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Dimmit's Goliad

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Dimmit's Goliad Flag.




This militant and defiant banner, designed by Goliad garrison commander, Captain Phillip Dimmitt, dramatically reflected the political shift of Texians and Captain Dimmitt away from support of the independent statehood of Texas in the Mexican Federalist Republic and return to the Constitution of 1824 to support of complete separation from Mexico as an independent Republic. Before he returned from the Siege and Battle of Bexar to Goliad in the middle of Dec 1835, Captain Dimmitt was an avid Mexican Federalist and opposed to separation which was symbolized in the 1824 Mexican tri-color which is also thought to be of his own design. Dimmitt's bloody arm flag was said to have been raised ceremonially on Dec 20 upon the signing of the Goliad Declaration of Independence as the official flag of the occasion although the banners of companies ofCaptain William S. Brown and Captain William Scott were also present at Goliad at the time.

Which banner was actually flown over the Goliad garrison is the subject of controversy and comment by historians. Mary Agnes Mitchell in First Flag of Texas Independence cites memoirs of participants John James and Nicholas Fagan:

"The Goliad flag was made personally by Captain Dimmitt himself....It was of white domestic, two yards in length and one in width, and in the center was a sinewy arm and hand, painted red, grasping a drawn sword of crimson.....The flagpole was made from a tall sycamore which was procured from the woods along the banks of the San Antonio River.....The flagstaff was in the yard of the quadrangle opposite the entrance to the officers' quarters."
Dimmitt's flag flew over the ramparts of Goliad through 10 Jan 1836 when Dr. James Grant and the Federalist Volunteers of Texas forced its removal with threat of violence and which caused the subsequent exit of Col. Dimmitt and those loyal to him from the garrison. The banner is thought to have exited with them. The motivation behind Dimmitt's use of the bloody arm symbol is unclear as was whether he acquired it independently or simply under influence of the Brown flag, which employed the same symbol .

Origin of the Bloody Arm Symbol

Origin of the Brown and Dimmitt bloody-arm symbol of Texian Independence. The origin of the defiant symbol used on both Captain William Brown's and Captain Phillip Dimmitt's banners are an interesting subject discussed extensively by Hobart Huson in his work, Captain Phillip Dimmitt's Commandancy of Goliad. It appears that Brown's 
flag appeared earlier than that of Dimmitt and the former may have influenced the latter. Both Captain William Brown and his brother Jeremiah were seaman and later became naval officers in the Republic of Texas. Huson contends that their naval orientation may have been behind knowledge of the possibly Irish and European symbol and the precise design of the Brown flag. Conceivably, the symbol was suggested by Irish colonists or those with close contact with the Irish colonists from the Powers & Hewetson or McMullen & McGloin ventures in the region. Huson points out that the symbol cannot be found in the French Revolution or American Independence movements.

From Huson, Captain Phillip Dimmitt's Commandancy of Goliad:

Miss Kathleen Blow, reference librarian at the University of Texas, cites Arnold Whitteck's Symbols, 
Signs, and Their Meanings, published in London, 1963, and sent xerox of page which mentions the 
Coronation Medal of Charles I, of England, "showing a design rather belligerent in character, showing 
an arm with a sword on the reverse symbolizing the intention to prosecute war with vigor until 
peace is restored." The design shows the weapon to be a sabre, or curved blade sword. From the 
Reference Librarian of the Library of Congress came the classical and well known account of the Bloody Hand of O'Neal, which is an episode in Irish traditional history. The 'bloody hand' appears as an armorial device on the coats of arms of numerous Irish and Scotch families besides the O'Neals and the McNeills. Insofar as Dimmitt's design is concerned, the bloody hand, properly a left hand, is not apropos, for the reasons that it is a hand and not an arm, and is a left hand rather than a right, and is inconsistent with the arm with which the self-amputation was done. A few of the bloody-hands are depicted as holding an upright dagger or short sword, but never a sabre. So Dimmitt's bloody right-arm grasping a bloody sabre, ought to have its own legend - an intriguing one - no doubt, if the design was not an original concept of the border captain.
British crests or coats of arms, in which the bloody hand, the bloody arm or arm grasping a bloody sword, 
scimiter, dagger, etc., do not necessarily relate to a war for national independence as such, but to some 
individual exploit of an ancestor. Perhaps no land is more replete with chronicles of pre-historic invasions 
than is Ireland. Among its traditional lore are its Books of the Invasions. These undertake to identify the 
pre-history of Ierne, with the Hindus, Persians, Jewish, Greek and the Spanish predominant. In one of the 
later of these - the Milesian, as I now recollect, occurs the incident of an invading flotilla emanating from 
Iberia, in which the several chieftains involved compacted that the first who touched Irish soil should have 
choice of territory for his projected kingdom. Upon approaching the shore, the craft of the chieftain 
O'Neal, or O'Neill, lagged space. Whereupon that doughty chief drew his sword, hacked off his left hand, 
and with his right hurled it upon the shore. It fell ashore before his rivals could land. His priority was 

A version of this legend appears in William S. Walsh, Handy-Book of Literary Curosities, page 1070, 
Ulster, Red Hand of. At the request of my friend, Colonel Sir Thomas Roberts, SBE, of County Kent, 
England, Mr. A. Colin Cole, Windsor Herald of Arms, of the College of Arms, London, graciously 
supplied the following information. Without assaying to be authoritative, he suggests the emblem might have 
been inspired by the notable Irish family named Wall, which was seated in the area between Limmerich and 
Waterford (which is the general area from which the Refugio Irish Colonists came in 1834). Distinguished 
members of the Wall family immigrated to France and to Spain, and in each of those lands became 
distinguished in the military and governmental services. He refers to Edward Mac Lysaght's Irish Families, 
(which I have in my library, as also Paul Murtaugh's Your Irish Coats-of-Arms. (Alas, I do not have 
Fairbain's Crests. Plate XXVII of Mac Lysaght, shows the Wall coat of arms with as crest a naked arm 
grasping a bloody scimiter. In Murtagh plate 35 no. 398, depicts the Wall coat of arms as being similar in 
design (but not corresponding in color to that in Mac L.,) but with an entirely different crest.

Sir Thomas also favored me with some points on the interpretation of heraldic devices, which I quote, as 

     "I see you have the story of the Bloody Hand of Ulster O.K. Yest, is a left hand, remembering 
     that everything on the shield (escutcheon) is as regarded by the holder of the shield, not the 
     Be-holder. The Bloody Hand is the usual sign of a Baronet, our lowest hereditary title, so is 
     not mentioned in the "blazon" (heraldic description). It is also the mark of Ulster, see our 
     Ulster Regional postage stamps, as the Dragon is of Wales, etc. I doubt if the College of 
     Heralds would allow the (baronets?) bloody hand as any part of any coat of arms, except for 
     its designated purpose. It can be carried in dexter (right) cheif, or central chief, ie, top middle, 
     but less usual. The crest, carried on the correct helm, according to rank, was also for 
     identification, but is slightly less rigidly defined & regarded by the Heralds. The motto - under 
     the shield - is not rigidly regarded at all & many families have the same & sometimes changed 


Wallace L. McKeehan, Consulting Editor to Alamo de Parras 
Sons of Dewitt Colony Texas

http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/adp/history/republic/flags/dimmits.html, 20 Nov 2012


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