Should This Civil War Museum Change Its Logo?

Museum of Medicine

Even the Museum of the Confederacy/American Civil War Museum gets it. The Confederate battle flag is a toxic symbol that ought to be displayed exclusively in a setting where it can be properly interpreted. You will not find battle flags welcoming visitors at its branches in Richmond or at Appomattox. And as far as I have seen, you will not find the battle flag on its logo and other advertisements.

The producers of Destination DC – a visitors guide for the nation’s capital that features ads for many area historic sites – recently dropped the National Museum of Civil War Museum because of its logo, which features the Confederate battle flag.

Danielle Davis, director of communications for Destination DC, sent an emailed statement on behalf of Elliott Ferguson, the organization’s president and CEO. ‘We are constantly evaluating how best to promote Washington, D.C., for visitors and have decided not to include images that can be considered controversial, which includes the confederate flag and weapons,’ the email stated. ‘We certainly recognize that the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a place to learn about American history and we are willing to promote the museum without the confederate flag imagery in our publications.’

The museum maintains that the logo is appropriate and accurately conveys its mission. I have no doubt that they do, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether the publisher has a reason to be concerned about how its readers will interpret the ad. Given recent events I believe that the publisher has every reason to be concerned with how such a symbol will be interpreted by potential visitors to the D.C. area.

Given the current climate surrounding the display of the battle flag, the burden is on the museum to ensure that its mission remains clear as does that of the publisher of this magazine, which hopes to market the D.C. area to as broad a demographic as possible. This logo could easily be changed without sacrificing the museum’s mission. How about two bandaged Civil War soldiers?

Like I said up top, even the Museum of the Confederacy gets it.

About Kevin Levin

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68 comments add yours

  1. In the end it is a logo, just a picture, and people will do what they will do. If the museum sees a loss in visitors then they will change it. If they do not, they likely will not.

    • Agreed. The MOC was clearly worried about the public’s perception, but they occupy a very different space. At the same time, however, this museum should not be surprised by this magazine’s concerns.

    • With all due respect, ‘political correctness’ is not an argument. I am happy to respond to the reasons behind your conclusion if you care to share them.

  2. They should keep it or, alternatively, replace it with the First National. This is another case (like the “Five Flags” display in Pensacola) where they chose a CBF as convenient and recognizable shorthand over a national flag that it should have been all along.

      • Agreed. In cases like these, where they chose the Naval Jack instead of the ANV Battle Flag (rectangle vs. square), it is painfully obvious that someone spent a total of 15 mins picking the most obvious symbols to represent the museum. Spend another 15 mins and come up with something else, then move on.

  3. I don’t think they should change it. The logo perfectly shows what they’re all about, showing two warring sides coming together to treat wounded soldiers. The CBF is instantly recognizable as representing the confederacy, whereas I would be willing to wager most Americans wouldn’t recognize the First National as being a confederate flag. The flag is placed in a historical setting, and is used in a museum context. I understand the desire not to turn away people who may be offended by the CBF. Perhaps an explanatory notation in the ad to educate readers as to why the logo uses the CBF would be in order.

    • Hi Al,

      Of course, it is entirely up to the museum as to what to do re: this particular advertisement. Let me be clear that this is a legitimate museum and I agree that the Confederate battle flag reflects their mission. I also believe that its use by the Civil War Trust reflects its mission.

      At the same time I also understand the concerns expressed by Destination DC. You said: The CBF is instantly recognizable as representing the confederacy… It is indeed, but it also represents something very different to many Americans.

      • Kevin, you state that “it also represents something very different to many Americans”. That’s true only because of ignorance. Why are efforts not being made to correct that ignorance? The KKK, for example, requires only the “Stars and Stripes” in their meetings and displays, not the Southern Cross. Why isn’t that made common knowledge?

  4. Kevin,
    I personally don’t have a problem with the logo because as you say it is a legitimate museum, and the CBF is being used in a proper context as a symbol of the Confederacy. I appreciate the concerns of the magazine but I believe it is a tempest in a teacup.
    If the logo was to be changed perhaps the US Flag and the CBF should be replaced by field hospital flags, but the casual observer would not recognize them as having anything to do with the Civil War.

    • I don’t have a problem with the logo either. It works within the context of the museum and in print and digital literature that it distributes to the public. All I am suggesting is that it may not be appropriate across the board. We can argue that it is nitpicking or a reflection of Political Correctness, but the events of the past year have made individuals and organizations more cautious about its display.

  5. Among the problems with their logo is the use of a rectangular segregation flag to present the Confederate side of the museum. I realize a rectangular flag looks better with the rectangular US flag, but, if they want to be historically correct, then use an ANV Battle flag or a first National, as Andy Hall suggested.

