Find a Security Clearance Job!


Confederate Flag

"Confederate flags and post-war, reunion-era flags are not hate banners, which makes them very unlike the flags used in Hitler's spread of hate, racism, and death. Not only did Nazi flags act as military signals, they also trumpeted Hitler's master plan and that of the Nazi Party, which was to wipe from the earth those who did not fit the Aryan mold. Confederate flags, in stark contrast, were devised by the Confederate government, during wartime, when need arose to devise signals for the Confederate Army and Navy. These men were fighting to protect their families, homes, and land, from a national government that didn't seem to understand them. Slavery was an unfortunate and unforgivable part of that for some men and women, but most didn't own plantations or slaves. Most were God-fearing people who were not looking to spread hate. That is the key difference in the American South of the nineteenth century and the men of the Third Reich."

On the 13th of November, 1860, just a week after the election of Lincoln, a torchlight procession paraded the streets of Columbia, South Carolina, and the Stars and Stripes was lowered from the State House, and the palmetto flag raised in its place. On the day when the ordinance of secession was passed, the convention adopted a new banner for the "independent commonwealth." It was composed of red and blue silk, the former being the ground of the standard, and the latter, in the form of a cross, bearing fifteen stars. The larger star was for South Carolina. In one upper corner was a white crescent moon, and in the other a palmetto-tree. A small medal was also struck to commemorate the event.

One of the earliest banners recorded in Charleston was of blue silk bearing a single gold star and was presented by Capt. F. W. Wagoner to the German Artillerj- on Nov. 9th. On the 11th a white flag was cast to the breeze from the flagpole of the Courier office on East Bay : this bore a palmetto tree on one side, a single star on the other, with the inscription: * South Carolina has moved, other States must follow.'

As the symbol of State sovereignty the convention adopted a silk flag with a red field bearing a blue cross on which were set fifteen stars for the fifteen slaveholding States. One of these stars, central and larger than the others, represented South Carolina. On the red field was a palmetto and crescent. In anticipation of the action of the Columbia convention the ladies of Charleston purchased material and made what is claimed to be secession's first flag, to help celebrate that momentous event, and hoisted it on the staff of the customhouse, in that city, on the 21st of December. The flag is 8 feet long by 6 feet broad with a Turkey red field bearing a large five-pointed white star near the center, and a crescent, in white, in the upper corner next to the staff.

The public criticized the flag for several reasons, but the main objection was its resemblance to the Turkish flag. It was then remodeled, and our State Legislature adopted it in its changed form as the flag of Sovereignty of South Carolina. In its new form, it had the cross of St. George, in blue, as its main quartering, the cross on the upright, as well as transverse, being studded with white stars, each star to represent a state of the Confederacy.

When the legislature of Louisiana assembled at Baton Rouge on the 21st of January, 1861, a flag with fifteen stars, one for each of the slave States, was raised over the State House. The convention subsequently adopted a State flag which is described as " A flag of thirteen horizontal stripes, - four blue, six white, and three red, commencing with the blue at the top, and alternating with the white. The union was red, with its sides equal to the width of the seven upper stripes, and resting on a white stripe; in its centre was a single pale yellow, five-pointed star.

At the commencement of the war, as the companies were organized, many of them were presented flags emblazoned with figures and mottoes emblematic of the sentiments of the time, and presentations of flags to regiments and companies were not entirely abandoned even after the Southern cross had been adopted for the battle flag. A multiplicity of designs came into use, and a few of them were carried until the close of the war. It is probably true that no other nation since the world began fought under such a variety of banners as did the Confederate soldiers. Some of these flags were made of the regular bunting, while others, on account of the scarcity of this material, were fashioned from bridal robes and the silk dresses of prominent society ladies, who thus gave expression to their patriotism. There were several instances where flags were made of new silk and embroidered with gold, at a cost of several hundred dollars.

