A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence


In part eight we briefly examine the origins and background of Confederate flags and symbols, particularly the most often misunderstood, maligned and frequently abused by non-heritage causes, the “Southern Cross” which was found on many battle flags.

From 1641, when Massachusetts first legalized slavery, until 1865, when the Confederate struggle for independence ended, slavery was a legal institution in America. The Confederate battle flag flew for 4 of those 224 years, but the U.S. flag and its colonial predecessors flew over legalized slavery for ALL of those 224 years. It was the U.S. flag that the slave first saw, and it was the U.S. flag that flew on the mast of New England slaves ships as they brought their human cargo to this country. It is clear, that those who attack the Confederate flag as a reminder of slavery are overlooking the most guilty of all reminders of American slavery, the U.S. flag.

The following information is provided as a general guide to the flags of the Confederate States of America. There were many variations in the flags and particularly the battle flags. This chapter will provide good background information on the CSA flags but cannot in the space provided cover all the variations, materials, colors, and times of service. There are many works that focus just on the battle flag variations and students are encouraged to review those works referenced.
We would also like to gratefully acknowledge Devereaux D. Cannon Jr. and Greg Biggs for valuable information shared over the years within their research and publications. A great deal of their work has been compiled here, however certainly endorse the purchase of their works for the serious student of Confederate flags to get the full and complete history.

Objective: To develop an awareness of the history behind the flags and symbols of the Confederate States of America and to dispel myths about them being hateful or racist in origin.

A. Flags of the Confederate States of America Government

National flags are those that identify a nation. These flags were very important and a matter of great pride to those citizens in the Confederate States of America. It is also a matter of great pride for their ancestors as part of their heritage and history. For the first 24 days, the Confederate government had no officially approved flag. The capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama flew the State flag of Alabama. When Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy, the inaugural parade was led by a company of infantry carrying the State flag of Georgia.

History does not record who made the first Georgia state flag, when it was made, what it looked like, or who authorized its creation. Probably, the banner originated in one of the numerous militia units that existed in antebellum Georgia.

In 1861, a new provision was added to Georgia’s code requiring the governor to supply regimental flags to Georgia militia units assigned to fight outside the state. These flags were to depict the “arms of the State” and the name of the regiment, but the code gave no indication as to the color to be used on the arms or the flag’s background. In heraldry, “arms” refers to a coat of arms, which is the prominent design–usually shown on a shield–located at the center of an armorial bearing or seal. Arms usually appear on seals, but they are not synonymous with seals. Based on the best available evidence, the flag at right is a reconstruction of the pre-1879 Georgia state flag as it would have appeared using the coat of arms from the 1799 state seal.

The Great Seal of the Confederacy A committee on Flag and Seal was appointed by the Provisional Congress, the chairman of the committee was William P. Miles of South Carolina. Hundreds of flag designs were received from all over the new nation and from the now foreign country of the United States. There was an unwritten deadline for a flag design of 4 March 1861 because that was the day Lincoln was to be inaugurated president of the United States. On that date the Confederate States were determined to fly a flag to express their own sovereignty.

There were 3 major “official” flags of the Confederate nation from 1861 to 1865, but many people only know of the “Battle Flag”, which was not a national flag at all.

Bonnie Blue Flag: On 9 January 1861 the Convention of the People of Mississippi adopted an Ordinance of Secession and a large blue flag with a single white star was raised over the capital building in Jackson. Although the Confederate government did not adopt it, the people did. Lone star flags, in one form or another, were adopted in five of the Confederate States that adopted new flags in 1861.

The First National “The Stars and Bars” (4 March 1861-1 May 1863)On the morning of 4 March 1861 large models of the proposed flags were hung on the walls of the Congressional chamber. The First National Flag “The Stars and Bars” was adopted on the same day it was to be raised over the capitol at Montgomery. A flag made of soft merino wool was completed within two hours of its adoption by the Congress. The very first flag of the Confederate States of America was raised by Miss Letitia Christian Tyler, grand- daughter of President John Tyler. Six weeks later it was flying over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The Original First National Flag of the Confederacy can still be seen today at Beauvoir, which is the Jefferson Davis Memorial and Shrine, located in Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast Highway. It had 7 stars in a circle on a blue field, to represent the 7 states of the CSA. Later versions would have 11 stars and then eventually 13 stars as other states were admitted to the Confederacy. The bars consisted of two red and one white.

In their hurry to adopt a flag and have it ready the same afternoon, the Congress forgot to enact a flag law. Nowhere in the statute books of the Confederate States is a Flag Act of 1861. In official use for over two years, the Stars and Bars was never established as the Confederate Flag by the laws of the land. The Stars and Bars flag was replaced in 1863 by the “Stainless Banner”.

The Second National Flag “The Stainless Banner” (1 May 1863-4 March 1865) William P. Miles, chairman of the Flag and Seal Committee, was not satisfied with the “Stars and Bars” as the Confederate National Flag. He wanted to get away from any flag that resembled the Union flag, but the mood of the Confederate people and their representatives in Congress, seemed to indicated that they wanted the “Stars and Bars” to be their National Flag. As the war started to drag on, the sentimental feelings for the “Stars and Bars” began to fade away. More and more Confederate citizens came to see the flag of the United States as a symbol of oppression and aggression.

In February 1862, the First Congress of the Confederate States assembled in Richmond. The new members of Congress reflected the changing feelings of the people toward the flag. One of the first actions of the new Congress was to appoint a new Joint.

Committee on Flag and Seal with instructions to consider and propose a new Confederate Flag. On 19 April 1862 the committee submitted its report to both Houses of Congress. While the debate over a new National Flag for the Confederate States of American was going on, the Army of Northern Virginia had been engaged in several battles under its Battle Flag. A great amount of Confederate blood was spilled under the Battle Flag. Because of this members of Congress, and the citizens of the Confederacy, wanted the Battle Flag incorporated into the CSA National Flag as a way of paying respect to the Confederate Soldiers that were wounded and killed fighting for the new nation’s freedom and independence. Senate Bill No. 132 was put into formal language by Representative Peter W. Gray of Houston, Texas. This bill was passed on to the senate and passed with very little debate. Later that same day President Davis signed the bill and gave the new flag to the Confederate States of America. The new flag became official on the 1st of May 1863.

