Story of Confederate flags is confusing

By John Barry, Times staff writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday’s hoisting of a giant Confederate flag over an Interstate 75 pasture in rural Hillsborough County has resurrected — at least verbally — the Civil War in Tampa Bay. But a few folks have raised the idea of a flag of truce. They note that the 30- by 50-foot banner raised by the Sons of Confederate Veterans is technically not the "true" flag of the Confederacy. It’s a "battle flag" — one of 180 varieties during the war — and was once criticized for looking too much like a pair of suspenders.

The compromisers point out that the "true" Confederate States of America flag actually was designed by a Prussian in Alabama in 1861. It looked a lot like the U.S. Stars and Stripes — so much so that in the heat of battle opposing forces weren’t sure whom to shoot at.

So Confederate leaders adopted an alternative flag in 1863 called the "Stainless Banner." Most of the flag was pure white, hence "stainless." Thirteen stars, set in crossed stripes, occupied the upper left corner. It wasn’t very popular, either. It looked too much like a white flag of surrender.

So once more, in 1865, the leadership approved a third National Flag just like "Stainless," except for a vertical red stripe down the right side.

Substituting any one of those three authentic national flags on the big pole on I-75 might confuse Tampa Bay combatants so much they’d forget what they were arguing about.

© 2008 · St. Petersburg Times

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