“I Want to See Richmond”

There are a number of powerful images from yesterday’s concluding event in Richmond marking the 150th anniversary of the city’s fall and liberation. This one, however, stood out to me for a number of reasons. Whether intended or not by the individual waving what I believe to be a Third National Flag of the Confederacy, the image itself is open to interpretation.

At first glance it appears that the flag is being waved in defiance. If so, he stands alone as the color guard of the 22nd USCT and the rest of the men remain fixed on their front. An estimated five thousand people attended the ceremony at the state house, which marked the destination of the participants in this parade. This is the only photograph that I’ve seen of a Confederate flag anywhere along the route. The contrast between the marchers and the lackluster way in which this individual holds his flag could not be more apparent. The woman to his right takes no notice of him.

Should this individual’s actions be interpreted as an act of bravery or as the last gasp of the Lost Cause in the former capital of the Confederacy? Perhaps this display is not intended as a protest at all.

Members of the 22nd United States Colored Troops Parade Through Richmond

Members of the 22nd United States Colored Troops Parade Through Richmond, Virginia on April 4, 2015

Perhaps the level at which the flag is being flown is intended to symbolize defeat and submission. The angle at which it is being held reflects the Confederacy’s fall.

Personally, I see indecisiveness, if not cowardice, at work here. The individual feels strongly enough to wave his flag, but at the moment when it counts the most he stands away from the curb and angles his flag forward.

What do you see?

57 comments add yours

  1. I was in the column of USCT immediately behind our flags. We noticed the fellow at a couple of places along the route. At one stopping point we made some quiet comments among ourselves, e.g., regarding a more appropriate flag for him, such as the Fourth National (you know, the entirely white one). But we decided against any direct interaction. We were singing “Oh Give Us a Flag” when he finally disappeared, a couple of blocks before we got to the Capitol. If anyone said anything to him it wasn’t us, and I’m as mystified as you about his intentions.

  2. Perhaps he was trying to surrender it to the USCT. That would explain why he was waiting for them at several places.

  3. As I posted on Facebook, I did not see him yesterday, but would have ignored him if I had, just as I decided not to comment to the second speaker at the speaker’s tent (the one after Emmanuel). I’ve never seen evidence that southern planters though slavery was on its way out in 1860, and I felt the man was close to advocating that the government should have paid close to a trillion dollars to the slave holders for freeing their human beings. Did anyone else who heard him have that feeling?

  4. Had it been 1865 and the actual 22nd USCT, he wouldn’t be waving that flag or he would have received a bullet for his trouble. It’s easy to be “brave” when you’re not risking anything.

  5. It is pretty sad. Here we are 150 years removed from a war fought to protect slavery and yet a white guy wants to wave a CSA flag to prove his ignorance. I do not know if he is part of the idiot heritage groups or not, but by waving that flag he represents the stupidity of people to accept facts. The war ended with the defeat of the Confederacy. Yet, some people still refuse to accept what the war was fought over. You can see them when they wave the symbols of racism, tyranny, and ignorance around, and then claim they’re just honoring confederate soldiers.

    Yet, when you question them you quickly realize they have a pretty messed up version of history. We’ve had four great years as the nation went over the events that took place 150 years. A lot of good education was developed and shared with millions. Unfortunately, some people still refuse to learn. Look at Connie Chastain’s comments the other day.

    “A certain amount of bitterness is understandable and justified. The sesquicentennial of the civil war wasn’t particularly about the war — especially in Richmond, from reports I’ve received. The war of very secondary importance to the anniversary. The sesquicentennial was about slavery, slavery, slavery. And discussions of slavery that I’m familiar with, but academics and other assorted leftists, are nearly always conducted for the purpose of evilizing Southern white people.”

    The bottom line for Connie and the heritage crew is that the last four years were not a glorification of the war. They didn’t get the version of the conflict they wanted. They wanted the Gone with the Wind version of the past. You know, the version that never happened.

    I think that is what the guy with the flag shows us. He can’t accept the fact based version of history. So he stands there with the flag showing his ignorance. The reenactors marching by him show real history. So here is a guy 150 years later that still refuses to accept what happened because he prefers a fantasy over the facts.

  6. This is a great photo and makes me I wish I could’ve been in Richmond this week to commemorate the anniversary of its liberation.

    I never saw much appeal aesthetically or otherwise in the confederate battle flag or any of the national flags of the rebel cause. It in my eyes has always represented treason in the name of slaveholding and later a commitment to segregation and intimidation by the lowest class of people.

    Seeing it being held noncommittally and even with a possible touch of embarrassment by this fellow while men bearing the flag of our nation march past in remembrance of true history makes the flag uglier still.

    He’s holding that rag in the proper manner, subservient to the flag of a nation, that while imperfect, holds the promise of freedom and justice for all.