Shortly after the organization of the Confederate government advertisements appeared in the newspapers, asking for designs of flags, to be submitted to a committee appointed to make a selection of an emblem for the Confederate States of America. The Provisional Congress which met in Montgomery had a committee on devising a flag. The immense number of models submitted may be divided into two great classes, first, those which copy and preserve the principal features of the United States flag with slight, and unimportant modifications, and, second, those which are very elaborate, complicated and fantastical. Hundreds of designs were submitted from all parts of the country. Not one of them in the least resembled the battle-flag.

In the War Department, Washington, District of Columbia, is a scrap-book of designs for a Confederate flag, a most curious relic of the Southern Confederacy. In response to inquiries concerning this collection, Brigadier-General F. C. Ainsworth, Military Secretary of the War Department, under date of July 31,1905, wrote as follows: "Several years ago 141 designs for a Confederate flag, most of which designs were submitted to a committee of the Confederate Congress, appointed for the purpose of taking into consideration the adoption of a flag for the Confederate States of America, together with the communications with which such designs were submitted, were gathered together from the Confederate Archives of this office and were pasted in a large book where they could be preserved and be readily accessible for use whenever the necessity therefor arose, the various designs submitted being placed in proximity to the communications with which they were received. The communications emanated from nearly all the sections of the Confederate States and bear various dates, although the greater number of them were written in February, 1861. In some cases the name of the designer is given, while in others no name whatever, or a fictitious name appears."

The committee could not agree upon a flag. They finally determined to submit four designs to Congress, from which they should by vote select one. A flag should be simple, easily made, and capable of being made up in bunting. It should be readily distinguished at a distance, the colors well contrasted and durable, effective and handsome. That which the Committee submitted combined these requisites. It is entirely different from any national flag. The three colors of which it is composed, red, white and blue, are true republican colors. In heraldry, they are emblematic of the three great virtues of Valor, Purity, and Truth.

One of the four was the flag that was adopted, the first flag of the Confederacy: a field of three horizontal bars or stripes, red, white, and red, with blue union and stars. Another of the four was a red field with a blue ring or circle in the centre. Another was composed of a number of horizontal stripes (I forget how many), of red and blue (none white), with blue union and stars like the first. The fourth was a saltire, as it is called in heraldry, the same as a St. Andrew's cross of blue, with white margin, or border, on a red field with white stars, equal to the number of States, on the cross. Now the only difference between this and the Confederate battle-flag is that the latter was made square, for greater lightness and portability, while the one submitted to Congress was, of course, of the usual proportion of a flag, i. e., oblong.

The first national flag of the Confederacy, adopted by Congress on March 4,1861, had, like the United States emblem, the colors, red, white, and blue, white stars on the blue ground of its canton, and the field was composed of red and white horizontal stripes, but there were protests against the word " stripes," as applied to the broad bars of this flag, and it became known as the "Stars and Bars." After the adoption of the battle flag for the army, the Stars and Bars continued to be worn by fortresses and hoisted on vessels, and remained the emblem of the Confederacy until May 1,1863, when a new national design was adopted by Congress, and even after that the Stars and Bars was more or less in use until the close of the war.

At the battle of Manassas, on the 21st of July, 1861, it was found difficult to distinguish our then Confederate flag from the United States flag (the two being so much alike), especially when Gen. Jubal A. Early made the flank movement which decided the fate of the day ; and I resolved then to have ours changed if possible, or to adopt for my command a 'battle-flag,' which would be entirely different from any State or Federal flag. After the battle, it was found that many persons in both armies firmly believed that each side had used, as a stratagem, the flag of his opponent.

Many designs were presented, and they gave the preference to the one offered by Col. J. B. Walton, commanding the Washington Artillery which corresponded closely to one recommended by Col. Miles to Congress as our first National flag. Both were oblong ; the field was red ; the bars blue, and the stars white ; but Col. Walton's had the Latin cross, and Col. Miles's the St. Andrew's, which removed the objection that many of our soldiers might have to fight under the former symbol. Gen. Johnston preferred a square flag, to render it more convenient to cany; and it was finally adopted, in September, 1861, the well known 'battle flag' of the Army of the Potomac (as it was first called), to whirrh soldiers became so devoted.

