Confederate Heritage And Pride Blog

Confederate Heritage And Pride Blog
“History is written by the victors.” Deo Vindice!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The history of the flags of the Confederacy

The history of the flags of the Confederacy

As we all know the main flag of the Confederacy is the St Andrews cross. Well the Confederacy actually had 4 other flags. The first one is the first National which only lasted a portion of the war. It looked a lot like the federal's Union flag. The bonnie blue was the first secedded flag of the Confederacy which was South Carolina. e first official flag of the Confederacy, called the "Stars and Bars," was flown from March 5, 1861, to May 26, 1863.
The very first national flag of the Confederacy was designed by Prussian artist Nicola Marschall in Marion, Alabama. The Stars and Bars flag was adopted March 4, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama and raised over the dome of that first Confederate Capitol. Marschall also designed the Confederate uniform. One of the first acts of the Provisional Confederate Congress was to create the Committee on the Flag and Seal, chaired by William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. The committee asked the public to submit thoughts and ideas on the topic and was, as historian John M. Coski puts it, "overwhelmed by requests not to abandon the 'old flag' of the United States." Miles had already designed a flag that would later become the Confederate battle flag, and he favored his flag over the "Stars and Bars" proposal. But given the popular support for a flag similar to the U.S. flag "the Stars and Stripes, the Stars and Bars design was approved by the committee. When war broke out, the Stars and Bars caused confusion on the battlefield because of its similarity to the U.S. flag of the U.S. Army. Eventually, a total of thirteen stars would be shown on the flag, reflecting the Confederacy's claims to have admitted Kentucky and Missouri into their union. The first public appearance of the 13-star flag was outside the Ben Johnson House in Bardstown, Kentucky. The 13-star design was also used as the basis of a naval ensign.
Second would be the second national flag the Stainless Banner. During the solicitation for the second national flag, there were many different types of designs that were proposed, nearly all making use of the battle flag, which by 1863 had become well-known and popular. The new design was specified by the Confederate Congress to be a white field "with the union (now used as the battle flag) to be a square of two-thirds the width of the flag, having the ground red; thereupon a broad saltier [sic] of blue, bordered with white, and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States. The nickname "stainless" referred to the pure white field. The flag act of 1864 did not state what the white symbolized and advocates offered various interpretations. The most common interpretation is that the white field symbolized the purity of the Cause. The Confederate Congress debated whether the white field should have a blue stripe and whether it should be bordered in red. William Miles delivered a speech for the simple white design that was eventually approved. He argued that the battle flag must be used, but for a national flag it was necessary to emblazon it, but as simply as possible, with a plain white field. The flags actually made by the Richmond Clothing Depot used the 1.5:1 ratio adopted for the Confederate Navy's battle ensign, rather than the official 2:1 ratio. Initial reaction to the second national flag was favorable, but over time it became criticized for being "too white". The Columbia Daily South Carolinian observed that it was essentially a battle flag upon a flag of truce and might send a mixed message. Military officers voiced complaints about the flag being too white, for various reasons, including the danger of being mistaken as a flag of truce, especially on naval ships, and that it was too easily soiled. This flag is nonetheless a historical symbol of the civil war since March 4th 1865. The third national flag was next. The third national flag was adopted March 4, 1865, just before the fall of the Confederacy. The red vertical stripe was proposed by Major Arthur L. Rogers, who argued that the pure white field of the second national flag could be mistaken as a flag of truce. When hanging limp in no wind, the colored corner of the flag could be accidentally hidden, so the flag could easily appear all white. Rogers lobbied successfully to have his design introduced in the Confederate Senate. He defended his design as having "as little as possible of the Yankee blue", and described it as symbolizing the primary origins of the people of the South, with the cross of Britain and the red bar from the flag of France. The Flag Act of 1865 describes the flag in the following language The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The width two-thirds of its length, with the union now used as the 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 of the field below it; to have the ground red and a broad blue saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with five pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white, except the outer half from the union to be a red bar extending the width of the flag. Next was the Battle Flag of the Confederacy.
At the First Battle of Manassas, the similarity between the Stars and Bars and the Stars and Stripes caused confusion and military problems. Regiments carried flags to help commanders observe and assess battles in the warfare of the era. At a distance, the two national flags were hard to tell apart. In addition, Confederate regiments carried many other flags, which added to the possibility of confusion. After the battle, General P.G.T. Beauregard wrote that he was resolved then to have our flag changed if possible, or to adopt for my command a 'Battle flag', which would be Entirely different from any State or Federal flag. He turned to his aide, who happened to be William Porcher Miles, the former chair of Committee on the Flag and Seal. Miles described his rejected national flag design to Beauregard. Miles also told the Committee on the Flag and Seal about the general's complaints and request for the national flag to be changed. The committee rejected this idea by a four to one vote, after which Beauregard proposed the idea of having two flags. He described the idea in a letter to his commander General Joseph E. Johnston I wrote to miles that we should have two flags a peace or parade flag, and a war flag to be used only on the field of battle but congress having adjourned no action will be taken on the matter How would it do us to address the War Dept. on the subject of Regimental or badge flags made of red with two blue bars crossing each other diagonally on which shall be introduced the stars We would then on the field of battle know our friends from our Enemies. No