    This photo shows the Lost Cause is indeed finally lost, consigned to the dustbin of history. Where it should’ve been all along. Honest discourse of the war is replacing myth and “heritage.”

    Indeed, it can be said that “truth is marching on.”

  7. When I took this photo, I was specifically trying to juxtapose the flags. I’d seen him when I first got to Main Street, about a third of the way along the route. He didn’t say anything to me or others about his intent. I noticed he wasn’t particularly vigorous in waving the flag, and he didn’t go all the way to the Capitol. I was surprised there weren’t a few more CSA flags along the route, to be honest. It appears good taste and common sense predominated for once.

  8. Just a few observations. It is troubling to see someone offer the opinion that a person should be shot for displaying a flag. So much for the first amendment and the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression, although I do agree that it is easy to be brave when nothing is at risk. Absolutely true, and it cuts both ways.

    I also saw a comment stating the war was fought to “protect slavery”. This is simply untrue. There were no laws, either in effect or proposed, which made slavery illegal. The war was fought over the right to secede.

    • Lyle-That begs the question of why secession was even an issue. The rebellion began with South Carolina, three months before Lincoln was inaugurated. You read the debates and the various declarations of causes and the reason that they tried to leave the Union was to protect the institution of slavery from the perceived threat posed by having a President and increasing representation in Congress from a party that was opposed to the expansion of slavery in the belief that stopping expansion would lead to the eventual end of slavery.

    • It is troubling to see someone offer the opinion that a person should be shot for displaying a flag.

      No one is suggesting that this individual should be shot and no one is trying to suppress his First Amendment rights. The Confederate government was very clear as to what it was fighting for.

    • No, it was started over the protection over slavery. Secession was the choice of the slave owners in protecting slavery. The secession conventions were about slavery. The war itself was an extension of the protection of slavery.

    • You miss the point, Lyle. If he had been waving that flag 150 years before, he’d have invited trouble. Yesterday, he was just a curiosity. No one thinks he should have been shot.

    • To clarify, Lyle, I didn’t say he should have been shot, but if it were 1865 and he did that he would have been shot at that time. After 4 years of bloody combat the soldiers weren’t worried about the First Amendment. They were worried about someone rabblerousing.

  9. I believe the comment about shooting the flag waver simply involved the form the historical reaction might have taken. As far as what started the war, you can juxtapose the Republican party platform of 1860 and the reaction to it in SC’s declaration of its reasons for secession. We can’t separate the “right to secede” from the question “secede over what?” Six hundred thousand or more Americans did not die for an abstract point of constitutional law.

  10. Dear Readers,

    We are not having this discussion here. You are welcome to comment on the post in question, but it will not be hijacked in order to have another discussion about what caused secession and the war.

    Thanks for your understanding.

    KL

    • I also saw a comment stating the war was fought to “protect slavery”. This is simply untrue.

      With all due respect, Lyle, it seems to me that you were the one who brought this up. And that’s fine–I’m not attacking you for it. But you can’t throw a little bomb like that and expect this crowd (me included) to not respond. We are a community of arguers, and you just tossed us some red meat.

      • And with all due respect Christopher, I did not, in point if fact, bring it up. Jimmy Dick did. Bu I would indeed welcome an restrained debated on the point.

        • We did have this conversation over on True Blue Federalist at one point, but had to end it when the opposition kept denying the facts until the cock crowed so much he keeled over dead.

  11. OK, back on topic, I did see one other person there who might have had an interesting story — a young Confederate captain leaning on a cane. I assumed he was portraying a wounded prisoner or parolee watching the Federal army enter the city. Unlike the flag waver it didn’t seem like any kind of protest. I wish I’d had a chance to say hello but, as I indicated, I was kind of busy.

    You’re right in your assumption about the mood of the marchers. The units representing the 22nd USCT came from Co. A, 54th Mass. from Boston, Company B, 54th Mass. from the DC area, the 1st USCT from DC, the 38th USCT from the Richmond area, as well as the 22nd and the 3rd and, I believe, the 6th, from Philadelphia and Trenton. The organizers seemed delighted with the numbers and our morale was pretty high from start to finish.

  12. The civil war for me is a technical matter, of historical interest; it has no relevance to my sense of American identity. I don’t believe that the war “made us a nation”, or “kept us unified”, except in the legal sense of enforcing US supremacy over the territory the CSA tried to claim for itself. Hence the flagwaver in question strikes me as insignificant.

  13. Having been in Richmond for the Centennial of the Civil War, I was privileged to visit Battle Abbey run by the Virginia Historical Society two years ago and the first banner to great visitors was the statement . Slavery was the cause of the war. The president of the University of Richmond pointed out an average merchant in 1859 in Richmond made several million dollars selling other humans. While it may not have been the stated cause at the beginning it was for many by the end. Richmond commemorated the losses on both sides of the war, but celebrated emancipation’s 150.