  6. The rectangular “CBF” – and there were upwards of 20 Confederate battle flags used during the war actually – was the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee from the Atlanta Campaign through the end of the war. The square versions were used in Lee’s army and the troops in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, as made by the Richmond and Charleston Depots respectively. The rectangular version was also the second CS Navy Jack, used by its warships while in port. I have studied Confederate flags from a scholarly level for 28 years and get pretty sick of hearing people who stick one flag for the Confederacy. They can change it out to a First National, not only a political flag of the CSA, but also its longest used battle flag. But erasing flags from a logo of a historical site is really pretty stupid – they are historical objects and this is a historical institution. In the 1930s, the KKK marched exclusively under US flags – let’s get rid of that I suppose.

  7. “Among the problems with their logo is the use of a rectangular segregation flag . . . .” Give me a break. It’s a Confederate naval ensign, and I am pretty sure that the reason the museum uses it in their logo is because of graphics, not politics. Who the heck would recognize the 1st national flag of the Confederacy? Certainly readers of this blog would, but most “normal” Americans would not. It’s called “marketing.” And by the way, the US flag in their logo is not historically correct, either. After 1863, the flag should have 35 stars, and after 1864, 36 stars. Maybe we should put a “date” under the logo to ensure that citizens of West Virginia and Nevada are not offended. (Sarcasm intended.)

    • It’s a Confederate naval ensign, and I am pretty sure that the reason the museum uses it in their logo is because of graphics, not politics.

      I completely agree.

      It’s called “marketing.”

      Agreed, which is also how you could characterize the concerns expressed by Destination DC.

    • Mr. Snell,

      You are only partially correct about the CS flag in the logo which I posted before your comment.

      I stated clearly above that the rectangular Southern Cross flag is not just the Second Navy Jack (adopted in May 1863 – which is NOT an ensign by the way – that is a different flag for a warship) but also the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee from the Atlanta Campaign through the end of the war as made by Jacob Platt through the Augusta Depot. The Army of Mississippi/Dept. of Alabama. Mississippi and East Louisiana also used a somewhat rectangular flag with only 12 stars from October 1863 to war’s end made by two contractors in Mobile.

      The first CS Navy Jack was a blue rectangle with a circle of white stars. The tradition of naval jacks we tool from the British Royal Navy – rectangular versions of the canton of the national colors. These flags were only flown from a small bow jack staff and only while the warship was in port. The ensign was much larger and was a warship’s battle flag and was flown from the stern staff. Pennants and command rank flags could also be flown from masts higher up. The US Navy jack is, therefore, a blue rectangle with 50 white stars on it. The first CS Navy jack was taken from the canton of the First National flag; the second jack taken from the canton of the Second National flag.

      I also stated clearly above that there is basically no such thing as “the Confederate battle flag” when Confederate armies fought under upwards of 20 patterns and sub-patterns from 1861-1865. In fact their longest served battle flag was the First National despite other battle flags being created to try and replace it. I can show existing CS battle flags that 99.9 per cent of Americans would have no clue at all what they are/were and yet they were used during the war, some for upwards of three years.

      The museum logo in question offers two flags; only one with two uses in the war. The US flag is political as well as a Union Army battle flag (first used by the US Army in the Mexican War by the way). The alleged CBF shown was simply a war flag used in the rectangular configuration as I have already stated and in a square configuration by Lee’s army and troops in the Dept. of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Historically, military colors to that time were square as they were easier to make but the flag makers for the Army of Tennessee and Army of Mississippi chose to go with rectangular flags for whatever reason. So all could be solved by swapping out the alleged CBF with the First National, which almost nobody knows about these days, and the ship sails onward without a whimper.

      I, along with the late Howard Madaus (who started scholarly research into Confederate flags back in the 70s and was a respected museum curator and historian), the late Devereaux Cannon (author of several flags books), and numerous other flag historians, curators (from West Point down to state museums), have a web site that covers the many patterns and history of the Confederate flags. Entitled Flags of the Confederacy, it can be reached at – http://www.confederate-flags.org. There is over 200 years of combined research on this site and we update it when we can with new information. We set this site up to dispel CS flags mythology and offer accurate and well researched information to the public at large. Please give it a visit.

      Greg Biggs

      • And when Greg writes anything about Confederate — and US for that matter– flags, you can bank on it! He has forgotten more about 1860 flags than most of us will ever know.

        • Thanks Bob for the very kind words. Hope you are doing well.

          Greg Biggs

  8. No they should not. If we continue down this road, the Civil War Trust would thus be obligated to change its logo, too. Further down the road, any image of the flag might be prevented from any marketing angle, banned from a historic site’s website, etc. Dare I say actual historic flags might be banned from museums. Not possible? I’ve already heard from people proposing just such a thing.

