History 101: Confederate flags

Okay, time for another history lesson.

Not long ago, I heard rumblings about some Confederate flags being flown by local teenagers. Being the ardent Southerner and War of Northern Aggression history nut that I am, I was quite excited. Initially, I thought that maybe there was a local Civil War History round table group that I wasn’t aware of and wanted to immediately find out more.

What I ended up learning was that the flags were apparently being flown because our school’s athletic opponents were primarily black.

How disheartened I immediately became.

The problem is the flag flown by those kids is so often misused in just such fashion that it has become identified with the Ku Klux Klan and with racism. The history of the flag is just the opposite, and all who would have the truth told should be upset that it is used—and besmirched—in such a fashion.

I have a Confederate Flag hanging in my office. It is a flag which flew over the Museum in Vicksburg and has flown in every office I’ve occupied since 1992. The flag I use is the First National Flag of the Confederacy and was the first such flag recognized by the Confederate Congress.

Most people, when they see the flag, assume it is an “old” version of the American flag. In fact, it was modeled after Old Glory because the Confederates weren’t trying to “take over” the U.S. (thus, defined legally, the war was not a “civil war,”—but that’s another column for another day), just form a separate country, much like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others had done about 80 years earlier.

The problem with the flag then, however, was that in the thick smoke created by the old muzzle-loading muskets of the 1860s, it was often mistaken for the American flag. There are recorded incidents, particularly in the early war, where Federal troops fired on Federal troops and Confederate troops fired on Confederate troops.

As is the case today, the military acted much quicker than the government and the CSA military began to use what we know as the “Battle Flag” today. The Battle Flag is often referred to as the Stars and Bars, but that is absolutely incorrect. The Stars and Bars is actually the First National Flag, the one which looks like the American Flag (also, called Stars and Stripes).
The Confederate government designed another flag incorporating the battle flag used by the armies. This Second National Flag is also called The Stainless Banner. However, when the wind wasn’t blowing, it looked like a surrender flag—and the Confederates weren’t ready to surrender just yet, so they added a red vertical stripe at the end of the flag to create the Third National Flag. The Third National is the flag under which the Confederate government surrendered.

The “Rebel Flag,” as most people call it, should properly be called the Battle Flag, or St. Andrew’s Cross.

Yep, that’s right. The Confederate Battle Flag is actually patterned after the cross of Saint Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus. The “X” is actually a cross like that which history tells us Andrew died on.

The Confederates aren’t the only ones to use St. Andrew’s cross as it is also used by England, Scotland, Ireland and even Russia.

So, the next time you see someone trying to use the battle flag as a racist tool, take it away from them and give them a history lesson(as well as a smack upon the head). Yes, the Klan (of which there are more members up north than down South) uses it…but it also uses the Bible, and we wouldn’t say the Bible was racist simply because a bunch of idiots in hoods carried it around, would we.

And while you’re at it, remind all the PC police that “Dixie” was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite tunes! Tis a shame we don’t hear it much anymore…even more of a shame now that I’m in Oxford!



Filed under Columns

4 responses to “History 101: Confederate flags

  1. ant'ny

    Thanks for the history lesson. As a transplant to the South (and a “recovering” student of European history), I appreciate the education.

    So–how can the Confederate flag be reclaimed (besides, of course, head-smackin’)? Is it even possible, now?

  2. Boy, I don’t know. But it sure is frustrating to see groups like the KKK take over the flag. Too many people have been falsely educated (i did NOT say brainwashed) on the flag and the war, particularly causes of the war…and those that wish to disagree are often tarnished with the label of bigot or rascist, even when providing historical evidence. I guess the only thing to really do (short of head-smackin’) is too continue to try to educate. Lovingly educate, of course.

  3. ant'ny


    I’l get a sock full o’ nickels, then…

  4. FLFlatlander

    Way to go, Roland. We need these History lessons every now & then. So, when ya gonna teach on Dixie?

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