This second National Confederate Flag was referred to as the “Stainless Banner” because of its pure white field, and was said to represent the purity of the cause which it represented. One of the first uses for the new flag was to drape the coffin of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. General Jackson as he lay in state in the Confederate House of Representatives on 12 May 1863. By the order of President Davis, his coffin was draped with the first of the new National Confederate flags to be manufactured. This very first “Stainless Banner” is now on display in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Because of its use on General Jackson’s coffin the new flag is at times referred to as the “Jackson Flag”. The Second National Flag was replaced by the Third National Flag in 1865.

Third National Flag (4 March 1865-Present) In 1863 congress had argued that “the white flag would not be taken for a flag of truce as it was patterned after the old French Bourbon Flag”, but the Stainless Banner flag had been considered by many as looking too much like a flag of truce, the CSA Navy in particular. As a result the flag was often manufactured with a shorter fly length in order to minimize the white field.

A new flag bill was introduced to the Confederate States Senate on 13 December 1864. Senator Thomas J. Semmes of Louisiana introduced Senate Bill No. 137 with the statement that “naval officers objected to the present flag, that in a calm looked like a flag of truce”. Much consideration followed the introduction of this bill, including consultations with high ranking officers of both the Confederate navy and army. The senate passed Bill No. 137 on 5 February 1865 on to the house, which also passed it on 27 February 1865. It was signed into law by President Davis on 4 March 1865. The last flag of the Confederacy would be similar to the Stainless Banner, except that the Fly end would have a Red Bar for the last 25% of the flags length.

Unlike existing war flags of the earlier patterns, there are very few survivors of the 1865 version as it was approved so late in the war. Many of the ones that do exist are actually the 1863 Stainless Banner with the fly shortened and a red bar added to the flag.

B. Origin of The Confederate Battle Flag

CSA Battle Flag “The Southern Cross” It was at the Battle of First Manassas, about four o’clock of the afternoon of the 21st of July, 1861, when the fate of the Confederacy seemed trembling in the balance, that Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.) Beauregard, looking across the Warrenton turnpike, which passed through the valley between the position of the Confederates and the elevations beyond occupied by the Union line, saw a body of soldiers moving toward his left, and the Union right.

He was greatly concerned to know, but could not decide, what troops they were, whether U.S. or Confederate. The similarity of uniform and of the colors carried by the opposing armies, and the clouds of dust, made it impossible to decide. The unknown troops continued to press on. The day was sultry, and only at long intervals was there the slightest breeze. The colors of the mysterious column hung drooping on the staff. General Beauregard tried again and again to decide what colors they carried. He used his field glasses repeatedly. General Beauregard was now in a state of great anxiety, but finally determined to hold his ground, relying on the promised help from the right, knowing that if it arrived in time victory might be secured, but feeling also that if the mysterious column should be Union troops the day was lost. Suddenly a puff of wind spread the colors to the breeze. It was the Confederate flag , the Stars and Bars! It was Confederate General Jubal Early with the 24th Virginia, the 7th Louisiana, and the 13th Mississippi.

It was while on this field and suffering this terrible anxiety, General Beauregard determined that the Confederate soldier must have a flag so distinct from the enemy that no doubt should ever again endanger his cause on the field of battle. Soon after the battle General Beauregard entered into correspondence with Colonel William Porcher Miles, who had served on his staff during this day, with a view to securing his aid in the matter.

General Beauregard complained to Johnston, so the commanding General ordered the troops to use their state flags for recognition. But there were not enough of these state flags for all the regiments. At right is a sample rendition of one of the South Carolina State Flags, circa 1861. There are reports of the backgrounds of various state flags being blue, red or white. Blue was considered the most common.

The proposed battle flag was designed by General Beauregard and was discussed at length between the two men. A meeting was subsequently held with General Joseph E. Johnston (a German). who approved of the design, to make a drawing of the flag. Meeting at Fairfax Courthouse (the headquarters of General Beauregard) Beauregard and his officers agreed on the famous old banner patterned after the Cross of Saint Andrew with the field of red, the blue cross, and white stars. The flag was then submitted to the War Department and was approved.

General Beauregard asked Congress to change the 1st National Flag. Instead Congressman Miles suggested that the Army adopt a distinctive battle flag for its own use. The design that Miles urged the army to use was one that he had originally submitted to be the national flag of the confederacy but was rejected. The Generals liked the red flag with the blue cross and white stars but felt a square flag would be more convenient for military use. In November 1861 the first battle flags were issued to regiments. This flag is referred to as the “Southern Cross”. It had 12 total stars, 11 stars for the states currently in the CSA and one for Missouri, which had seceded, but was not yet admitted to the Confederacy.

The first flags were made of silk which did not last very long exposed to the harsh weather conditions the army had to live in. Many of these flags faded to a pale reddish pink color. Army of Northern Virginia (Army of Northern Virginia ) silk flags were used into 1863 by some units. Two were lost at Gettysburg for example. Their borders were yellow and the hoist edge a blue sleeve. The next flag issue was the Army of Northern Virginia cotton flags, also of 12 stars. These were made in April, 1862 and given to three brigades as a stop gap measure. The next issue of this flag in 1862 was made of heavy English wool bunting. They would now proclaim 13 stars for 13 states.

The first wool bunting flags were made in May 1862, Second Wool bunting flags in June (both with orange borders) and Third Wool bunting flags (with white borders for the first time) from July 1862 until May 1864. Fourth Wool bunting flags (these were the only ones that were 51 inches square) came in June 1864 with later bunting issues beginning in October through March 1865. The Army of Northern Virginia flew 9 variants of their battle flag during the war.

