. Historical Reenactors, Republic of Texas Era
    Dec 14, 2019 ·
    David Martin
    Here is what I have in the way of documentation that the De Zavala flag existed as the first flag of the Republic of Texas and further indication that it was used on the San Jacinto battlefield.
    The first item below is the mention of a flag committee on March 3rd that Mr. De Zavala was appointed to. On March 12th they refer to the De Zavala flag that was accepted on Friday last and there was a motion made to add the letter T-E-X-A-S between the points of the star on the National Flag.
    The second item is a newspaper article that appeared in the Houston Daily Times, April 16, 1869 and is on microfilm in the Texas Room, Houston Public library. It states that: The FIRST “LONE STAR FLAG” WAS MADE BY MRS. ZAVALA, THE WIFE OF (vice) PRESIDENT ZAVALA. William Gammel had taken the “First Lone Star Flag” to the battle of Galveston on Jan. 1st 1863, lost at Virginia point, and that if anyone was in possession of it, would they please deliver it to The Old Veterans at San Jacinto on the 21st inst. Pvt. ….(William Gammel served in Capt. Alfred Henderson’s volunteers in the Battle of San Jacinto.)
    The third item is a newspaper article from the Devil’s Comical Oldmanick printed in 1837 showing the De Zavala flag in the background.
    ITEM ONE:From the…Proceedings of the Convention at Washington.
    THURSDAY, MARCH 3rd, 1836.
    Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to devise & report to this Convention a suitable flag for the Republic of Texas. And the question being taken thereon, was decided in the affirmative; whereupon the President appointed Messrs. Gazley, Scates, Zavala, Robertson, and Barnett of Austin, and On motion of Mr. Houston, the President was added to said committee. On motion of Mr. Goodrich, Resolved, That the thanks of this Convention be presented to Messrs. Baker & Bordens, editors of the Telegraph for the files of their paper presented them. And the question being taken thereon, was unanimously decided in the affirmative. On motion of Mr. Menifee, The Convention adjourned till tomorrow morning at nine o’clock.
    CONVENTION HALL, MARCH 12, 1836.On motion of Mr. Scates, the Rainbow and star of five points above the western horizon: and the star of six points sinking below, was added to the flag of Mr. Zavala accepted on Friday last. Mr.
    Taylor introduced the following resolution: Resolved that the word “Texas” be placed, one letter between each point of the star on the national flag.
    “Houston’s Address To His Army,” from The Devil’s Comical Oldmanick, 1837. With Comic Engravings of All the Principal Events of Texas. New York: Fisher & Turner [1836]. Texas Collection Library.
    ITEM FOUR……..On Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 5:00 PM Gregg Dimmick wrote:
    David, I am copying a portion of the deposition of Toribio Reyes, and enlisted man who was captured at San Jacinto. This is where he mentioned the flag.
    QUESTION: Did the enemy forces consist of permanent [regular] or active [volunteer] militia? Were they divided in companies or regiments? Were they uniformed or were they composed of peasants? In this case, state if you know how they are recruited and what kind of people they are.
    ANSWER: He said the enemy did not have disciplined troops, that they did not wear uniforms, that they were all peasants with no order. They carried two flags [banderas], one with the America painted white with a blue stripe and the other one all blue with a big star in the middle and many little ones [stars] that were all white. When in [New] Orleans the witness learned from Señor Gomes Farias and some Spaniards that the means of recruiting the people was to go to the wineries [vinterias] looking for the loafers to whom they offered thirty pesos if they wanted to march to Galveston. If they agreed they shipped them immediately. These were the incorrigible people of [New] Orleans.