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The California Republic, also called the Bear Flag Republic, was a government proclaimed by settlers on June 14, 1846, in Sonomamarker in the then-Mexican province of California. Declared during the Mexican-American War, the republic lasted a mere 26 days.

Bear Flag Revolt

Before the war between the United States and Mexico had begun, a group of American immigrants revolted against the centralization policies of President Antonio López de Santa Anna. These same policies had resulted in the earlier 1835-36 uprising in Texas, which resulted in the founding of the Republic of Texas, and other ones in Mexico which Santa Anna had successfully defeated. When war became likely between the United States and Mexico, U.S. Army Major John C. Frémont, who had arrived in California claiming to be on a mission to find a route to the Pacific (his mission officially was to find the source of the Arkansas Rivermarker), began encouraging a rebellion among the Anglo-American settlers. As a result, thirty-three settlers in Sonoma declared a republic and raised a homemade flag with a bear and star (the "Bear Flag") to symbolize a new California Republic. Their actions are called the "Bear Flag Revolt."

The same day, the rebels captured the Commandant of Northern California, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who openly endorsed the inevitability of the annexation of California by the United States. Vallejo was sent to Sutter's Fortmarker, where he was kept a prisoner until August 1, 1846. The Republic's first and only president was William B. Ide, whose term lasted twenty-five days. On June 23, 1846, Frémont arrived with sixty soldiers and took command in the name of the United States. The Bear Flag was replaced by the Stars and Stripes.The "republic" vanished and Ide enlisted in the U.S. forces as a private. The Mexican governor sent 55 men to attempt to crush the rebellion, but General José Castro's forces were defeated at the Battle of Olompalimarker.

Unknown to Frémont and the Bear Flag supporters, war had already been formally declared on May 13 1846, but the news did not reach California until early July, when the frigate USS Savannah and the two sloops, USS Cyane and USS Levant, of the United States Navy captured Monterey, Californiamarker.

Bear Flag

Digital reproduction based on the original Bear Flag
The sole legacy of the "California Republic" was its adoption as the basis of the modern state Flag of California. The modern flag has a star, a grizzly bear, and a colored stripe with the words "California Republic". The Sonoma Plaza site of the raising of the original Bear Flag is marked by a California Historical Landmark.

The original Bear Flag was designed and made by William L. Todd, who was a first cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of president Abraham Lincoln. Todd painted the flag on domestic cotton cloth, roughly a yard and a half in length. It featured a red star imitating Texas's lone star and what he meant to be an ordinary black bear. The bear was described as walking, though on the original flag the bear was standing. The modern California flag shows the bear walking.

The original Bear Flag was destroyed in the fires following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. A replica, created in 1896 for the 50th Anniversary celebrations, is on display at the Presidio de Sonoma, which was established in 1836 by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo as a part of Mexicomarker's attempt to halt Russianmarker incursions into the region.

Proclamation of the Bear Flag Revolt

William B. Ide wrote a proclamation of independence on the night of June 14-15, 1846, and read it on the fifteenth:


  1. Heidenreich, Linda (2007). "This Land was Mexican Once": Histories of Resistance from Northern California. Austin: University of Texas Press, 77-87. ISBN 9780292716346
  2. William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park, California State Parks.
  3. "Commodore John Sloat". US-Mexican War, Public Broadcasting Service.
  4. Bear Flag Museum retrieved 13/6/2008
  5. The California Bear Flag
  6. California Genealogy & History Archives Index Page
  7. Several versions were created of the Proclamation. Fred Blackburn Rogers William Brown Ide, Bear Flagger, Appendix A, Ide Proclamations

See also


  • Bancroft, Hubert Howe The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California vol 22 (1886). Also at of California,VOL. V. 1846-1848
  • Rice, Richard B. et al., The elusive Eden: A new history of California (2001) ch 7.
  • Harlow, Neal California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province 1846-1850, ISBN 0-520-06605-7, (1982)

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