Some of the regimental flags would have the regimental designation painted in gold on the blue cross above and below the central star. The regimental battle honors were painted in blue on the red field of the flag. Further researchers point out that most Army of Northern Virginia flags were unmarked by honors or unit designations. Only those units in the 1863 divisions of D. H. Hill, A. P. Hill and Edward Johnson (issued April, May and September 1863 respectively) had flags done with the gold letters over the center stars and blue honors on the field. Pickett’s Division received flags in June 1863 with white painted unit designations on their fields. Some brigades, like Cox’s North Carolina Brigade, Kershaw’s South Carolina Brigade and a few others had their own flags done in particular manners, most with honors only, either painted on the flag in white or blue letters or sewn on strips.

Battle Flags used on land by Confederate troops were usually in three sizes:

INFANTRY FLAG: This flag was the largest size a 48 inches to a square side.
ARTILLERY FLAG: This flag was the middle size. 36 inches to a square side
CAVALRY FLAG: This flag was the smallest size. 30 inches to a square side
These measurements include the borders which were folded over the exterior of the field of the flag. In May through September, 1863 the infantry flags were only about 45 inches square to save scarce imported bunting. Also in many cases the artillery used infantry sized flags.

The different sizes of the flags made it easier for the commanders to not only tell what combat unit was where, but it also told the commander what type of unit it was. The Battle Flag was always in front of the regiment. This way the soldiers in the regiment always knew where they were to be. Should a soldier ever be separated from his unit, all he had to do was look for his regiment’s flag.

It was indeed the intent of Generals Beauregard and Johnston to permeate the Army of Northern Virginia flag all over the South in the field armies but both men met resistance from commands in other areas that had already created their own distinctive battle flags and so their efforts were mixed in terms of results.

The Armies of Tennessee, Mississippi, the states departments, and the Trans-Mississippi Department all had variations on size, shape color and markings on its battle flags. Many CSA battle flags were created by other unit commanders for the same reasons the Army of Northern Virginia flag was, to settle battlefield confusion. General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop, created his flag (a St. George’s cross) in 2 versions for his corps; General Hardee’s Corps used the famous “moon” flag of a white device (circle, oval or rectilinear, depending on when issued) on a blue field (the flag was actually invented by General Simon Bolivar Buckner); General Braxton Bragg’s Corps used flags inspired by the Army of Northern Virginia flag but with 12 six-pointed stars on it; Breckenridge’s Corps used First Nationals well into 1863 as their battle flags; Bowen’s Missouri Division used blue flags with red borders and a white Latin cross on it; Van Dorn’s Army of the West used a Middle Eastern looking flag with a red field, either yellow or white stars and borders.

As for flags inspired by the Army of Northern Virginia flag, The Army of Tennessee (Army of Tennessee ) flag of 1864 was supposed to be square also like the Army of Northern Virginia (as per Johnston’s orders to the Atlanta Depot) but the depot goofed and they came back rectangular. The flags of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi & East Louisiana ( the command unit for Polk’s Army of Mississippi, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps and others) were also slightly rectangular but with only 12 stars. These were made in Mobile by contractors Jackson Belknap and to a lesser extent James Cameron. Neither flag had colored borders. The flags of the Department of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia were also Army of Northern Virginia flag inspired but were built differently. These square flags were made by the Charleston Depot and began showing up in April 1863. They can be discerned easily from Army of Northern Virginia flags by their wider cross and colored pole sleeves of red or blue (Army of Northern Virginia flags were tied to the poles).

Other Army of Northern Virginia inspired flags, both square and rectangular appeared in ad hoc situations in the west and Trans-Mississippi theaters. The most unique were the flags of General John G. Walker’s Texas Division issued in 1864. These were square, blue flags with red St. Andrews crosses and 13 stars. Other battle flags bore no resemblance to anything else previously known but contained usually a device that was prominent to the troops that carried them.

All three national flags also served as unit battle flags, particularly in the West and Trans-Mississippi theaters. The First National flag, despite being changed officially in May 1863, was actually the only Confederate flag pattern that saw battle use from the beginning to the end of the war. Examples were taken at Appomattox, in North Carolina, and in battles of the 1864 campaigns.

Flags were carried into the field by COLOR BEARERS. And surrounded by a COLOR GUARD. The man carrying the flag could not use a weapon to defend the flag or himself, so an armed guard was provided to defend the flag and barrier from attack or capture by the enemy. It was considered a great honor to be appointed to a position of such great responsibility. Being in the COLOR GUARD was also a great honor and responsibility. The COLOR barrier had to hold the flag up straight even in a strong wind.

C. Parts of the Battle Flag

The “HOIST” of a flag is the front side of the flag that is attached to a line so the flag can be hoisted up a flag pole or staff, or the mast of a ship.

The “FLY” of a flag is the length of the flag. It’s called a FLY because it flies in the breeze.

The “FLY END” of a flag in the end furthest away from the flag pole or staff, or the mast of a ship.

The “BORDER” of the flag is the fabric that is around the outside edge of the flag. It is used to keep the fabric of the flag from fraying. In this illustration the BORDER is white. Not all flags of the same kind had the same color BORDER. Not all flags have a BORDER.

The “FIELD” of the flag is the main (background) color of the flag. In this example the FIELD is red with a white border.

The “FIMBRATION” of the flag is the narrow white strip between the blue SALTIER and the red FIELD of the flag. This FIMBRATION was used because the rules of heraldry prohibit the use of color on color. It is used to separate the colors. of the flag.

The “SALTIER” of the flag is the large blue X on the flag. It is also know as the Southern Cross, the Greek Cross and the Cross of St. Andrew.

The “MULLETT” of the flag is another name for STAR. In this example the MULLETTS on the flag are the white stars on the blue SALTIER. The Confederate First National flag shows you what the flag’s CANTON is. It is that area of the flag that has the circle of white MULLETTS on the blue background.

D. Some Battle Flag Variations-Southern Cross type (most illustrations from Mr. Cannon’s book for educational use, not for commercial reprint)



12 Star Battle Flag: Several of these styles of Battle Flags were used in the Western Theater. These flags were larger than most of the Confederate Infantry flags as they are about 60" square.



Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag #2: This is a sample of a 2nd Bunting issue early in 1862 with thirteen stars. The Richmond Clothing Depot had a large quantity of orange material that was used to border the flag on its upper, lower, and fly edges. Other issues had yellow as shown here. The hoist edge was white.