Apart from the beauty of the Confederate battle flag, it possessed other distinguishing qualities of a practical nature. Its size and shape made it easy of carriage, and prevented its being torn by the soldiers' bayonets. It could also be seen at a great distance, to quote an expression used by General Beauregard, in allusion: 'Through trees it fluttered like a red-bird in the sunlight.' Its use, upon the system adopted of providing every regiment with one of these flags, enabled the tide of battle to be watched with thorough precision and facility, thus contributing no little to the celerity of military movements.

Confederates usually carried two primary flags per regiment. They would have carried their national flag (Stars and Bars or the variants that followed) as well as a "battle flag." Battle flags and regimental flags are basically the same thing. These flags were limitless in design and showed motifs of states rights, liberty, religious symbols like crosses, full moons, crescent moons, letters and many other icons and symbols. The popular "Confederate battle flag" many today associate with the South and the Confederacy is the St. Andrews Cross flag. Some incorrectly assume that the name "Stars & Bars" refers to the two diagonally opposing bars of the Sothern Cross, with its contingent of 13 stars. This sometimes red or (crimson) colored flag bearing a blue X bordered in white with 13 white stars is the most popular. However, these St. Andrews flags also came in a host of different sizes and colors as well including blue.

The well known ' Battle flag of the Army of the Potomac,' which became, after having been consecrated by many a hard fought battle, the ' Union' of the second and third Confederate National flags. Following the adoption of the " Southern Cross " as a battle flag, the need of a national standard to take the place of the Stars and Bars was discussed from time to time in the Confederate Congress and by the Southern publications, but more than a year and a half elapsed before the substitution was effected.

A number of designs were suggested for a new national emblem. One proposed a white flag, with a black bar running diagonally from the lower corner next the staff to the upper part of the flag, characterized as "the nigger in the middle". Another proposed device was a phoenix, rising from a bed of flame, with the motto, 'We rise again,' typical of the death of the old and the resurrection of the new union. Another proposed flag had a red field charged with a white St. Andrew's cross, supporting in its centre a blue shield blazoned with a single yellow star. Still another was formed of three horizontal bars, red, white, red, having a double blue square or an eight-pointed star in the centre, extending half-way across the red bars, blazoned with eight white stars, arranged in a circle. Another suggested flag was half blue and white, diagonally divided next the luff, and the outer half, or fly, a red perpendicular bar.

The editor of the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News, suggested a white flag with the battle flag for its canton. His editorial was republished with approval by the Richmond papers, about the time the vote was taken in the House on the flag, but the Senate had adopted a flag with a white field bearing a broad blue bar in its centre. The Senate bill was amended, and a plain white field with the battle flag for a canton was adopted. This flag was established as the national standard of the Southern Confederacy by act of Congress, approved May 1, 1863. The law which established the second national emblem provided for a flag with the length twice its width, but as that would be an absurdity, this provision was disregarded and the flag was correctly proportioned by having the width two-thirds of its length.

The second national flag was objected to, because, at a distance, it closely resembled the English white ensign, and another objection was, that when hanging dead against the staff, the white obscuring the canton, it looked like a flag of truce. The preponderance of the white was also objected to, as it had been ascertained by practical use in the army and navy that the flag was very easily soiled. These objections and the incorrect proportions of the flag were accepted as sufficient reasons for an amendment to the law, which alteration was ultimately made.

The Third Flag was designed by Major Arthur L. Rogers, Confederate States Artillery. His design reduced the length of the flag and added a broad, red, perpendicular stripe to the fly or outer extremity of the flag. The flag was adopted by the Congress of the Confederate States on March 4, 1865. The width, two-thirds of its length ; with the union, - now used as a battle flag, - to be in width three-fifths of the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the field on the side of the union twice the width below it; to have a ground of red, and a broad blue saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States. The field to be white, except the outer half from the union, which shall he a red bar, extending the width of the flag.

Join the mailing list