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What was the Bear Flag Revolt?

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If you look at the flag of the state of California you'll notice that it has a large grizzly bear on it. This is a reference to the short-lived Bear Flag Revolt of 1846.

At that time, California wasn't part of the United States; it belonged to Mexico. But an increasing number of Californian settlers were American and they weren't happy with the existing arrangements. With tensions between United States and Mexico becoming ever greater, rumors started going round of an imminent conflict between the two counties. American settlers in California were worried that any such conflict would give the Mexican authorities an excuse to expel them.

So a handful of settlers under the leadership of a man named Ezekiel Merritt staged a rebellion against the Mexican authorities. At first, the rebellion was successful as the rebels captured the town of Sonoma and arrested its Mexican commandant. They declared a Californian Republic, complete with its own flag depicting a grizzly bear and a lone red star.

The "Bear Flaggers" as they came to be known, went on to seize San Francisco. But before long the United States Navy invaded California and the rebels joined forces with them. The California Republic, which had been in existence for only a matter of weeks, was over, and the Bear Flag was replaced by the stars and stripes.

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