Louisiana Secession Cockades

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The following account is taken verbatim from the New Orleans Daily Crescent, 22 December 1860:

There is no occasion for any very lengthy report of what took place in this city yesterday. The event was one which absorbed the attention of the entire city; for it was not only interesting, but important and portentous.

It was nothing more nor less than the unfurling to the breeze of the Pelican Flag – the new flag of Independent Louisiana.

A brief announcement in two or three of the morning papers that the Pelican Flag would be spread to the breeze at noonday, from the Headquarters of the Southern Rights Association, No. 76 Camp street, (just above the Crescent office), had the effect of filling the street long before the hour named.

From the central window of the second story of the building obtruded a board, on which was a bust of John C. Calhoun, begirt with a blue ribbon and the cockade of Independent South Carolina. This attracted much attention, and contributed not a little to warm the feeling of the multitude long before the hour arrived for unfurling the Flag of Independent Louisiana.

At 12 o'clock, Camp street was densely jammed. We may here state that the crowd was of a respectable and highly important character; it was one of those multitudes which cannot assemble at mid-day without a very extensive suspension of the heavy business of the city; it was conspicuous not only for its genteel appearance and demeanor, but for the wealth and business status of the great part of it.

The solitary telegraphic tap on the bells, indicative of noonday, had hardly died away, when, from an upper window of No. 76 Camp street, a white flag shot out upon a mast previously prepared, and gracefully spread itself out on the warm South breeze which was blowing, disclosing in its center a large red star, in the center of which star was pictured the shield of Louisiana, a pelican feeding in her young.

The heads of the whole multitude uncovered at this first sight of the flag of Independent Louisiana; and the cheers and huzzas that arose, we can liken only to the roar of the sea in a gale.

As the flag came out, and as the people shouted, a brass band in the street greeted it with that stirring air which recent events have made so popular in the South, the "Marseillaise." At the same moment the Washington Artillery, at the foot of Canal street, let forth a thundering jubilee salute of one hundred guns.

An incident which aroused renewed enthusiasm was this: As the flag came out on its mast, the sun was behind one of the white clouds which were fleeting by. The flag had hardly unfurled itself and spread itself out on the breeze, when the sun, emerging from the cloud, shone vertically through it, rendering it as bright and transparent as a bridal veil. The flag, with its scarlet star picture, floated nearly horizontally just at the moment that the sunshine fell upon it; the suddenness and its beauty of the display struck all, and the effect was well expressed in the still more lusty roar of cheering which followed.

The pelican has long been connected with Louisiana's history. Early colonists admired the bird's generous care of its young, and eventually the symbol of a pelican feeding her nestlings would become the state symbol.

By the time of the Civil War, this emblem could be found on everything from buckles to buttons to swords. And naturally, on cockades! An eye-witness recalls:

Who does not remember the epidemic of blue cockades which broke out in New Orleans during the winter of 1860 and 1861, and raged violently throughout the whole city? The little blue cockade, with its pelican button in the centre and its two small streamers, was the distinguishing mark of the “Secessionist.”