    I’ve been sick of seeing the flag shoved in people’s faces for many years, and tired of the often ridiculous defenses of the flag, i.e. “history not hate” or something similar. Blech. But this dogged effort to eliminate the flag from just about setting but a museum (or a private individual’s property) is problematic to say the least, in my opinion.

    Since I was just reading about Jefferson, I am reminded of what he said in his First Inaugural:

    “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

    • If we continue down this road, the Civil War Trust would thus be obligated to change its logo, too. Further down the road, any image of the flag might be prevented from any marketing angle, banned from a historic site’s website, etc.

      It is entirely reasonable for individuals and organizations to stake out a position on such a divisive issue, which is exactly what Destination DC did. The museum in question, the Civil War Trust and other organizations are also free to make their own decisions.

  9. As a follow up, which I should have included in my first, let me say that I appreciate your willingness to pose the question of a logo change while also stating that you do not have a problem with the logo. This is truly how more people should approach such a discussion. Thank you for the reasoned approach.

    • Unless I have completely misinterpreted the first paragraph, I believe that Mr. Levin has quite clearly stated that he has a problem with the logo. I will happily stand corrected if I am wrong.

      • I believe that the MOC made a smart move in the not displaying the battle flag in front of their museums and choosing not to use it on their logo. That said, I don’t believe that the battle flag is entirely inappropriate as part of the National Civil War Medicine’s logo. I also don’t have a problem with the decision at Destination DC.

  10. I see the solution being rather simple. What about if the museum used no logo at all and simply had a photographic ad. Something with the theme of the museum or an exhibit.

  11. I’m missing something, I didn’t see any weapons (see below), unless you count the Rod of Asclepius as a weapon. In any case I don’t think it is much of a secret that museums related to warfare might contain weapons.

    ‘We are constantly evaluating how best to promote Washington, D.C., for visitors and have decided not to include images that can be considered controversial, which includes the confederate flag and weapons…”

  12. A completely unrelated tangent: I was there when they opened to the public! I think it was February 1997 … something like that. My father heard about it and we drove over there but it wasn’t open yet, but we came back on the day it did open. I still have books we got that day.

    That museum is part of what led me down the path to EMT and finally med student.

    • It’s a museum that is well worth visiting. I have only been through once, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. They have also been instrumental in helping to revive downtown Frederick.

  13. A Civil War battlefield or museum using a Confederate flag in their logo or signage is completely appropriate IMO (if the flag was being used by a non-historical organization, like a Southern BBQ restaurant called “Rebel Ribs”, then it would be another matter entirely). For the MOC or the CW Medical Museum, a change from the more recognizable CBF to a more historically accurate CSA national flag would be appropriate, but they should not be expected to remove it entirely.

  14. No they should not change it . These are the flags of the era. If you are one of the uneducated people on Lincoln’s War read some from a Southern perspective, don’t just listen to these haters who spout half truths and outright lies to justify their cleansing of Heritage and the massive killing of Americans that took place under the Lincoln administration.

  15. Nutty biased article. Any amount of education would clearly show that there is no reason to consider the confederate battle flag “toxic “. Any publication that receives public funds and acts this way should be reprimanded or closed. Any private publication that acts this dumb shunned. The MOC is ran by revisionist who should be fired for the poor job they have done running that institution. All in all this action shows the sad state of our education system and how easily the weak minded are swayed.

  16. It should be replaced, but only by a historically accurate Confederate flag. The 1st, 2nd or 3rd and final Confederate flag will do. The replacement probably won’t be as offensive, but only because people will not recognize it for what it is…

  17. One of my standard tropes since I’ve been involved in heritage matters is to say that when the CBF is returned to being a familiar feature of the civic landscape, it will cease to be a bogeyman misused by extremists of all kinds, NAACP as well as KKK.

    It’s really the NAACP’s 1991 “Resolution of Hate” and 25 years of propaganda which is responsible for the anti-CBF attitude which has become a tenant of faith for the politically correct haters.

    If you want to “inoculate” the public against negative effects – make something ubiquitous. It is the anti-flag folks who want to make the CBF so rare and “toxic”. Various tourist boards are just panderers to the “Hecklers Veto”. No boycott related to the CBF has ever worked- look at South Carolina. The experience of Tampa with our giant flag at the intersection of two interstates is that it becomes no big deal. There were dire warnings that Tampa would never host a Superbowl or party convention if hte flag went up- and we’ve had both. We’ve also had many conventions of groups like the Prince Hall Masons and Shriners.

    In fact the vaunted KKK association has been recently very publicly refuted by the Hillary Clinton Anti-Trump TV ad which clearly shows the KKK using the US flag.

    • It’s really the NAACP’s 1991 “Resolution of Hate” and 25 years of propaganda which is responsible for the anti-CBF attitude which has become a tenant of faith for the politically correct haters.

