City looks to more ‘time period appropriate’ replacement for controversial Civil War Flag
By Samantha Swindler
Published: July 02, 2008
A flag of the Confederate States of America that was briefly flown, along with the American flag, at the Battle of Barbourville Interpretive Park was removed over the weekend after the city received numerous complaints about it.
“There were some calls to the mayor concerning the flag,” said Barbourville Tourism Director Betty Cole. “Because it was a little controversial, the mayor had it taken down. We’re just going to find one that’s appropriate for the time period.”
The flag was first flown Thursday. Barbourville Mayor David Thompson said he received about 10 phone calls complaining about the flag and had it removed Saturday morning.
“That’s the first time I had that many people question something since I’ve been in office,” Thompson said. “We just took it down until we figured out what it was supposed to mean.”
The meaning of the flag wasn’t entirely clear to everyone who saw it. It was not the flag most often associated with the Confederacy — a blue “X” filled with stars across a red background was used as a battle flag, but was not the national flag of the Confederacy.
The flag removed Saturday was actually the Second Confederate National Flag. Known as the “Stainless Banner,” it showed the blue “X” and red square in the upper right hand corner of an otherwise white flag.
“As far as myself, I thought it looked good… but that park is for everybody, and we didn’t want to offend any people,” Thompson said.
But removing the flag has angered another portion of the population — members of the Battle of Barbourville organization.
“Removing the flag is a definite step in the wrong direction,” wrote Ray Adkins, CEO of Battle of Barbourville Inc., the local group that organizes the annual battle reenactment and that donated the flags to the park. “I am hurt and in disbelief that this happened. You cannot change history, if you attempt to do so you are forgetting one very important fact. The men that died under that flag were American soldiers, too. Removing the flag shows a prejudice racist stand.”
In an e-mailed letter sent to city officials, Adkins wrote that he would withdraw his support of the park if the flag were removed.
“I am asking you before this reaches the media and others that have their eyes upon our town and its history to put the flag back and let it fly or remove the other flag also,” he wrote. “Pull up the flagpoles and fly no flags.”
Adkins is a local historian and has written books on the Battle of Barbourville.
“Because removing the flag is wrong, I disagree with that decision and will withdraw my support, my books will be written about other things and the Battle of Barbourville will die and I will let everyone know why,” he wrote.
Two flags representing the early United States of America and the Confederate States of America have flown at the site of the interpretive park since last fall.
Originally, the city had flown the First Confederate National Flag, a flag adopted by the Confederate states in 1861 which contains one white and two red stripes, and a blue square in the upper left-hand corner with a white star representing each Confederate state.
The two original flags became tattered and were replaced last week, but the First Confederate National Flag was replaced with the Second Confederate National Flag, whose design was more recognizable as a Confederate symbol.
Adkins said the Battle of Barbourville Inc. purchased about six flags to be flown at the city park. Because various flags were used by both sides throughout the Civil War, Adkins said the organization purchased several so they could be rotated and changed.
“Instead of having the same flag up there all the time, there were different flags, and we were going to rotate the flags and make it different,” he said Tuesday.
“This is a historical park, and in history you can’t be prejudiced,” he said. “Really, neither flag should offend anybody.”
City officials haven’t made a final decision on the flag, but Thompson said they may return to the First Confederate National Flag. The “Stainless Banner” wasn’t adopted as the national Confederate flag until 1863, two years after the Battle of Barbourville took place.
The Battle of Barbourville Interpretive Park — located at the site of the former Curry Oil property on Daniel Boone Drive — has been under construction for a grand opening date this September during the battle reenactment. It was funded in part by a $50,000 tourism grant along with local government funds. It includes informational panels about the battle and a reproduction Civil War-era cannon, although no cannon was used at the Battle of Barbourville. Three mural projects depicting the battle, the campsite and the surrounding woodlands are planned as part of the park and grant project.