Army of Tennessee: Similar in design to the Army of Northern Virginia  Battle Flag except the Army of Tennessee  flag is rectangular. Average dimensions were 36 x 52 inches. Artillery flags were smaller averaging 30 x 42 inches. General Joseph E. Johnston tried to standardize the Army of Tennessee  flags in use by issuing flags along this design in March and April 1864.



Bragg’s Corps, Army of Mississippi-Pattern #1: Prior to Shiloh each of the Corps commanders of the Army of of Mississippi (later called the Army of Tennessee) were issued separate and distinctive Battle Flags. (Hardee, Bragg, Polk, and Breckenridge). Bragg’s Corps flags had a distinctive wide pink border. The flags were a little taller than wider, (about 48 x 45) with twelve six pointed stars (at least one exception had five pointed stars). These flags were used by most of Bragg’s troops at Shiloh.



Bragg’s Corps, Army of Mississippi-Pattern #2: The second issue of the Bragg’s Corps flag was a rectangle pattern. This second pattern flag flew through the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863.



Shelby’s Missouri Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department: A silk Battle Flag that is bordered in white with red silk fringe. General Shelby did not surrender his division in 1865. Instead he led approximately 200 men, who did not chose to be reconstructed, across Texas toward their destination of Mexico. On 4 July 1865, General Shelby’s men had reached the Rio Grande River. He had his men weight their flags down with rocks and sink them in the river and they left Texas soil. One flag survives today as it was rescued and hidden by one of the soldiers who could not leave it behind.



General Richard Taylor Battle Flag, Trans-Mississippi Department: This is often called a "reversal" flag due to the coloration. General Taylor flew this flag in operations in West Louisiana in 1864 and 1865. Several Texas regiments are known to have flown similar flags.



Western Theater, Trans-Mississippi Department: A common flag with many slight variations of the Trans-Mississippi Department, especially with Texas cavalry regiments.

E. Additional Confederate Military Flags



1st Confederate Naval Jack (4 March 1861-26 May 1863)The jack was flown from a "jack staff" located on the bow of a ship, and was only flown when the ship was in port. The Naval Jack denoted the ship was a ship of war




2nd Confederate Naval Jack (27 May 1863-present) . The naval regulations of 1863 adopted the new National Ensign and also adopted a new Naval Jack. It was to be the same as the regimental battle flags, except its length was to be one and a half times its width. The Naval jack of 1863 is very much like the Battle Flag of several units of the Army of Tennessee.



Cherokee Braves, Trans-Mississippi Department: This special flag’s history commemorated the signing of a treaty with the Cherokee Nation on 7 October 1861. This is a "Stars and Bars" variation. A cluster of five red stars was added to represent the five "Civilized" Indian Nations which were aligned with the Confederacy. There is a similar flag that survives which was flown by the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles.


Choctaw Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department: This was another Confederate Indian flag on a blue field were found a red disk, edged in white. In white silhouette on the red disk were represented traditional weapons of the Choctaw Nation. These were the bow, arrow, and a tomahawk.



General Cleburne’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee: The regiments of Cleburne’s division had fought with the blue battle flags of Hardee’s Corps. When Johnston decreed a new battle flag for the regiments of the Army of Tennessee in 1864, Cleburne protested. He won the right for his division to be exempted from the order. General Cleburne ordered fresh flags of the Hardee type to reequip his division. These new flags however, featured painted battle honors in white on a medium blue field. The oval disc of the dark-blue Hardee flags became a smaller square with rounded corners. Many regiments printed their designation in this rounded square.




Department of East Tennessee: This 1862 flag featured the St. Andrew’s cross. This flag, seeing significant fighting, was quickly superceded by the more dominant Corps designs of the Army of Tennessee. These flags were somewhat crudely made and marked. This flag was seen as late as December 1862 at the battle Murfreesboro.



General Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee: This was the distinctively designed Battle Flag of the troops under General William J. Hardee’s command. It was flown from the battle of Shiloh in 1862 until just after the battle of Missionary Ridge. The round disk was later changed to an oval and even some oval shapes that resembled a square with rounded shoulders (Cleburne’s Division). Often the regiments would paint their unit designation on the disk and their battle honors on the blue field or on the white border.



3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry: This was another of the Christian Confederate flag themes. A blue field with a red Roman cross, with white five point stars placed in the cross.



"Missouri" Battle Flag, Trans-Mississippi Department: This flag was found almost exclusively with Missouri regiments in the Department, and that is why it is often called the "Missouri" Battle Flag. The flag was blue bordered with red with a white Roman cross near the hoist of the flag.



General Dabney Maury’s Headquarters Flag. This flag was used for a time by General Maury, Department of the Gulf, at his headquarters in Mobile, AL from around 1863- the capture of the city in late in the war.  Another example of the Christian theme and principles emulated by the Confederate Armies.



General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters Flag, Army of Northern Virginia. The cotton and wool bunting flag was used by Robert E. Lee during the early part of the War. It flew only over stationary camps, not on the battlefield. At the end of the War the flag was found stored with the Confederate War Department’s records, packed among captured Federal colors. It is possible that the flag, or at least its odd star arrangement, was produced by the general’s wife.




General Leonidas Polk’s Corps, Army of Tennessee: The Confederate General and Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana chose this Battle Flag. The Episcopal Church flag is a red cross of St. George. It is featured as the central device in Polk’s Corps flag. The is a white fimbriation to separate the cross from the blue field and white stars representing the Confederate states are placed on the red cross.



Sons of Erin, 10th Tennessee Infantry CSA: An Irish Brigade formed in Nashville.  The words "Go Where Glory Waits You" are on the lower ribbon.  Also known as the "Bloody 10th" for the heavy losses it sustained in the fighting at Ft. Donaldson. Most are familiar with the role of Irish troops in the Northern army, but less is known about Irish troops in Confederate service. The entire regiment at this time was furnished with new uniforms by Lt. Col. McGavock, who was the former mayor of Nashville. The uniforms were carefully described by Private Jimmy Doyle in his diary, which has been preserved. Although the 10th Tennessee was considered one of the best equipped regiments in the war’s Western Theater, its troops were armed at this time with flintlock muskets from the War of 1812.