      With all due respect, it is hard to consider this as serious historical analysis. The Confederate battle flag has been a toxic symbol going back to the height of the Jim Crow Era. You should take some time to read John Coski’s excellent study of the history of the Confederate flag and you might want to read this brief article for some context.

      • The “Confederate battle flag,” again, one of many that army used in the war, did not come into KKK use until after World War 2 – as the Museum of the Confederacy showed in an exhibit some years ago on post-war uses of the alleged CBF. John Coski, whose book I contributed to, was the writer of this exhibit. Jim Crow started in the later 19th Century and in going through thousands of pages of period newspapers over 28 years of serious research into Confederate flags I have found ZERO used in KKK rallies before the late 1940s! NOT ONE! Loads of US flags and even Christian flags – as the MOC exhibit showed in their period film footage including the pre-World War 2 KKK rally on the Mall in Washington DC. Coski found the same thing. The KKK stole the flag to try and appeal to Southerners to join their then dwindling ranks- and the UDC and SCV rolled over like France in 1940 and did nothing to prevent them from taking the flag and appending their own message to it. Even when Georgia changed its state flag in 1956 to include the “CBF” the state UDC came out against it for misusing that symbol. The Georgia Archives has a full file box of stuff on the 1956 flag change that I went through years ago and it holds documents to support this.

        What I have found are dozens of actual battle flags treated with reverence when brought to unit reunions, UCV and SCV encampments, etc. by the veterans themselves who would have taken huge exception to the KKK or anyone else using THEIR symbols for anything but remembrance. In the earlier days of the KKK when former Confederate officers of high ranking took command of them at state levels you did not see the use of CS battle flags by the klan. This would have deeply violated what those flags meant to those veterans – it just never happened. These were flags of war where men died and were wounded under their folds and to the veterans ANY other use would have been horrific to them and they would have come out with loud voices and actions to stop any misuse.

        I find it very sad that people today go after one flag because some idiot had it in a video or picture who then went out and killed some innocent people. These people who condemn that one flag for this action then point to the KKK and any other hate groups that use this flag as justification for their anger and bans while completely ignoring the facts that the KKK and other hate groups also fly the US flag and have done so for years. As I mentioned to a friend of mine who asked me what I thought about the SC murders I stated simply – had he had a US flag in his video/picture none of this would be happening. Hypocrisy sickens me to no end. Acts of evil come from the heart no matter what symbols are used if any and it is far easier these days to blame the symbols instead of judging the perpetrator’s heart and intentions.

        As a noted and known Civil War flags historian I received numerous calls from the media when this tragic event happened in SC including USA Today, CBS News and others. I returned none of the calls. Our modern media is filled with morons who take what people say and edit or twist them to fit their preconceived agenda and/or are too lazy to do some real research into their topic and I wanted no part of it. My college training was in journalism and I know what real journalism is supposed to be. I was taught the Five Points – who, what, where, how and why – as the basis for reporting. Nothing about agenda. That was for the OP/ED pages. I have been misquoted before in a major city newspaper in an article about looking for a missing Tennessee unit flag captured on the Fort Donelson campaign taken to that city in 1862 by a steamboat captain who then had it displayed in a local store. The headline was an alleged quote from me that I never said and when the article hit it got me into some trouble for the state museum that I was working for at the time on a flags project. I had to explain that I never said what the writer said I said. And while I appreciated the article, which got copied across the country in papers owned by this chain, it made me look like some moron. I resented that then; I resent it still and the media can basically go to Hell as far as I am concerned. So I ignored them and saved valuable time that I would never get back if I had talked to them about the “CBF” in the picture of the murdered and what did the flag really mean etc. ad nauseum.

        Lastly, if flags are “toxic symbols,” I can make a great case for the US flag being one in our own history especially to my Cherokee ancestors. Descendants of slaves can also make the same case. Yet I do not dwell on this – you learn from you mistakes and get better and move forward. But my message is simple – if you want to blame a flag for a person’s actions then you need to blame loads of flags through history when the real cause are the people who do and did these things and not a piece of cloth.

        • Thanks for the comment. I am very familiar with John Coski’s work on this subject. There is no one better.

          I am not sure why you are so fixated on the Klan. The Confederate battle flag was a prominent symbol for the Dixiecrat movement and it was used widely by ordinary Americans as a symbol of massive resistance against the civil rights movement.

          It was also present during at least one lynching in Mississippi in 1920.

          There is a reason why this particular flag has been attached to racial hate and resistance against the civil rights movement. It is no accident and has everything to do with the flag’s place in the military arm of a government that was pledged to establishing a slave holding republic.

