No matter what cause you want to support, it’s common to have a flag or banner to rally behind. The honor of creating the rallying point would have to carry a lot of meaning and pride to the person bestowed with the task. Imagine then how 17-year-old Joanna Troutman felt when in 1835 she presented her gift of a flag to the leader of the Georgia troops heading ultimately to the battle at Goliad, in what is now Texas.
The accounts of how Joanna decided to make the Lone Star flag differ on the details. They agree that she used silk skirts to make the background and the star, and that she embroidered the motto “Liberty or Death” on one side, and the Latin motto “Ubi Libertas Habitat Ibi Patria Est” – where liberty dwells, there is my country – on the other. They also agree that she gave the completed flag to Lieutenant Colonel William Ward to carry to Lieutenant Hugh McLeod, and that McLeod sent her a letter thanking her for the flag.
The version of how this came about that I think makes the most sense is that she met Hugh McLeod while she was working at the inn, and that McLeod gave her the idea of the star, and asked her to make the flag. She went home and her mother helped her plan materials to make the flag and the motto. Then she made it over the course of the next day or so, and took it to the inn to give it to McLeod.
The Georgia troops carried the Lone Star flag with them as they went on to join with the troops at the Mission of La Bahia at Goliad. While there on March 8, 1836, the troops received word that Texas had been declared free from Mexican rule. The flag was raised during the celebration that followed. At sunset, while lowering the flag, it snarled in the ropes and the banner was torn. The tatters remained flying until Santa Anna had completed his mission of killing the American troops on March 27, 1836. No remnants of Joanna’s flag survive today.
While her flag no longer exists, the concept of the Texas Lone Star flag remains intact. And several landmarks and exhibits wait for visitors to view and learn of this remarkable young lady’s contribution to American history. A bronze statue marking Joanna Troutman’s grave is easily visible when you enter the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. The monument also commemorates the men who died at Goliad. A silver spoon and fork from Santa Anna’s private collection, which had been given to Joanna by Sam Houston after Santa Anna’s defeat, now are on display in the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Joanna’s portrait hangs at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas. A plaque set in white stone stands on the lawn of the Knoxville, Georgia, court house. In part the plaque says, “On this site in 1835, Joanna Troutman gave to a company of Georgia soldiers … a ‘Lone Star’ Flag, which she had made….”
I have to admit, that as I compiled the research for each of the stories in Hometown Heroines, I became increasingly impressed by the courage and creative inspirations they exhibited through their actions. Who inspires you? Who is your role model?
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