General Van Dorn’s Corp, Trans-Mississippi Department: This western theater flag had a red field adorned with thirteen white stars arranged in five rows, with a white crescent in the upper corner. The flags were bordered in yellow and/or white. Used at the Battle of Coritnth, MS, October 1862.

References and Details:

“The Flags of the Confederacy, An Illustrated History” by Devereaux D. Cannon Jr.
“Flags of the Confederacy Website http://www.ConfederateFlags.org
” The Flag Of The Confederate States Of America” Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXXVIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1910
“Flags Over Georgia” Georgia Office of the Secretary of State
“Flags of the American Civil War: Confederate” by Philip Katcher, Rick Scollins
“Flags of the American Civil War: State and Volunteer”, by Philip Katcher, Rick Scollins
“The Battle Flags of the Confederate Army of Tennessee” by Howard Michael Madaus
“The Civil History Of The Confederate States” Confederate Military History, Vol. 1
“The Morale of the Confederate Armies-The Confederation Of The Southern States”, Confederate Military History, Vol. 12 Chapter X
“Colours of the Gray”, by Rebecca Ansell Rose
“The Damned Red Flags of the Rebellion: The Confederate Battle Flag at Gettysburg”, by Richard Rollins
“Embattled Banner: A Reasonable Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag”, by Don Hinkle
“Rebel Flags Afloat: A Survey of the Surviving Flags of the Confederate States Navy, Revenue Service, and Merchant Marine”, by Howard Madaus
“The Returned Battle Flags”, by Richard Rollins

F. Heritage Preservation Arguments Regarding Confederate Flags

The symbols of the Confederacy and Confederate flags are under attack from groups in American. The following Arguments 1 through 7 are copyrighted (1996-1997 All Rights Reserved) by the Heritage Preservation Association are shared by permission for educational purposes. The Heritage Preservation Association has organized counter attack arguments against those out to destroy Southern culture and its symbols. Some arguments border on absurd and others appear on the surface to have merit unless you take a minute to study a little deeper. The most common arguments given for removing, changing or censoring a Confederate symbols are here presented. Immediately following each argument, is a logical response that successfully refutes the argument, demonstrating why it usually fails in its mission to convince.

Argument #1 “Since the Ku Klux Klan fly the Confederate flag, it has become a symbol of hatred, racism and intolerance. We cannot let our state or school or community, etc. project an image of racism by flying a Confederate battle flag or something that contains the Confederate battle flag.”

First, many in the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) do not fly the Confederate battle flag. In fact, only a small number actually use a Confederate flag. However, we are told that KKK bylaws require the U.S. flag and the Christian flag to be present at every event. Most people are not aware that the largest KKK membership is in the North and it has been that way since the early 1900s. Mr. Boyd Lewis, a Klan expert who spoke at DeKalb College in Atlanta, states that at the height of Klan power, “Indiana had the largest Klan population with over 2 million members between 1915-1916,” (71). Most KKK groups prefer to use a U.S. flag or a Christian flag, yet oddly enough, no one is calling for the permanent censorship of those symbols! (at left is KKK 1920 in Washington DC.)

Americans have been programmed, by the liberal media, into believing that the KKK is only a “Southern Thing” and that only Southern symbols must pay for the Klan’s transgressions. A free-lance photographer and friend once related with frustration at how the newspapers never buy or use his photographs if they show the Klan carrying a U.S. flag. “They only want to use the photographs that show a Confederate flag.” Based on the magnitude of media bias that would have us believe the Confederate flag and the Klan go hand-in-hand, although incorrect, it is understandable why people have the perceptions they do. However, those perceptions are based on false information, and it is the perception that must be changed, not the symbol that has been victimized by the perception.

At one time, man had the perception that the earth was flat. This was because his eyes were giving his brain false information, which was also fed by the many stories told and retold by sailors at sea. However, once we acquired accurate geographical information, we were forced to change our perception and accept the fact that the earth was not flat, but round. We must likewise change our false perceptions of Confederate symbols as being symbols of the Klan, when it truth, they are not.

Second, the use of a symbol by a person or group, does not convey the characteristics of that person or group to that symbol. For example, Malcolm X and the nation of Islam were indisputably, the black equivalent of David Duke and the Klan. Both lived and preached racial hatred. Both claimed to have found religion and converted. If the Confederate flag symbolizes the Klan’s white racism against blacks, then we must interpret the “X” of Malcolm X, emblazoned on the clothes of many black consumers, as being symbolic of Malcolm X’s black racism against whites. Intolerance of one symbol insures the intolerance of the other.

Argument #2 “Confederate symbols represented history at one time, but Confederate-Americans have not acted to protect the sanctity of their symbols from use and abuse by hate groups, thereby Southerners have forfeited their claim to these symbols.”

Southerners never willingly gave up their symbols 130 years ago and the same is true today. The abduction of our symbols by another group, does not constitute forfeiture, especially when there is no recourse for preventing their use by another group. Ironically, the same liberals who burn and abuse the U.S. flag and Confederate flags, are the same ones who work to overthrow the laws that are designed to protect those symbols from abuse.

Even when the flag being abused is the U.S. flag, the courts have ruled that laws against such abuse are unconstitutional. If there is no recourse for protecting the U.S. flag from abuse by hate groups, how can any flag be protected? If the Nation of Islam marches with the black liberation flag, should we assume that this flag now represents the same racism and anti-Semitism espoused by this “hate group

Argument #3 “Confederate symbols should not be honored because they are cruel reminders of the by-gone era of slavery and slave-trade.”

Slavery was a legal institution in this country for over 200 years. Africans were brought here by northern slave traders to be used in northern industry, long before the antebellum South or the Confederacy ever existed. The first American colony to legalize slavery was Massachusetts in 1641, only 17 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. “The slave trade became very profitable to the shipping colonies and Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire had many ships in the triangular trade,” (72). “The moral argument against slavery arose early in the New England shipping colonies but it could not withstand the profits of the trade and soon died out.” (73).