          • Kevin,

            I search for post-war appearances on actual Confederate unit flags as part of my research and trying to track down missing unit flags. I use the term “battle flag” as one of the search terms and if an article mentions that then it pops up no natter its context. I thank you for the Quitman article and the other one you linked to – these are the first two I have ever seen for the use of the “CBF” in a racial crime. I then caution you not to add too much to this in terms of context because of a few small incidents where some idiots used the flag during their horrible crimes – a ripple does not make a wave. If there were dozens or hundreds of these uses your point would be much stronger here. But it again is a misuse of that flag by some people who are trying to attach something to it for their own purposes. And therein is the problem with any flag – what someone does with it or what bad event took place under it can influence the thought process of the victims even if that flag did not mean what happened at all.

            I know of no wartime battle where Confederate troops sallied forth under whatever battle flag pattern they used while yelling, “keep slavery going!” Those flags did not mean that to these men at all. What they meant was their regiments, their mess mates, and the protection of the people back home who gave them these flags in the early war days when that was how flags were given to units (and before the ramp up of the mass produced battle flags from the Confederate depot system). I refer you to the late Dr. Richard Rollins and his book, “The Damned Red Flags of the Rebellion,” which was about Confederate flags in the Gettysburg Campaign and his chapter on what these flags meant to the men who fell and bled under them.

            Then only reason why I mentioned the KKK is because so many people today mention the KKK and other hate groups who use the flag – and not certain individuals who had a flag while hanging someone or an arm of the Democratic Party in the South who misused a military flag instead of misusing one of the three Confederate political flags (which also became battle flags). This happened at some of the Six Flags over Fill in the Blank Here that used the “CBF” instead of one of the CS political flags as part of a historical accurate flag display for flags of the nations that once ruled over their area. Such is the ignorance of flags history which can also be ignored by people who take one for nefarious purposes.

            The media focuses on hate groups – not smaller events – to go after the “CBF” in their reportage hence my response.

            But the “CBF” has also been used as a symbol of resistance to tyranny in Europe, like now former Soviet satellites when the crumbling of the Soviet Union took place. It was used by Southern rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, as a symbol of regional pride and not hate whatsoever. Because some small groups here and there take a flag and try to attach their agenda to it does not always mean that this is what that flag stood for all the time. A flag is in the eye of the beholder historically.

            And while indeed the Confederate nation sought to establish a slave holding republic, the US war aims until early 1863 were also to maintain the republic that included legal slavery protected by its Constitution. The irony here is that if the Confederacy had been crushed in 1862 slavery would still have existed in the US until such time as it was ended later. Union and its restoration was the predominant war aim of the North. Loads of Union troops felt betrayed when the Emancipation took effect in January 1863 – freeing slaves is not why they volunteered. Loads of Union letters and diaries make mention of this. Desertion rates increased for a time as well.

            I would also point out some of the slogans on actual Confederate unit colors. My favorite, for what this unit signed up to defend is this – one of side of the flag it states – We Choose Our Own Institutions.” An obvious statement to defending slavery and one of the exceedingly few that I have seen on CS unit flags. The other side has – “We Collect Our Own Revenue.” This pertains to Southern resistance to the age old argument of protective tariffs – prohibited in the Confederate Constitution by the way. This flag is at the MOC as War Department captured No. 25 taken at the Battle of Mill Springs, KY in January 1862. These statements meant something to the men who fought that battle under this flag or they would not have used it as a battle flag.

            I know of a couple other flags that have cotton bales on them – one with a negro sitting upon it (a Georgia unit flag) – but most of the flags with slogans are in the vein of “Victory or Death,” “Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” and even just “Home.” (presentation flag for the 15th Virginia Infantry). I have a number of flags with some variation of “home” on them as the reason why these men volunteered for military service. And while it has certainly been shown that many of these men sought to perpetuate slavery history an analysis of soldiers at war proves that political notions soon fade away after battles arrive and the main justifications why men fight are to survive and get home and for the other men of their units. John Keegan is but one of the military historians who have proved this. Did US soldiers join in 1861 to perpetuate slavery and slaughter American Indians? I doubt it – yet the government they served did both at the time in 1861 and onward – until early 1863 for one of the notions.

            • But it again is a misuse of that flag by some people who are trying to attach something to it for their own purposes.

              Whether you consider a particular use of the CBF to be misguided or mistaken is completely irrelevant to the fact that it was used. That is what the historian needs to better understand. Remember, the state of Mississippi had already chosen to adopt the image in its state flag in the 1890s as racial tension worsened.

              Historians have written extensively about why Civil War soldiers fought and why many remained committed until the very end. I wrote a book about Confederate soldiers at the Crater and they were very clear about the dangers of emancipation and the implications of black Union soldiers.

              At the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign the Army of Northern Virginia was under orders to round up fugitive slaves and send them back south, thus making every soldier part of a slavecatching army. Every Confederate soldier, regardless of whether he owned slaves, fought for a government whose expressed purpose was the establishment of a slave holding republic. It is no accident that the Confederate flag became the symbol of resistance to civil rights or that it ended up in situations like the one in Quitman, Mississippi.

