Five Things I Didn’t Know About The Confederate Flag   2 comments

Protestors in Birmingham, AL, gathered on the state capitol's steps after the Alabama governor removed the Confederate Battle Flag from the capitol's grounds.

Protestors in Birmingham, AL, gathered on the state capitol’s steps after the Alabama governor removed the Confederate Battle Flag from the capitol’s grounds. Note the last flag of the Confederate States of America, left.

The Confederate Flag is everywhere in the news right now, and I’ve taken that opportunity to learn about this suddenly controversial symbol.

Personally, I’ve never had any particular affinity for the Confederacy, nor have I identified strongly with “Southern Pride” or “the South.” I grew up a Midwesterner, I thought. When Mizzou merged into the SEC a couple of years ago, one Southern criticism was that perhaps Missouri wasn’t “Southern enough” for the SEC.

So what’s all this Southern pride in the Confederate flag really all about?

1. What everyone is calling “The Confederate Flag” really isn’t that at all.

This may just be verbal shorthand, but I think there is an important distinction here: the flag that so many people are celebrating as “The” Confederate Flag is more properly called the Confederate Battle Flag. The Battle Flag was an element of later Confederate flags, but only an element.

Battle Flag of the Confederate Army

Battle Flag of the Confederate Army

This flag served as a battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia. From Wikipedia:

The Army of Northern Virginia battle flag assumed a prominent place post-war when it was adopted as the copyrighted emblem of the United Confederate Veterans. Its continued use by the Southern Army’s post-war veterans groups, the United Confederate Veterans and the later Sons of Confederate Veterans and elements of the design by related similar female descendents organizations of the United Daughters of the Confederacy led to the assumption that it was, as it has been termed, “the soldier’s flag” or “the Confederate battle flag”.

The square “Battle Flag” is also properly known as “the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia”. It was sometimes called “Beauregard’s flag” or “the Virginia battle flag”. A Virginia Department of Historic Resources marker declaring Fairfax, Virginia, as the birthplace of the Confederate battle flag was dedicated on April 12, 2008, near the intersection of Main and Oak Streets, in Fairfax, Virginia.

A similar flag in a rectangular design became the Confederate Navy Jack, the flag flown from ships of the Confederate Navy after 1863:

Confederate Navy Jack

Confederate Navy Jack

This symbol was used to rally and inspire Confederate soldiers & sailors. The purpose of those soldiers and sailors? Their job was to kill American soldiers and sailors … American citizens that were protecting the Union. That’s the origin of this symbol.

2. The Confederate States of America actually had three different official “national” flags.

The first version went through four revisions, with the number of stars standing for each state that had joined the Confederacy. However, all four of these were found to be too confusing on the field of battle: they looked too much like the flag of the USA.

"Flag of the Confederate States of America (March 1861 – May 1861)" by Nicola Marschall (1829–1917)(Vector graphics image by Gunter Küchler). - SVG based in this image. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Flag of the Confederate States of America (March 1861 – May 1861)

"Flag of the Confederate States of America (May 1861 – July 1861)". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Flag of the Confederate States of America (May 1861 – July 1861)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (July 1861 – November 1861). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Flag of the Confederate States of America (July 1861 – November 1861)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863)

To create a flag that was less confusing to soldiers, a white flag with the battle flag (“stars & bars”) in the upper left field was created. This version was also confusing on the battlefield, as it looked like a surrender flag if no wind was blowing.

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1863-1865)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1863-1865)

With that problem, the third and final flag version was created … all for a “nation” that lasted only four years.

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1865)

Flag of the Confederate States of America (1865)

3. “Southern Pride” is symbolized by the Confederate Battle Flag.

This idea is very strong in some circles, and truly surprises me.

It’s fine to be proud of your heritage, and proud of where you’re from. Even the Beach Boys taught us to be “True To Your School.”

However, to take as your symbol the flag of a failed army is an odd choice. Here are a few incontrovertible facts:

  • The Confederate Army lost the war.
  • The Confederate Army surrendered their flag to the victorious army of the United States of America. General Robert E Lee counseled citizens of the south to stop displaying the battle flag, as he feared they would be accused of treason.
  • The designer of the Confederate Battle Flag believed that it stood for the right of the white race to enslave the black race.

4. 150 years after the Civil War ended, some are confused about what the War Between The States was all about.

Some revisionists claim the Civil War (or, “The War Of Northern Aggression”) was about states’ rights. Although there is a splinter of truth in that claim, it is a gross exaggeration to say the war was about states’ rights and not about slavery.

The Civil War was, in fact, about the Southern fear that Northern states would abolish their “right” to subjugate the “inferior African race” as slaves. Secession happened because too many Southerners feared Lincoln was an abolitionist (he was!). Four states actually wrote a document that outlined why they were seceding. CivilWar.org did an analysis of those documents, and found that slavery was overwhelmingly the reason for secession cited by the state governments as they were seceding.

What you learned in school was correct: the Civil War happened because Southern states seceded so they could keep slavery. Lincoln abolished slavery, won the war, and stitched the Union back together again. There were many complications, of course, but that is the simplest view of what happened in the 1860s.

5. Some states still have the Confederate Battle Flag incorporated into their state flag. In 2015.

Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi all have state flags that have their origins in the flags of the Confederacy. Before you conclude that racism is over in our country, it’s best to check the symbology still being used today by our governments.

State flag of Alabama.

State flag of Alabama

State flag of Georgia

State flag of Georgia

State flag of Mississippi

State flag of Mississippi

My Bottom Line

You want to personally display any of the flags that were used by that failed “nation,” the Confederate States of America? Knock yourself out. I believe in free speech. If you strongly identify with a flag that was created as a symbol for those that wanted to destroy the United States of America so they could keep what they believed to be an inferior race as slaves to support their area’s aristocracy, then go right ahead.

Me, I’ll just wonder what point you’re trying to make.

Full Disclosure: I come from Missouri, which was a border state in the Civil War. I have ancestors that fought on both sides of the conflict, but I have no evidence that any of my ancestors ever owned slaves. Shortly after the Civil War, some of my ancestors moved from North Carolina to Missouri … perhaps to escape from the toxic environment that was the Reconstruction Era South? We’ll never know for sure, but move away from the “Old South” to the “Midwest” is exactly what they did.

More

Wikipedia: Flags of the Confederate States of America

Charlie Daniels on the Confederate Flag, Restraint, and Common Sense

Yahoo: General Lee From “Dukes of Hazzard” Losing Its Confederate Flag

The Week: The Surprisingly Uncomplicated Racist History Of The Confederate Flag

 

 

 

Posted June 30, 2015 by henrymowry in Living Life

Tagged with , , ,

2 responses to “Five Things I Didn’t Know About The Confederate Flag

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  1. Pingback: My Favorite Posts From 2015 | MowryJournal.com

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