June 14th – the U.S. Army’s Birthday (1775), Flag Day (1776) . Few know it’s also California’s Birthday. 170 years ago, a few American settlers with whiskey approached the Mexican Governor, Vallejo, and told them they were declaring an independent California Republic. Vallejo agreed and so they spent the night designing the flag. That’s a brief summary, Bear Flag Rising gives a better account. Here is the brief intro from Wikipedia:
The California Republic was a short-lived, unrecognized state that, for a few weeks in 1846, militarily controlled the area to the north of the San Francisco Bay in the present-day state of California.
In June 1846, a number of American immigrants in Alta California rebelled against the Mexican department’s government. The immigrants had not been allowed to buy or rent land and had been threatened with expulsion from California because they had entered without official permission. Mexican officials were concerned about a coming war with the United States coupled with the growing influx of Americans into California. The rebellion was soon overtaken by the beginning of the Mexican–American War.
The term “California Republic” appeared only on the flag the insurgents raised in Sonoma. It indicated their aspiration of forming a republican government for California. The insurgents elected military officers but no civil structure was ever established. The flag featured an image of a California grizzly bear and became known as the Bear Flag and the revolt as the Bear Flag Revolt.
Three weeks later, on July 5, 1846, the Republic’s military of 100 to 200 men was subsumed into the California Battalion commanded by U.S. Army Brevet Captain John C. Frémont. The Bear Flag Revolt and whatever remained of the “California Republic” ceased to exist on July 9 when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Joseph Revere raised the United States flag in front of the Sonoma Barracks and sent a second flag to be raised at Sutter’s Fort.
Happy Birthday California!