              • Very well aware of why Mississippi chose its 1890s state flag. What remains pertinent is that the flag was and is also used for other reasons as I have stated and I refuse to let you or anyone else pin one thing to any one flag. That is not how flags have worked historically for the most part. I await your outrage over the use of the US flag in Indian removal, slavery, racial strife, etc. and I would bet that I would be waiting for some time. It is no accident that hate groups also use the US flag – and for the exact same reason that the KKK and hate groups used the “CBF” – to gin up some more support by appealing to some patriotism and to more mainstream their cause. When the KKK found it was not working they changed their main flag but retained the US flag.

                That is my point – you cannot blame one flag for one thing unless you also truthfully examine another flag as to how it was used – and from its government on down. The KKK used and still uses the US flag. Why not outrage over this ever????

                It was also the stated policy of US troops up until the Emancipation to return runaway slaves to the South. Robert Gould Shaw, then with the 2nd Massachusetts, had to do it in 1862. From the book “One Gallant Rush” – “…one of Shaw’s duties in the idle days at Harper’s Ferry was to apprehend runaway slaves and return them to their masters. Show found this duty painful…he had no choice but to obey his government whose policy towards slavery, as long as the slaves in question were not actively engaged in the pursuit of rebellion, was to let it stand.”

                In my research projects in Kentucky’s Civil War era newspapers I found the election results for the 1864 elections. Kentucky Union regiments voted overwhelmingly for McClellan. Many of their officers were slave holders. After the war, Kentucky was as occupied by Union troops as any Southern state was and it really angered Kentuckians. As they say now, Kentucky became a Confederate state after the war. The cause of these Kentucky Unionists – and for that matter many Tennessee Unionists – was not to get rid of slavery – but to restore the Union. And all done under the fluttering Stars and Stripes of the United States.

                This is far more complex than you think and because some bad things happen under one flag does not absolve another flag that flew over troops that sought to destroy those who fought under the first one. No one has clean hands here.

              • Mr. Biggs,

                Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am not ‘blaming’ anyone or anything. I am trying to understand the history of one particular flag that first appeared as part of a rebellion intended to establish a slave holding republic and has remained in use as symbol of white supremacy and resistance to civil rights ever since.

                I am appalled at the use of the Stars and Stripes by organizations like the KKK and other groups, but the difference is that it is our national flag and each of us has a responsibility to make sure that it reflects the values that our country was built on.

              • This is where I kind of disagree with you: “[the CBF] has remained in use as symbol of white supremacy and resistance to civil rights ever since.”

                From my perspective, not really. From the 70s onward its been watered down to something people put on their truck to tell the world, “Ah’m a REDNECK.” Hence why in the 2003 primaries, Howard Dean rather nonchalantly said he wanted to “be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags on their trucks.”

                I feel like you’re ignoring the pop commercialism of the CBF as the most recent part of its history. That’s a major epoch, just as important as the war, reconstruction and Civil Rights. Much of what people are defending now isn’t actually “heritage” but rather a pop culture birthed in the 1970s.

              • I don’t necessarily disagree with you. What I do think is important to acknowledge is that it has never lost its function as a symbol of white supremacy and resistance to civil rights, especially in recent years.

              • Forester brings up the pop culture use of the “CBF” which was also covered in the Museum of the Confederacy exhibit of some years ago that I have already mentioned. From the General Lee car in “Dukes of Hazard,” to lunch pails, beach towels and swim suits, etc., the flag was given a totally different meaning. Lynyrd Skynyrd, as I have stated, among some other Southern rock bands, used it for regional pride and their song “Sweet Home Alabama” was an answer to Neil Young’s “Southern Man.”

                So we have numerous meanings for this flag and that depends on what the holder is doing with it to establish that meaning. Again, it comes down to men – not a piece of cloth.

              • So we have numerous meanings for this flag and that depends on what the holder is doing with it to establish that meaning. Again, it comes down to men – not a piece of cloth.

                Yes, it has numerous meanings and one of its uses and meanings stretches straight back to a war to establish a slave holding republic based on white supremacy.

              • Kevin,

                A slave holding republic was established on July 4, 1776. That new republic presided over the institution of slavery for almost 90 years before it legally ended in December 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment and its ratification. The Confederacy was only around for 4 1/2 years. The US and CS were not the only slave holding nations – Brazil got over twice as many black slaves from Africa as the US did. Blacks in Africa held other conquered tribes as slaves – which is where the white slave traders usually got their slaves. Slavery goes back to ancient civilizations and pretty much any civilization that became a power of one sort had slaves to help them get there.

