I AM THEIR FLAG
In 1861, when they perceived their rights to be threatened, when those who would alter the nature of the government of their fathers were placed in charge, when threatened with change they could not accept, the mighty men of valor began to gather. A band of brother, native to the Southern soil, they pledged themselves to a cause: The cause of defending family, fireside, and faith. Between the desolation of war and their homes they interposed their bodies and they chose me for their symbol.
I Am Their Flag. Their mothers, wives, and sweethearts too scissors and thimbles, needles and thread, and from silk or cotton or calico- whatever was the best they had -even from the fabric of their wedding dresses, they cut my pieces and stitched my seams.
I Am Their Flag On courthouse lawns, in picnic groves, at train stations across the South the men mustered and the women placed me in their hands. Fight hard, win if possible, come back if you can, but, above all, maintain your honor. Here is your symbol, they said.
I Am Their Flag. They flocked to the training grounds and the drill fields. They felt the wrenching sadness of leaving home. They endured sickness, loneliness, boredom, bad food and poor quarters. They looked to me for inspiration.
I Am Their Flag. I was at Sumter when they began in jubilation. I was at Big Bethel when the infantry fired its first volley. I smelled the gun smoke along Bull Run in Virginia and at Belmont along the Mississippi. I was in the debacle at Fort Donelson; I led Jackson up the valley. For Seven Days I flapped in the turgid air of the James River bottoms as McClellan ran from before Richmond. Sidney Johnston died for me at Shiloh as would thousands of others whose graves are marked Sine Nomine,-without a name-unknown.
I Am Their Flag. With ammunition gone they defended me along the railroad bed at Manassas by throwing rocks. I saw the fields run red with blood at Sharpsburg. Brave men carried me across Doctor’s Creek at Perryville. I saw the blue bodies cover Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg and the Gray ones fall like leaves in the Round forest at Stone River.
I Am Their Flag. I was a shroud for the body of Stonewall after Chancellorsville. Men ate rats and mule meat to keep me flying over Vicksburg. I tramped across the wheat field with Kemper and Armistead and Garnett at Gettysburg. I know the thrill of victory, the misery of defeat, the bloody cost of both.
I Am Their Flag. When Longstreet broke the line at Chickamamuga, I was in the lead. I was the last off Lookout Mountain. Men died to rescue me at Missionary Ridge. I was singed by the wildfire that burned to death the wounded in the Wilderness. I was shot to tatters in the Bloody Angle at Spotsylavania. I was in it all from Dalton to Peachtree Creek, and no worse place did I ever see that Kennesaw and New Hope Church. They planted me over the trenches at Petersburg and there I stayed for many long months. I Am Their Flag. I was rolled in blood at Franklin; I was stiff with ice at Nashville. Many good men bade me farewell at Sayler’s Creek. When the end came at Appomattox, when the last Johnny Reb left Durham Station, many of them carried fragments of my fabric hidden on their bodies.
I Am Their Flag In the hard years of so-called Reconstruction, in the difficulty and despair of years that slowly passed, the veteran, their wives and sons and daughters, they loved me. They passed them on to their grandchildren and they to their children, and so they were passed to you.
I Am Their Flag. I have shrouded the bodies of heroes, I have been laved with the blood of martyrs, I am enshrined in the hearts of millions, living and dead. Salute me with affection and reverence. Keep undying devotion in your hearts. I AM HISTORY. I AM HERITAGE, NOT HATE. I AM THE INSPIRATION OF VALOR FROM THE PAST.
LOOK AWAY, DIXIE LAND—–I AM THEIR FLAG.
Dr. Michael R. Bradley–author
I AM THEIR FLAG was written by Dr. Michael R. Bradley, Commander of the J. W. Starnes Brigade of the Tennessee Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. You may contact him via the below email address: