Everybody knows about the Southern Succession from the United States that started the Civil War. Most people know that the state of Texas used to be an independent country. However, in this history of Southern independent countries, the short-lived Republic of West Florida remains a forgotten historical footnote. The road to the founding of the small republic began with the Louisiana purchase of 1803. While the deal happened with few diplomatic tensions, after the purchase confusion remained over who owned a strip of land bordering the Mississippi River in present day Florida, Alabama, Lousiana and Mississippi. Instead of the territory turning over to the American government, Spain continued administration of the area.
At first the American settlers accepted Spanish rule peacefully, but over time grew more restless. At the same time United States President James Madison was exploring options to take control of the strip of land from the Spanish overseers. Agitation started in 1808 and two years later the Florida rebels were ready to take the land that they believed was theirs. On September 23, 1810 a militia contingent attacked the Spanish fortress of Baton Rouge and forced the Spanish soldiers to evacuate the fortification. The rebels declared themselves an independent country, raised their own flag, and began to set up a government based off of the United States three-branch model.
Seeing the opportunity to gain the territory for the United States, James Madison authorized the military commander of the Orléans territory to march in the Republic of West Florida to annex the territory. Realizing that he had to act fast, Madison acted without Congressional approval, sidestepping the constitutional rules for declaring war. With United States military forces moving into the Republic, West Florida President Fulwar Skipwith declared that they would fight to the last man. Fortunately for everybody, cooler heads prevailed by the time that the US Army was ready to enter Baton Rouge and Skipwith accepted the annexation plan. Barely a month after the country was formed it was part of the United States. Although President Madison was happy with the outcome of the crisis, he received political backlash for his actions, especially from Spain who refused to remove troops from the area for three years. Fifty years later when the Confederate States of America were looking for a new flag, they adopted a blue flag with a single white star modeled after the West Florida flag until a suitable replacement was designed.
In a situation like the Republic of West Florida, the California Republic was a short-lived independent country founded by Americans rebelling against a ruling government before being annexed by the growing United States. The California rebels came about during the 1840s, when Mexican-American relations were extremely tense, eventually leading to war. Before full-scale conflict began, many settlers from the United States moved from the East into the new territory of California, causing great concern among Mexican government officials.
For the most part, the American settlers showed little interest in becoming Mexican citizens and retained close ties to their home country. Mexican officials had let the Alta California area become self-governing, opening up the possibility of a California revolt. As relations between the American and Mexican governments deteriorated, President James K. Polk began to tighten the noose on Mexican California. He ordered gunships into the San Francisco bay and sent Commander John C. Fremont to visit the American settlers. Fremont discussed revolt with the Californians and openly encouraged them to fight against the Mexican government. Whether or not Fremont had orders to stir up a rebellion is disputed, but nonetheless his influence worked, and the Californians prepared to revolt.
To start the rebellion, Californian rebels stole government horses on June 10,1846. Four days later a small contingent of rebels took the understaffed fort at Sonoma. Emboldened by the victory, the insurgents surrounded the home of Mexican general Mariano Vallejo and declared him a prisoner of war. A flag was designed and erected over Sonoma and after some minor skirmishes with Mexican forces Commander Fremont arrived. The Californians declared him the leader of the new California Republic and planned to expand the revolution throughout all of Alta California. However, soon after the rebellion started American forces marched into the California Republic and claimed it American territory. The annexation ended the short-lived California Republic.