                On June 14, 1777, the Stars and Stripes were created to fly over that new slave holding republic and its navy (they were not used as a Continental Army battle flag contrary to Hollywood and post-war art nor did Betsy Ross invent the flag design).

                This flag, starting with the Mexican War, was used as a US Army battle flag and that remained through World War One when the use of battle flags was retired. All three national flags of the Confederate States of America were also used as battle flags along with 20 other patterns and sub-patterns of created battle flags during the war.

                The reason the Southern Cross flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (although this pattern was also used by other CS troops in the west and Trans-Mississippi mostly in rectangular formats) was because the post-war Lost Cause writings were dominated by Lee’s veterans to the detriment of the other Confederates. Confederate Veteran magazine of the post-war era and other Southern sources (like the Southern Bivouac) are loaded with western Confederates writing in and asking why their battle flags were not being talked about. Sadly, much mythology was created at this time too.

                Under the Stars and Stripes we have racial hatred, Indian removal, filibusters to Latin America, Manifest Destiny, the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and creation of overseas American colonies, Japanese citizens interned, the KKK, etc. – and nary a peep out of modern anti-CS flag people about that. All of these would seem to be heinous things to modern Americans as much and, in the case of outright Indian genocide (both physical and cultural), even worse than slavery. This flag is a national flag and a battle flag – US military units still have this for parade and ceremonial use today.

                Still looking for your and others outrage over the use of the Stars and Stripes in the above. And I again state that had the idiot in Charleston had a US flag in his picture nothing would have happened towards the CS flag.

                But I have to state that I am sick and tired of the outrage against one flag when there should be equal outrage against another – if one chooses to engage in outrage at all.

                By the way – I do not advocate the bringing down of the Stars and Stripes despite what has taken place under its folds. The flag, like the CS flag, was not at fault – men were.

              • Thanks for the history lesson. I don’t celebrate the United States for its role in protecting slavery under the Constitution. In fact, much of my work involves reminding students and my audiences of just this fact, but this country also managed to end the practice by 1865. The battles on the racial front continue to this day and as a citizen of this nation it is my responsibility to help improve it in this respect.

                The Confederacy was established for one purpose only and that was the protection of slavery and white supremacy. Thanks for the comments, but I suspect we simply have different views on this topic. Good day.

              • Kevin,

                And that is why we should study history – to learn from mistakes and get better.

                But I doubt that in 1776 any slave holders, north or south, thought that slavery would end anytime soon. And I also note that the discussion of freeing slaves for Confederate military service took place during the war, from 1864 onwards. That was a huge paradigm shift in Confederate philosophy brought about, no doubt, by their losing of the war at that time. But they had altered their focus nonetheless.

                Some change takes place quickly – some takes time.

              • You are glossing over the contours of the Confederate debate over slave enlistment. The only shift that took place was the realization that additional bodies were needed in the field.

                And that is why we should study history – to learn from mistakes and get better.

                What does this have to do with the history and meaning of the Confederate battle flag? It is not our national flag. It was the flag of a failed rebellion. We should be thankful as Americans that it failed.

                You are free to rehabilitate this symbol, but please don’t ask me or anyone else to ignore its history as a symbol of white supremacy and pro-slavery stretching back to a failed rebellion to establish a slave holding republic.

              • Kevin,

                The comment about why we study history was directed towards what you teach your students…nothing more.

                Regarding the enlistment of blacks into the Confederate Army, yes it was for bodies in the field – but once that happened and had they survived as a nation – then slavery as they knew it was gone forever – and deep down inside they knew that. Thus they became willing to sacrifice the institution for independence.

              • …but once that happened and had they survived as a nation – then slavery as they knew it was gone forever – and deep down inside they knew that.

                I suggest you go back and review the debate in Congress and in the hundreds of newspapers that closely followed it. The consensus was that limited enlistment would not lead to emancipation. Very few had any intention of “sacrificing the institution.” I suggest reading Bruce Levine’s excellent book on this subject, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arms Slaves During the War (Oxford University Press).

              • Kevin,

                I would also suggest the biography of Confederate Major General William H.T. Walker by Russell K. Brown. In early January 1864, while the Army of Tennessee was in winter quarters at Dalton, GA, Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne made a proposal to a number of the officers of that army about freeing the slaves in exchange for Confederate military service. Walker was the most vociferous of opponents but he was not the only one there that was. Walker felt that basically if they did that then what had they been fighting for all along? While army commander Joe Johnston quashed the notion, Walker got Cleburne’s proposal and with his own letter included, sent it to President Jefferson Davis to let him know what was going on. The news of this did not come pout until after the war but it got the ball rolling towards using this massive manpower source to achieve victory.

