By Angie Long
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Flags are state and national symbols that conjure up feelings both positive and negative, says Dr. Mike Daniel, history professor at LBWCC-Greenville.

Patriotism, love, fear, controversy. All are deep emotions stirred by flags throughout history, whether it’s the Nazi emblem, the Lone Star of Texas, the Stars and Stripes, or the Confederate Battle Flag.

In honor of General Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday this week, Daniel presented a slide show program on “The Flags of the Confederacy” to the Greenville Lions on Monday. The historian shared some little-known facts and little-seen emblems with the audience.

“One of the early flags used by the Confederacy was the ‘Bonnie Blue,’ a simple blue flag with a single white star in the center,” Daniel explained.

“You may have seen this one on car tags and wondered what it symbolized. Now you know.”

According to Daniel, the Confederate song, “Bonnie Blue Flag,” was extremely popular during the war and was as well known in its day as “Dixie.”

“The Bonnie Blue Flag symbolized the independent nature of these states. The popularity of this song and flag is seen in ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Scarlett and Rhett name their child Bonnie Blue Butler,” Daniel said.

Another little-known flag from the Confederacy was an Alabama flag briefly adopted after the state seceded from the Union.

The “Republic of Alabama” flag is unusual in that it featured a design on both sides, Daniel said.

The front of the flag features the goddess of Liberty holding a star and a sword, “indicating Alabama was willing to fight if need be,” Daniel said.

The words “Independence Now and Forever” are emblazoned across the flag.

“On the back of the flag, you see a cotton plant, certainly an emblem of Alabama, and a coiled snake; again, showing the state’s willingness to fight. The Latin phrase, ‘Noli Me Tangere,’ means ‘Don’t tread on me,’” Daniel said.

The complexity of its design was one of the factors leading to Republic flag’s demise – “it was just too expensive to mass produce.”

The professor also shared the stories of a number of flags of the various Confederate States as they evolved throughout the war.

“Note how similar these early flags were to the Stars and Stripes. The Confederates felt they had as much right to that part of their history as anyone,” Daniel explained.

“After all, many of those who had governed the nation were southerners; (the Union flag) was part of their culture and history, too.”

Another little-known fact: battle flags were invariably square, not the rectangles we see nowadays.

“You don’t want a lengthy flag that’s going to catch on trees or drag the ground when you are in battle,” the professor explained.

The mass-produced Confederate flag commonly seen today is actually the Confederate naval flag. “Its rectangular design makes it fly much better than the square design.”

Daniel also showed images of various southern state flags created in the 1890s.

The professor said some historians have suggested the reason so many of these flags feature the Saint Andrew’s Cross in their design is the Celtic influence on the South and the flags of Scotland and Ireland.

“Flags represent our country, our people, our culture. They do stir our emotions, good and bad, and that’s the way it should be,” Daniel said.

Anyone wanting to hear all the details of the Daniel’s informative “Flags of the Confederacy” presentation is encouraged to attend this Friday’s celebration of Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday.

The event will begin with a 4 p.m. re-dedication ceremony at the Confederate Monument (weather permitting) and continue indoors at the First United Methodist Church.

“We have a 90-minute presentation planned on aspects of Civil War history. We’ll also have youngsters from Fort Dale dressed up as Civil War characters. I am eager to see a fourth grader decked out as Robert E. Lee,” Daniel said with a smile.

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