Thomas Jefferson condemned the slave trade in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but the New England slave traders lobbied to have the clause stricken. In a short eleven year period form 1755 to 1766, no fewer than 23,000 slaves landed in Massachusetts. By 1787, Rhode Island had taken first place in the slave trade to be unseated later by New York. Before long, millions of slaves would be brought to America by way of ‘northern’ slave ships. After all, there were no Southern slave ships involved in the triangular slave, it was simply too cruel.

William P. Cheshire, the senior editorial columnist for the Arizona Republic recently noted, the New England Yankee who brought slaves to America, “were interested in getting money, not in helping their cargo make a fresh start in the New World.” He adds that northern slave ownership “isn’t widely known – American textbooks tend to be printed in Boston, not Atlanta – but early New Englanders not only sold blacks to Southern planters but also kept slaves for themselves as well as enslaving the local Indian population,” (74).

Slavery did not appear in the deep South until northern settlers began to migrate South, bringing with them their slaves. It was soon discovered that while slaves were not suited to the harsh climate and working conditions of the north, they were ideal sources of cheap labor for the newly flourishing economy of the agricultural South. Of the 9.5 million slaves brought to the Western Hemisphere from 1500 – 1870, less than 6% were brought to the United States. This means that our Hispanic, British and French neighbors to the south owned over 94% of the slaves brought to the New World. In the South, less than 7% of the total population ever owned a slave. In other words, over 93% of Southerners did not own any slaves, (75).

Attempts to outlaw the slave trade in the north only increased the profits of smuggling. In 1858, only two years prior to the birth of the Confederacy, Stephen Douglas noted that over 15,000 slaves had been smuggled into New York alone, with over 85 vessels sailing from New York in 1859 to smuggle even more slaves. Perhaps it was their own guilt that drove the abolitionists of the day to point an accusing finger at the South, while closing their eyes to the slavery and the slave trade taking place in their own back yards.

For more than 200 years, northern slave traders mad enormous profits that furnished the capitol for future investments into mainstream industries. Who is more responsible for slavery in America, the Southern plantation owner who fed and clothed his slaves, or the New England “Yankee” slave trader who brought the slaves here in the first place?

From 1641, when Massachusetts first legalized slavery, until 1865, when the Confederate struggle for independence ended, slavery was a legal institution in America that lasted over 224 years. The Confederate battle flag flew for 4 of those 224 years, but the U.S. flag and its colonial predecessors flew over legalized slavery for ALL of those 224 years. It was the U.S. flag that the slave first saw, and it was the U.S. flag that flew on the mast of New England slaves ships as they brought their human cargo to this country. It is clear, that those who attack the Confederate flag as a reminder of slavery are overlooking the most guilty and hateful of all reminders of American slavery, the U.S. flag.

72. The Concise Dictionary of American History, (Scribner & Sons), p.876
73. Ibid
74. The Arizona Republic, June 11, 1995
75. Rober William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross – The Economics of American Negro Slavery (New York: Norton, 1974), p.14

Argument #4 “Confederate symbols should not be tolerated because they represent a government that fought a war to keep blacks in bondage and to preserve the institution of slavery.”

This is one of the most commonly used arguments against Confederate symbolism and on of the easiest to prove false. Everyone knows that the South (and the North) had slavery until 1865. The north had slavery at least until 1866, due to some holdouts like Union General Ulysses S. Grant who refused to give up his slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment.

Prior to 1866, slavery was completely legal. The Supreme Court had ruled favorably on the legality and constitutionality of slavery. Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln both promised many times, that they would not interfere with the practice of slavery. New laws were recently put on the books protecting slave owners from loss of slave property due to theft or runaways. Add to that, the fact that the Confederate states constituted the fifth wealthiest region in the world. The slave owning states had all of these things and more. So why on earth would Southern states secede from the United States? Surely, no one believes that the South would have left the security of the Union and gone to fight a war for something they already had! Countries do not fight wars for the things they have, they fight wars to obtain the things they do not have.

To emphasize how safe the institution of slavery was, let’s look at what it would have taken to eliminate it. Since slavery was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, it would require a constitutional amendment and that is very difficult to achieve. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must agree to the amendment and then three-fourths of all the states must vote to ratify the amendment before it can become part of the U.S. Constitution. This simply would never have happened as long as the Southern states stayed in the Union! That’s right, with the South in the Union, the northern and Southern slave states would have voted down any attempt to amend the Constitution, thereby guaranteeing that the institution of slavery could continue almost indefinitely. So you see, it is quite easy to prove that the South did not secede and fight a war to maintain slavery, an institution they already possessed.

What the South did not have was financial freedom. Southerners were slaves to the industrial demands of the north, just as blacks were slaves to the agricultural demands of the South. Growth potential was severely limited in the South, so long as the north continued to levy heavy tariffs on things that Southerners needed to purchase and heavy taxes on those things that Southerners produced. In the words of South Carolina senator John C. Calhoun in 1850, “The north has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements, in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed on the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the north … The South as the great exporting portion of the Union has, in reality, paid vastly more than her due proportion of the revenue,”(76). Unfair taxation drove Americans to war with Britain in 1775 and against each other in 1861. History is quite clear on this point.

76. John C. Calhoun, “Speech on the Slavery Question,” March 4, 1850 in Edwin Rozweus., The Causes of the Civil War (Boston 1961), p. 4

Argument #5 “Since Confederate symbols were erected and raised in defiance of court ordered integration during the 1950’s and 60′, they should be removed.”

This argument goes hand-in-hand with those who try to portray the 1950’s, especially in the South, as a decade of hate. This approach was popular with “civil rights” groups in Georgia as well as the liberal media. The Georgia state flag, for example, was changed in 1956. Those who want the flag changed today, claim that the current state flag was established as a slap in the face of court ordered integration, even though records indicate otherwise.

Integration was ordered by the courts in 1952. If Georgia legislators were angry over integration, it would not have taken them four years to change the Georgia flag. If defiance had been the reason for the flag’s change, it would have been changed the very same day as the court decision! After all, opposing integration in the 1950’s was a popular position to hold, and it earned votes for politicians, both in the north and the South.

