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Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

The Lone Star
and Charles Zanco

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton
When the siege at the Alamo ended March 6, 1836, a total of 189 defenders had died and among them, a soldier from the Lynchburg Volunteers.

Charles Zanco, native of Denmark, had been one of the first volunteers to sign up in the fall of 1835 for the militia captained by William Scott in present-day Baytown.

Zanco is remembered not only for being one of the Alamo martyrs but also for creating a flag with the most beloved emblem of Texas: the lone star.
Lone Star Independence Flag
Independence Flag of the
Lynchburg Volunteers in Texas Revolution

Thanks to 2nd Lt. James McGahey of the Lynchburg Volunteers, we have a first-hand account of the making of the Lone Star flag.

McGahey, in a Galveston News article, recalled that Scott approached him one morning about the need for a battle flag. "Mack," he said, "I have a piece of beautiful silk, solid blue. If you'll make a staff, we'll have a flag."

McGahey agreed and took the four yards of silk to Lynchburg, where a staff was made. Mrs. Nathaniel Lynch, wife of the founder of the village, sewed a piece of domestic material to the silk to protect its edge from fraying.

A painter by trade, Zanco painted a large five-pointed white star in the center of the flag.

Afterward, the flag artist told McGahey that something was missing. "It looks naked," he said. "Let me paint something under it."

McGahey suggested the word "independence."

Done.

Zanco spelled it out neatly under the white star, and Texas had its Independence Flag. Or Scott Flag, as it is often called in history books. Or the first Lone Star flag of Texas.

No one argued about the star - it was pretty -- but there were those who worried about the "independence" motto. Texas had not, at that time, declared its independence and formed a new nation. They were getting there but it hadn't happened yet.

Even Capt. Scott, the firebrand, voiced concern about the "i" word. However, he told McGahey: "By blood, Mack, that was a little rash, but I'll sustain you in it."

Meanwhile the Harrisburg bunch upstream on Buffalo Bayou got wind of the Independence Flag and objected. Eight armed men piled into two boats and sailed downstream for a confrontation with the Lynchburg Volunteers.

Before the fighting really started in the Texas Revolution, a little war almost erupted between those volunteer units.

As the two boats from Harrisburg, each carrying eight armed men, pulled up to shore at Lynchburg, Scott's soldiers - also armed -- formed a line between the shore and Lynch's home.

"Not a man got out of either boat," McGahey remembered, "nor was there a word spoken by any one."

McGahey said he set his gun against the house, stepped inside, took the flag from a rack, returned and unfurled the flag.

"I planted the staff with a firm stroke in the ground on the bank of the San Jacinto," said, "and the lone star with the magic word 'independence' floated proudly on the breeze. For some minutes not a word was spoken. Presently the captain of one of the boats ordered his men to push away from the bank and when out a short distance in the stream stood up and took off his hat, flourished it around his head, shouting, 'Hurray for the Lone Star.'

"Every man of his crew did likewise but the other boat pulled away and departed without any demonstration of any kind whatever."

When the real fighting did start, and McGahey would be waving the Lone Star flag in the battle at Concepcion. Wounded, he had to go on furlough and handed the flag over to another Lynchburg Volunteer, Thomas Bell. It is believed that Bell carried it to the Siege at Bexar in December 1835. That's the battle the Texans won in San Antonio, forcing the Mexican Army back to Mexico.

After the Siege at Bexar, there was no trace of the flag. No one knew what happened to it.

Zanco, instead of returning to this bay area, remained in the Texas Army in San Antonio, helping to keep the area fortified in case the enemy returned.

Remembering the Siege at Bexar, the Mexican Army returned in huge numbers and the Siege at the Alamo began.

The people of Denmark take great pride in their native son who created the first Lone Star flag and who died bravely defending Texas. They discuss the subject on various web sites in Danish but, not to worry, you can click on translations.

In plain English, Baytown is proud of Charles Zanco, too.



Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist, May 23, 2014 column
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