  14. Kevin, I enjoy this blog and the reactions displayed in the comments. One man with a flag certainly stirred emotions.
    My question is on your wording in the introduction’s first sentence, “city’s fall and liberation”. Richmond fell for sure but I don’t understand “liberation”. Pray tell from what?
    TIA

  15. The confederate flag waver was having a hard time hanging on due to the wind. My take on it was he was expressing free speech, which took guts. I understand that he did make it to capitol square where he was stopped by the capitol police. They told him he could only enter the grounds without the flag pole, so he left.

  16. If the observations are strictly limited to the presence of the flag at the event, fair enough. To that end, it may be proper to observe that in addition to stunning beauty of the Confederate National Flag, its presence offered an elegant, admirable, and entirely appropriate protest against the re-enactment of the enslavement of Richmond. In April of 1865, a foreign and hostile military force lawlessly occupied the Capitol City of the Confederate States of America. It was a sad and tragic event, and in America that violent and deeply lamentable act forever buried the noble idea of the right of the people to alter and abolish their system of government.

    • I don’t believe the city’s black population agreed with such a view. Of course, perhaps in your view they don’t count.

    • Since the CSA was not a nation, the liberating force was not foreign. It was acting in accordance with the Constitution of the United States of America in removing domestic enemies who had illegally started a war to protect the institution of slavery.

      The sad and tragic event was when selfish slave owners started that war.

      • You mean the selfish slave-owners of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri? And please show me where the constitution gives the power to the President to use the United State Army and Navy against the States.

        • Article I, section 8, gives the Congress the authority to “Provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” Article II, section 2 makes the President Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

          President Lincoln responded to the firing on Fort Sumter by calling out the militia according to the Militia Act and then convening Congress to request the authority to call out three year volunteers. The federal government had been quite restrained before then in the face of several months of aggression on the part of seceding states. Lincoln in fact didn’t call for 75,000 three month volunteers until about six weeks after the CSA called out 100,000 one year volunteers — by the time of his inauguration PACS had already reached a strength more than double that of the regular army.

  17. Interesting point. Although I am compelled to remark that in political terms, the black population of Virginia in the CSA counted just as much, or as little, as the black population of Kentucky in the USA.

    • Some of the black population of Kentucky was marching down the streets of Richmond expressing their opposition to slavery. Therefore, they counted quite a bit in political terms.

  18. Aye, Chihuahua! “The enslavement of Richmond..”? I have learned over the years that it is useless to debate the issue with those who still support that view.

    • Yes, it is pointless. They reject the facts in favor of fiction. It is a giant waste of time. Fortunately, we educators are teaching millions what really happened while those others are crying the blues and waving flags.

  19. Regarding Kentucky, it may be worth mentioning that several regiments of black men from that state served in the Army of the James and at least two — I’m thinking specifically of the 116th & 127th USCT — were at Appomattox.

  20. And I, in turn, have learned that it is virtually useless to debate the issue with those who still oppose that view (the road that runs East also runs West). But if you prefer the term the “political enslavement of Richmond”, or the “Occupation of Richmond”, I am fine with that too.

    • It is virtually useless because the lost cause crew doesn’t use facts in making up their fantasies.

  21. 10 United States Civil Code 331- 335 covers rebellions and insurrection and the presidential powers in reaction. The war has been over for 150 years, the south lost, nothing is going to change that, so what satisfaction is gained though insisting on a version of history that most people reject?

  22. I see a bitter, old, white man about 150 years out of step with history and lacking in both common sense and good manners. If he was following the USCT reenactors along the parade route, then it is obvious what message he intended with his asinine display. This clown’s antics only prove the tactics of the heritage groups are counterproductive, lack any real value in preserving heritage, and are simply stupid.

    In the end, he only made a fool of himself and I applaud the USTC marchers for ignoring this idiot.

    • I agree! Well said. In 1995, union reenactors were booed as they marched into Richmond. In 2003, a smaller group with ties to the SCV, tried to disrupt the dedication of the Lincoln statue at the NPS museum at Tredegar Iron Works. This year only one “Confederate sympathsizer” showed up. Participation by Richmond’s African American community has never been stronger.

      • I have been interested in the Civil War since the centennial, which did not get as much recognition as one would have thought. I do remember that slavery was minimized and it seems to me that there was quite a bit of glorification of the south, and Lee. I am not totally shocked that clinging to old beliefs is quite common here in the Richmond area. But I am surprised that so many want to deny the secession papers and the various state constitutions where justification of slavery is mentioned so prominently as a right to be defended.

  23. I am watching the ceremony at Appomattox on C-SPAN 3 and it appears to be the same man who was in Richmond is there. I saw a shot of the flag and the top of a gray head.

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