The formula for providing quality education has always been an illusive one with many variables. In the 1950’s, some of those variables discussed by the members of the state legislatures in the north and the South included teacher salaries, improved curriculum, funding for new schools and integration. Any state whose elected officials did not thoroughly debate how court ordered integration might effect quality education was done a serious disservice.

Yes, debates over segregation and integration took place during the 1950’s, but the timing of those debates was chosen by the civil rights movement and not by the defenders of segregation who would have preferred that the debates never occur at all. Had the courts ordered integration 50 years earlier or 50 years later, the 1950’s would have still been a decade of heritage not hate.

In the 1950’s and especially the South, a nationwide preparation for the “Civil War Centennial” had begun. This event would include many states with activities spanning several years. The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta paled in comparison to the celebration surrounding the historic centennial event.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a special proclamation calling on all state and federal employees to take part in the festivities. The Postal Service issued a special set of stamps to commemorate the event. Knowing that many visitors coming to the South would take guided tours, hundreds and thousands of historic markers were also placed throughout the 1950’s in many states.

The decade of the 1950’s saw an enormous outpouring of Southern awareness that had its beginnings in the late 1930’s with the incredible success of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, “Gone With The Wind” and its subsequent movie premier in Atlanta. Hailed as an overwhelming success, this classic and moving story of the South’s struggle for independence and then survival, continues to serve as an inspiration to millions of Americans today.

Argument #6 “Confederate flags are un-American and they do not represent all Americans.”

It is impossible to find a symbol of a flag that will represent everyone. The most accurate polls to date show that 87% of all Americans are not offended by Confederate symbolism. Many Americans feel that they are best represented by a Confederate flag.

Actions that appease 13% of our population while disenfranchising 87% of our population, are not progressive or democratic. Nor are they very savvy from a political point of view. When You have a symbol that is as popular as the Confederate battle flag, the best solution is to simply leave it alone.

Any person who claims that Confederate flags are un-American needs a remedial course in geography. “America” as we refer to it, consists of all 50 states, not just those that exist in the north. Southerners are Americans and their flags are American flags as well. A patriotic symbol is one that represents freedom and virtue to its owner, not necessarily to others who view the symbol.

If the Confederate battle flag makes you feel patriotic and proud to be a Southern, then it is just as patriotic to fly a Confederate flag at your home or place of business as it is to fly the flag of the United States.

Argument #7 “What’s the big deal? It’s only a flag. Besides, you have all of those monuments, memorials, markers, etc. to remind you of the Confederacy – Can’t we find a compromise?”

The issue of whether to fly a Confederate battle flag is only the “tip of the iceberg”. We are now seeing children abused in schools for wearing clothing with a portrait of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson or a likeness of a Confederate symbol, not only by roving gangs of black students, but by the administrators as well. We have seen numerous efforts by various groups to change street names, remove Confederate monuments, censor the playing of Dixie (a song written by a Northerner) and otherwise purge our society of an visible remembrances of Southern Heritage.

The tactic employed by the NAACP on a national level went like this. In one state, the NAACP would claim it was only the flag they wanted to remove. In another state, they would claim it was only a monument, or this, or that, trying to minimize the importance of their claim by contradicting or ignoring what the other NAACP spokesperson had said. In other words, they would use any means necessary to remove a Confederate symbol from its place of honor. The Heritage Preservation Association was the first “national” civil rights organization for Southern Heritage and we exposed this ploy of the NAACP for what it was. This forced the NAACP to go public with their true intentions in 1991 by stating it was their goal to remove ALL Confederate symbols from public property. No more lies. No more hidden agendas. It was now out in the open!

At the state or local level, their tactic was to strike with the absurd and then back off just enough to give the appearance of a “willingness to compromise”. This ploy usually starts with a “civil rights” leader or group coming out with ridiculous proposals for censoring Southern symbols, knowing and expecting that these proposals will meet with opposition. The to show their “charity” and “flexibility”, they offer a “compromise” that amounts to something less, but still hideous in the eyes of those who must give something up.

Civil rights leaders in Georgia, for example, declared that the Georgia state flag was not historic since it was only 35 or so years old. They wanted the Georgia state flag removed, but as a “compromise” they would allow it to be flown on special historic days. While this may sound charitable and rational to those who dislike Confederate symbols, it was unacceptable to everyone else. The HPA mirrored their efforts by suggesting “in the spirit of compromise” that the black community give up Martin Luther King Holiday, Black History Month in public schools and Kwaanza. For those unfamiliar with Kwaanza, it is a pagan harvest ritual, claiming to have African roots and celebrated during Christmas by a few blacks. It was invented only a decade or so ago, so it really has no historical importance, and is considered by many to be un-American. These civil rights leaders became furious that we would suggest that they give up anything. We were supposed to be grateful that they didn’t start another race riot like the one Atlanta witnessed during the Rodney King fiasco. We flatly refused, and the media portrayed us, the victims, as “unwilling to compromise”.

In Danville VA, a black city council woman complained that a Confederate flag was flying in front of the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy Museum and Memorial”, so the city took it down. Apparently, Southerners are not supposed to fly Confederate flags anymore, even at Confederate museums. The flag had been flying approximately 250 days a year. A “compromise” was to fly the flag 23 days out of the year and those days would not be known. HPA and local residents were shocked and angry. A local HPA chapter was formed and within a year, had worked to elect one of their own to the city council. Knowing that HPA would replace them one-by-one, the city council became frantic to find a solution that would meet with HPA’s approval. They did. There is now a Confederate monument where none stood before, and we have our Confederate flag proudly flying, not 23 days a year, or 250 days a year, but 365 days a year! Now that is what HPA calls compromise.

In South Carolina, we have another prime example of the dangers of compromise. Civil rights leaders wanted the Confederate battle flag removed from the State House dome in Columbia where if flies underneath the U.S. and state flags. To counter this, numerous “pro-Southern” leaders in other organizations introduced yet another compromise that would remove the flag from the dome and place it next to a monument on the capitol grounds.

