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Friday, August 7, 2009

Can You Identify This Flag?

Can you identify the flag on the left? You can’t? Don’t feel bad. Not too many people would guess that that flag is the first official flag of the Confederacy. It was used from March 1861 to May of 1863.

The color choice was significant. Many Southerners still felt a lingering affection for the American flag so the committee charged with selecting a flag felt using red, white, and blue would made the transition to a new flag easier. The seven stars represented the original Confederate states. Can you name them without looking? They were South Carolina-December 20, 1860, Mississippi-January 9, 1861, Florida-January 10, 1861, Alabama-January 11, 1861, Georgia-January 19, 1861, Louisiana-January 26, 1861, and Texas-February 1, 1861. After Lincoln called for volunteers four more states seceded. They were: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Eventually the number of stars increased to thirteen.

But hold on. There were only eleven Confederate states, so why were there thirteen stars? That’s because even though Missouri and Kentucky never seceded they held slaves and had some local Confederate governments.

The stripes in the American flag were replaced by two red bars and one white bar which is why people called the flag the stars and bars. This flag was first used at the inauguration of President Jefferson Davis.

As time went on, though, problems developed with this flag. When a battle was going on there was a lot of smoke and confusion on the field. In that confusion it was hard to tell exactly who you were shooting at. Many times all the soldiers could see was red, white, and blue. Sometimes they inadvertently fired on their own men.

After the battle of Bull Run General P.G.T. Beauregard suggested changing the flag to avoid confusion. Nobody wanted to do that, so he persuaded them to have a special flag that they carried only on the battle field. That flag is the one beside the first official flag, and I know you’ve seen it before. Interestingly enough, the flag was supposed to be square, but in many illustrations of the period it looks rectangular in shape. At any rate, everyone loved it. It was called the Confederate Battle Flag, the Southern Cross, or the Battle Flag Of The Army Of Northern Virginia.

Since people liked it so much the government decided to change the official flag. The second official flat is the one with the white field. It was called the Stainless Banner and went into usage on May 1, 1863. The problem was, it looked too much like a white flag of surrender, especially if the wind wasn’t blowing.

That wouldn’t do so the government commissioned a third flag which was adopted on March 4, 1865. It’s the one with the red bar at the end of the white field. This one didn’t last long because the war ended. It was called the Last Confederate Flag, and in my opinion it was the best one.

My sources for this post are:


Emma Lai said... facts I didn't know!

Elaine Cantrell said...

Honestly, I didn't know them all either, Emma.

Susan Macatee said...

As a Civil War reenactor, I did know about all the changes in the Confederate flag over the course of the war, but didn't know the reasons they kept changing it around.

Great post, Elaine!

Elaine Cantrell said...

Thanks, Susan. I love going to reenactments. We have one not too far from our house, and we go almost every year. At the last one I went to a guy had a trick table and was showing how amputations were performed. I knew it was fake, but I still got dizzy and had to walk away. I hate to say it, but I've always fainted over nothing. There was no real battle in this little town, so the Union side and the Confederate side take turns winning. Don't you just love that?

Debra St. John said...

Elaine, I am loving this series. The Civil War era is my favorite when it comes to history.

Susan, I love going to reenactments. What a neat thing to be involved with.

Elaine Cantrell said...

Hi, Debra, thanks for stopping by. I love the Civil War too. I don't know why I don't write a Civil War novel.