There is no controversy over Confederate battle flag

June 30, 2012

The Confederate battle flag certainly should be flown over the Walton County memorial to Confederate dead. There is a clear distinction between the national flag of the government of the Confederacy and the battle flags often made and carried by the men in the field. Among historians there is no inherent “controversy” concerning “the” Confederate battle flag.

For background, I am a Northerner whose fifth great-grandfather fought the British in the war of 1812, whose fourth great-grandfather was wounded by the Confederates fighting with the Michigan 16th at Gaines Mill (aka First Cold Harbor), Virginia, and whose grandfather fought the Germans with the U.S. Fifth Army at the Battle of the Bulge, so I respect those who answered their country’s call.

The Confederate Memorial at the courthouse in DeFuniak lists 91 Walton county names and one would presume many of these have living descendants in the area so a little background seems in order.

The Walton Guards were formed at Eucheeanna at the start of the war and set up shop at the Indian Temple Mound in what is modern Fort Walton. The Walton Guards eventually became part of the 1st Florida, who fought under a Confederate flag at the Battle of Santa Rosa Island before joining the Army of Tennessee along with the Florida 3rd. They were eventually engaged in battle at Gaines Mill. The monument shows the Florida 6th Regiment under Walton County’s Col. Angus McLean, which fought on that same hallowed ground.

So while it is at least theoretically possible someone memorialized by the Confederate monument at DeFuniak Springs could have shot my relative, I still honor the historic battle flag of the fighting men.

I am fairly certain my great great-great-grandfather did not volunteer to march from Michigan to Virginia to fight against something such as “racism” or “slavery.” I also doubt the Confederate soldiers, of whom 95.2 percent had no record of slave ownership, were fighting “for” slavery. They were fighting for an independent South, much as our nation’s forefathers rebelled against the British.

Confederate soldiers were Americans too, who died fighting for a nearly identical (constitutionally speaking) America and who lie buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Two from Santa Rosa Island/East Pass (presumably from the Battle of East Pass) are at Barrancas National Cemetery aboard Pensacola NAS. Determining their location and identities should be a priority.

As for dislike of the Confederate battle flag, Florida and Alabama both fly flags bearing the same St Andrew’s cross.  Mississippi and Georgia both have Confederate flags flying, one more obvious than the other. This is an integral part of U.S. history.

If the “correctness” of the flag above the memorial is an issue, then the more specific battle flag of the Florida 1st could be flown … or the 6th Regiment of the Florida Volunteers.  Naturally both look much like the flag currently flying.

As a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, I honor the fighting dead on both sides. The flags of the men fighting in the field of battle are pure history, and should be learned, remembered and respected. They gave all and we should remember. 
Timothy Mahar