The flag that Miles had favored when he was chair of the Committee on the Flag and Seal eventually became the battle flag and, ultimately, the most popular flag of the Confederacy. According to historian John Coski, Miles' design was inspired by one of the many "secessionist flags" flown at the South Carolina secession convention of December, 1860. That flag was a blue St George's Cross an upright or Latin cross on a red field, with 15 white stars on the cross, representing the slave states, and, on the red field, palmetto and crescent symbols. Miles received a variety of feedback on this design, including a critique from Charles Moise, a self-described "Southerner of Jewish persuasion". Moise liked the design, but asked that "the symbol of a particular religion not be made the symbol of the nation." Taking this into account, Miles changed his flag, removing the palmetto and crescent, and substituting a heraldic saltire ("X") for the upright one. The number of stars was changed several times as well. He described these changes and his reasons for making them in early 1861. The diagonal cross was preferable, he wrote, because "it avoided the religious objection about the cross from the Jews and many Protestant sects because it did not stand out so conspicuously as if the cross had been placed upright thus." He also argued that the diagonal cross was "more Heraldric than Ecclesiastical, it being the 'saltire' of Heraldry, and significant of strength and progress.
Although Miles described his flag as a heraldic saltire, it had been thought to be erroneously described since the latter part of the 19th century as a cross, specifically a Saint Andrew's Cross. Supposedly this folk legend sprang from the memoirs of an aging Confederate officer published in 1893. However, further research has indicated that this was no folk legend. In 1863, during the session in which the Confederate Congress was voting on the 2nd National Flag, William G. Swan of Tennessee's second congressional district wished to substitute the following language:
That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows:
A red field with a Saint Andrew's cross of blue edged with white and emblazoned with stars."Swan, who before the secession had been mayor of Knoxville and attorney general of Tennessee, had adapted his proposal from the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, but it was in fact identical to the flag proposed by William Porcher Miles in March 1861. Because he believed that the battle flag had been sanctified by the blood of Southern soldiers in their struggle for independence, Swan wished to adopt it for use by the nation now as a tribute to the valor of the Confederate fighting man. Further references to the link between the battle flag and the St. Andrew's Cross are made by Confederate soldiers during the war. According to Coski, the Saint Andrew's Cross had no special place in Southern iconography at the time, and if Miles had not been eager to conciliate the Southern Jews his flag would have used the traditional Latin, Saint George's Cross. A colonel named James B. Walton submitted a battle flag design essentially identical to Miles' except with an upright Saint George's cross, but Beauregard chose the diagonal cross design. Specifically, the St. Andrew's Cross is a white saltire on a blue field, as in the national flag of Scotland. The St. Patrick's Cross, as in the state flag of Alabama, is a red saltire on a white field. The Army of Northern Virginia battle flag has a blue saltire on a red field and is, therefore, neither the St. Andrew's nor the St. Patrick's Cross but a saltire as in the proposed but unadopted Second National flags miles ' flag, and all the flag designs up to that point, were rectangular oblong in shape. General Johnston suggested making it square instead to conserve material. Johnston also specified the various sizes to be used by different types of military units. Generals Beauregard and Johnston and Quartermaster General Cabell approved the design of the 12 star Confederate Battle Flag at the Ratcliffe home, which served briefly as Beauregard’s headquarters, near Fairfax Court House in September 1861. The 12th star represented Missouri. President Jefferson Davis arrived by train at Fairfax Station soon after and was shown the design for the new battle flag at the Ratcliffe House. Hetty Cary and her sister andcousin made prototypes. One such 12 star flag resides in the collection of Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and the other is in Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans. On November 28, 1861, Confederate soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia received the new battle flags in ceremonies at Centreville and Manassas, Virginia, and carried them throughout the Civil War. Beauregard gave a speech encouraging the soldiers to treat this new flag with honor and that it must never be surrendered. Many soldiers wrote home about the ceremony and the impression the flag had upon them, the "fighting colors" boosting morale after the confusion at the Battle of First Manassas. From that point on, the battle flag only grew in its identification with the Confederacy and the South in general. Later, a 13th star was added for Kentucky.
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 UCV and the later Sons of Confederate Veterans led to the assumption that it was, as it has been termed, "the soldier's flag" or "the Confederate battle flag".
The 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, Fairfax, VA. I added a little bit about the sovereign flag since alot of people don't know about it. I like sharing my history with you all hope you enjoyed.


From the desk of Justin Burton
Article Copyright Justin burton 2014
Confederate heritage director



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