                I know of the book you mention and have read some of the newspaper reporting as I came across it while researching other things, but as one who works in the business world with corporate management experience and understands labor and its costs, I can state categorically that it is pure folly to not think that slavery was doomed had they gone through with this proposal full bore, trained up hundreds of thousands of armed black troops, won their war and then try to renege on the deal. They would have had a massive internal problem on their hands. Basically another war and in an exhausted nation. Those in the right places knew deeply, even if they did not openely state as such, that had they done this slavery was doomed. That is pure logic.

              • I am familiar with Cleburne’s proposal and its impact on the broader debate. Of course, Cleburne was not the first Confederate officer to bring this up. Richard Ewell raised it as early as 1861, but as was the case in early 1864 it went nowhere.

                Those in the right places knew deeply, even if they did not openely state as such, that had they done this slavery was doomed. That is pure logic.

                As a historian I don’t know what people in the past “knew deeply”. What was likely from our vantage point and what people at the time believed or intended by their actions are two different things.

              • Kevin,

                What we do know is that WHT Walker, a lowly division commander, “knew deeply” that arming slaves in exchange for their freedom meant the end of the institution. Cleburne and his officers who signed onto his letter knew that as well.

                Let’s look at historical soldier motivations. Machiavelli wrote that a soldier will fight much harder for a cause he believes in than pay as a mercenary. In his time, mercenaries were quite popular among European powers as it was cheaper than raising your own larger armies. Spanish Tercios and Swiss pikemen were the rage of the time. Irish mercenaries were also popular. The British in our Revolution hired Hessian Germans (they wanted Prussians but Frederick turned that down) – who were every good and drilled to Prussian standards. Many of Wellington’s veterans fought for South American freedom movements during and after the Napoleonic era closed. Xenophon’s Greeks were mercenaries for a Persian Satrap – going with the old statement if you cannot defeat them then hire them (as the British did with the Ghurkas).

                Yet what happens to these men when the pay stops; the regime they support loses (see the Belgian Congo in the 1960s for that), etc.? These hirelings fade away. And you have nothing.

                So when looking at the Confederate act of arming and training slaves the only way that was going to motivate them to even do so was to offer them freedom. Otherwise they have zero motivation to help whatsoever based on soldier motivations through history as studied by John Keegan, Victor Davis Hanson, et al.. They certainly would not have been mercenaries and would have held the cards being trained and armed if the CSA won and the Confederates sought to redo the deal. That was not going to happen. Can you imagine the first trained CS black unit going into battle without the promise of freedom? They would have folded in the first fight and defected to the Union.

                Politicians historically state only what they need to state while keeping real motivations under wraps. The CS Congress was like that. There had to be realization, even if not overtly stated, that arming slaves and then not freeing them would have been a disaster had they won just as much as arming slaves with the promise of freedom as motivation and winning their independence also was a disaster for the slavery institution. They took this step out of dire straits and deep down knew the consequences.

              • Mr. Levin, per your statement: “The Confederacy was established for one purpose only and that was the protection of slavery and white supremacy.”, you indicate that you are unopen to logical debate. That certainly was not any “one purpose only”, sir, but a side issue, at best. I noticed your snide little remark about a “thought experiment”, also. You obviously have an ego the size of Alaska, but I digress. Your statement that we all should be glad that the south lost the war is somewhat impertinent, sir. I, for one, will always mourn the loss of the war, as well as Lincoln’s shredding of the Constitution, to make that loss possible. No one actually won anything as a result of that horrible war!

              • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Robert.

                No one actually won anything as a result of that horrible war!

                Tell that to roughly 4 million people who could no longer be legally sold and separated from their families.

              • Kevin,

                I neglected to mention that the June 1777 creation of the Stars and Stripes was done by a slave holding republic in rebellion to its mother country. So this flag, too, is a symbol of rebellion every bit as much as any Confederate flag pattern.

              • Someone (Freehling?) made the comment the United States Army directly freed more slaves than any other army in history.

              • Well, in fairness, Americans have never tried to deny that the Revolution was flagrantly illegal. It was a REVOLUTION after all.

                America formed a permanent, separate identity. They didn’t even retain a token loyalty to the crown like Canada. America declared a complete and total severance from everything British — laws be damned.

                Unlike the Confederacy, which has always straddled the fence trying to be American and yet not American at the same time. The “Rebels” and their flag are also presented by Heritage groups as being 100% legitimate and legal. They want US Veteran status for soldiers fighting to secede from the US. It’s an odd paradox.

  18. I read the article by the professor from Mississippi about the murder of Will Echols and how he was allegedly forced to kiss a Confederate battle flag before he was shot and killed.
    I went to three of the online newspaper sites I subscribe to for 1920 Mississippi and searched for Will Echols and “battle flag” and nothing came up in any state newspaper about his killers having a flag at all. There were numerous articles about his arrest and murder but no mentions of flags.

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