Confederate Flag Facts
This an internet adaptation of the brochure "Southern Flags ... An Illustrated History" published by the Heritage Preservation Association, copyright 1996.
No other symbols in American life are the subject of more attention than traditional Southern flags. They have become political tools used by many organizations whose philosophies are diametrically opposed.
To the vast majority of Americans, however, Southern flags are the beloved symbols of a fallen nation, the Confederate States of America. This brochure was developed by the Heritage Preservation Association to show the history and the true meaning of the most well known symbols of the South.
Historical Flag Facts
The Congress of the Confederate States of America (CSA) adopted it's new flag soon after convening in March, 1861. The design they chose drew from the heraldic symbols of the flag of the United States. Their political intent was to show that it was the CSA who truly held to the original principles of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution created by the founding fathers and that it was the United States which had departed from these principles. Thus, on March 4, 1861, the new flag was adopted. It was commonly known as the Stars and Bars, owing to the circle of stars and three large lateral bars.
This new design soon presented a very serious problem. After the invasion of the South by Northern forces, a fierce battle took place between the town of Manassas and Bull Run creek in Virginia. During this battle, soldiers from both sides were confused by the similarities between the flags of the CSA and the USA. This led to needless casualties. Although the Confederacy defeated the US forces in this first battle of the bloody War for Southern Independence, the Southern commander, General P.G.T. Beauregard demanded a new banner be used on the field of battle
National Flag (Stars and Bars)
A Virginia unit was soon noticed carrying a flag which was an adaptation of the Scottish Cross of Saint Andrew. General Beauregard relized that this flag would be quite distict from the USA flag. He ordered that the flag be adopted as the official battle flag of his Southern armies. It is known as the "Battle Flag".
Confederate Battle Flag
The Stars & Bars flew over public buildings and events until 1863. By then, sentimental feelings for the USA were declining while national pride in the tenacity of the South's superior military forces was at an all time high. In recognition of Confederate military achievement, the Battle Flag was officially made part of the National Flag of the Confederacy on May 1, 1863. The flag was pure white with the Battle Flag prominently displayed in the upper left corner. It was named the "Stainless Banner" due to the purity of the Southern struggle for independence.
National Flag (Stainless Banner)
Soon, this flag too presented problems for the Southern forces in the field. The rectangular shape coupled with the use of heavy cotton made this flag hang in such a way as to almost hide the Confederate flag in the upper corner. In several instances, this flag was mistaken for an all white flag of truce.
or Current National Flag
So, on March 4, 1865, a red vertical bar was added to the end of the flag. This design became the final and present Confederate national flag often referred to as the Third National Flag.
The Southern people always believed that their cause of limited government and the rights of the states were worth fighting for; that the United States government was becoming too big and powerful; that their principles were inherited from the founding fathers and were worth declaring independence to maintain.
Proudly, many states, after the destruction of their nation, began to display various versions of Confederate symbols in their state flags. Any study of the various flags of former Confederate states in conjuction with the flags shown in this brochure will clearly show this.
Two state flags boldly incorporate the Confederate Battle Flag directly in their designs. These are the state flags of Mississippi and Georgia.
The flag of Mississippi was adopted in 1894, long after the federal occupation of the state had ended.
Georgia suffered Federal occupation twice for its refusal to ratify the 14th ammendment to the U.S. Constitution. White Southerners were not allowed to vote during the many years of Federal occupation, but when Reconstruction ended, they voted in record numbers.
To highlight Georgia's dedication to the Confederate cause for independence, voters elected former Confederate General Alfred Holt Colquitt as Governor in 1878. In the next session of 1879, the State of Georgia adopted an adaptation of the 1st National Flag as the official state flag. The bill was written by former Confederate Col. Heman Perry, then a state senator.
State Flag 1879 - 1956
This design was chosen because it was feared that raising the Battle Flag of the Confederacy would be seen as provocative at that time and might lead to another Federal occupation of the state. However, the adoption did send a message to the recently enfranchised majority population that their chosen leaders were again in charge and those placed in office by Federal military command were gone.
The Stars and Bars version of the Georgia flag was still flying in 1924 when a very young boy named John Sammons Bell began attending Confederate veteran reunions with his grandfather. In those days the veterans would gather each year and hold an outdoor encampment to reminisce about their glorious struggle.
The young Bell recalls vividly sitting around the campfire listening to the many stories. What he could not understand was why the Georgia flag incorporated a design which was abandoned by the Confederacy in 1863. He felt it offensive to the memory of the old veterans and was determined to change it.
During the 1950's John Bell, a decorated war veteran found himself involved in politics at a time of rising patriotism and nostalgia for the Old South. In 1955, the General Assembly began passing legislation to prepare the state for the upcoming centennial of the War for Southern Independence. Bills to complete the Stone Mountain Memorial, the largest stone carving in world history, were passed. Legislation was also passed which erected over 500 historical markers throughout the state to help the flood of expected tourists. During the 1956 Assembly, a bill was introduced to create the Centennial Commission, which began planning the many elaborate events which would take place during the 1960 to 1965 celebration.
It was at this point that John Bell, now Chairman for the State Democratic Party, asked two friends, State Senators Willis Hardin and Jefferson Lee Davis, to draft a bill placing the more recognizable Confederate Battle Flag on the Georgia state flag. Both bills were overwhelmingly adopted in 1956.
Even though certain "civil rights" groups have started attacking the current Georgia state flag and other Confederate symbols, no one saw the flag change in 1956 as being racially motivated. Even the media (as liberal then as they are now) approved of the flag change in 1956. Attempts to link the Georgia flag change in 1956 to nationwide opposition of court ordered integration have also failed. In addition, all state and national polls show an overwhelming support and respect for Confederate symbols and the rich heritage that they embody.
a nationwide Lou Harris poll released on July 4, 1994 showed that 87%
of all Americans (68% black, 88% hispanic, and 90% white) were not offended
by Confederate Symbols.
Now you know the historical truth about our flags. We hope that you will share our concern and commitment towards preserving their legacy of valor, bravery, honor and courage. Thank you!
Copyright HPA 1996
© Heritage Preservation Group, Inc.