But the monument had already been the target of the NAACP. In other words, these so-called leaders were willing to reduce the visibility of a Confederate symbol, give the civil rights leaders what they wanted by removing it from the State House dome, and place it next to a monument targeted for removal and in a location where it would surely be vandalized. The HPA exposed this “compromise” as cowardly, unthinkable, and unacceptable. Even after the flag was “compromised” and moved the the Confederate monument on the statehouse grounds, the NAACP continues it actions of economic terrorism against the State of South Carolina.

We have learned over the years, and through many attempts to negotiate a solution, that those who attack Southern Heritage are themselves, unwilling to compromise. They expect Southerners away their heritage, but they are not willing to give them anything in return. If we start giving in on any issue, then all symbols of the South will gradually disappear. Compromise has become the gradual dismantling of Southern Heritage – one symbol at a time.
simple test for the worthiness of any offer to compromise is to determine the resulting visibility of the Confederate symbol being challenged. After all, a true compromise is where both sides win something or both sides lose something. If one side wins and the other loses, that, by definition, is not a compromise but a defeat. Any solution that reduces the value, validity or visibility of a Confederate symbol is not a compromise and therefore unacceptable.

Argument #8 “The Confederacy committed treason when it seceded from and fought against the Union. Why should we tolerate the symbols that serve to glorify this treasonous regime?”

Similar arguments have been used for centuries when one regime seeks to purge the symbols of a previous civilization. In Russia, “the urge to purge” was all powerful as communist extremists, first under Lenin and then Stalin began renaming, in their own honor, towns, cities, streets, and other historic landmarks. Old monuments and memorials were destroyed and new ones took their place. For example, St. Petersburg, the beautiful seaport city named after Saint Peter, was renamed Leningrad. Statues of Lenin began to replace the previous statues that honored religious deities or the royal families, whose leadership originally brought Russian to the brink of greatness, only to see it destroyed by communism and left wing political ideology. Under Stalin, more pagan self-worship was evident as the city of Volgograd was renamed Stalingrad. Mount Communism became Stalin Peak and so on, until all traces of previous greatness were wiped clean or unrecognizable.

The charge of treason, against Southern states who sought only their freedom, is an old charge that was settled long ago. It was taken from the “trunk of tyranny” and dusted off for presentation only when it became evident that current arguments for removing Confederate symbols were failing to convince the majority of Americans. The charge of treason was proven false over 140 years ago, and if necessary, it will be proven so again.

The great emotions which engulfed the participants in the War for Southern Independence can only be understood from their vantage point. Those alive in 1861 were the grandchildren of the men and women of the American Revolution. They were the recipients of the stories and lore of the fight for independence as told by their aging grandfathers. They named their children for Washington, Jefferson, Henry and the other patriots.

When issues again caused serious citizens to consider a new declaration of independence, there was not a man alive who did not believe in the words of the original Declaration of Independence, that a people had a God given right to throw off a government that they believed oppressive. The spirit with which Southerners decided to declare independence in 1860 and 1861 was the same as that which led to the break with Britain in 1775.

On January 12, 1848, Abraham Lincoln from Illinois, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke openly of a state’s right to secede, declaring “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better … This most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.” Many northern leaders also advocated the rights of secession even though they would later fight a war to prevent the Southern states from exercising those rights.
With due credit, President Abraham Lincoln made no pretense that his actions in invading the Confederate States of America were legal, constitutional, or even right, for that matter. He simply believed that he must prevent the formation of a new and powerful nation to his Southern border. Lincoln sought to preserve “his view” of the Union. After his victory over the South, there were no treason trials, even though some radicals in Congress wanted them.

Jefferson Davis had served as a U.S. Senator for many years and as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce before becoming the President of the Confederate States of America. After the war’s end, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was found and arrested in South Georgia on May 10, 1865. Lincoln had already been assassinated on April 14 and the north was driven crazy with hatred for the South, demanding Davis’ head on a platter.

Held illegally in a military prison for several years, Davis was charge but never tried for treason. The U.S. Supreme Court simply refused to sanction it. They knew that what the Southern states did was not treason, but an attempt to exercise their constitutional rights. If Jefferson Davis were brought to trial, it would only serve to prove the South’s innocence and the north’s guilt. While imprisoned, support for Davis poured in from all over the world. From the Vatican, Pope Pius IX sent Davis a “Crown of Thorns” made with his own hands, to symbolize Davis’ sacrifice for the cause of freedom. This crown can be seen today on display at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans.

This whole “treason” affair had be come and embarrassment to the north, so Jefferson Davis was finally released on May 11, 1867. He passed into immortality on December 6, 1889. No one in the Confederacy was ever convicted on charges of treason against the United States. It was determined, that Man’s quest for freedom was not treason in 1865, and these writers believe that most Americans feel the same today.

The Heritage Preservation Association (HPA) is a national nonprofit organization utilizing educational resources along with legal and political action to protect and preserve the symbols, culture and heritage of the American South. HPA has members in 49 states and 6 countries with chapters in 10 states.
References and Details:

Heritage Preservation Association, P.O. Box 347252, Atlanta, GA 30334, Tel: (404) 435-5184, email: http://www.hpa.org/emailhpa.htm website http://www.hpa.org/main.htm

Part 8 Questions:

In short essay format give and support an opinion for at least six of these questions:

1. What is the difference between a Confederate National Flag and a Battle Flag?

2. What problems arose, causing the need for a more uniform Battle Flag to be adapted in the Army of Northern Virginia?

3. Why were there so many variations within the various battle flags?

4. Why do so many Confederate Flags use some sort of Christian symbolism to represent them?

5. Why were state flag variations so popular in the early war?

6. Explain the significant symbolism of the Great Seal of the Confederacy.

7. Often in error, Confederate Battle flags are referred to as “The Stars and Bars”, therefore explain, compare and contrast the correct flag type “Stars and Bars” and the correct flag type know as the “Southern Cross”.

8. What were some of the common alternations that a regiment or company may have made to their Battle Flag?

9. Why do so many special interests groups seem to want to eradicate Confederate symbols including the battle flag?

10. Take a common argument against the use of Confederate symbols, analyze the facts, and draw your own conclusion to their use.