Leon Puissegur

The Confederate Battle Flag has been under the gun of groups that tend to lead people in the wrong way to its inception. These groups, which place forth, the ideas that the flag represents hate and slavery cannot produce a single document to support these ridiculous claims. In fact all the documents found show the contrary to be true. I must point out that the Confederate Battle Flag never flew as a State Flag since its sole purpose was to distinguish the two armies from each other. It has become the most misunderstood and abused symbol in our great nation.

These groups that claim the Confederate Battle Flag to be a flag aligned with such “HATE” groups as the KKK, Neo Nazis, Skin Heads, and others really do not know what they are talking about. To them they can only remember what happened back in the 50’s and 60’s. They cannot fathom the facts when presented about the truth of the flag as it was born in 1861. Many people call the Confederate Battle Flag the “Stars and Bars”. The Stars and Bars came to be on March 4, 1861 when the Committee on a Proper Flag for the Confederate States of America wrote;

“That the flag of the Confederate States of America shall consist of a red field with a white space extending horizontally through the center, and equal in width to one-third the width of the flag. The red space above and below to be the same width as the white. The union blue extending down through the white space and stopping at the lower red space. In the center of the union a circle of white stars, corresponding in number with the States in the Confederacy.”

This can be found in the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865. Volume 1(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1905) pp.101-102. The story goes that the flag was flown over the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama. It was raised up the staff by the granddaughter of John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, Miss L.C. Tyler. This was presented by Ben LeBree ed., The Confederate Soldier in the Civil War, 1861-1865(Louisville: The Courier-Journal Job Printing Company, 1895) p.2 As can be seen, nowhere in this description of the “Stars and Bars” is there any mention of it being done for the protection of slavery or hate. As a matter of fact, none of the flags of the Confederacy were ever described in their placement to represent anything other than the Confederate States of America. And the Stars and Bars represented the flag of the Confederacy; the Confederate Battle flag was used extensively in the Battles.

The Confederate Battle Flag which has stirred so much controversy was designed by General P.G.T. Beauregard, who was born and raised in the Parish of St. Bernard, Louisiana, just over 12 miles from New Orleans. The Confederate Battle Flag was conceived AFTER, (I emphasize “after” because in many pictures of the battles, the Battle flag is shown when it was not even used.) the battle of First Bull Run (Manassas). It was during the battle that General Beauregard realized that a “battle” flag was needed. The General was expecting troops to come into battle from the right; instead they came in from the left. He could not distinguish the flag of the troops coming in from the left through the dust and smoke. Just before he was about to send a column to attack the advancing troops, a wind blew and unfurled the flag, he then noticed it was the First National Flag and it was his reinforcements he was waiting for. It was then that General Beauregard decided that a distinct flag was needed during the battles yet to come so as not to be confused again. General Beauregard’s design was a blue field, crossed red bars and gold stars. It was only after much discussion that it was changed into what it is today, a red field crossed blue bars with white stars.

The first flag of this design was called the Battle Flag of the Army of the Potomac. The flag was approved in September of 1861 by commanding General Joseph E. Johnston. The pattern was then submitted to and approved by the War Department. From that point through out the war the Battle Flag was carried by Confederate troops.

This can be found in Materials Relating to Flags, (New Orleans: Tulane University Special Collections), Louisiana Historical Association Collection. In United Confederate Veterans, The Flags of the Confederate States of America (Baltimore:A. Hoen & Co.1907) it is described as follows; “The Battle flag is square, with a Greek Cross of blue, edged with white, with thirteen equal five-pointed stars, upon a red field; with the whole banner bordered in white. The Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry all used the Battle Flag, but in different sizes. Infantry being 48 inches square; Artillery 36 inches square and the Cavalry 30 inches square. The proportions of the Infantry flag are: 48 in. by 48 in. (exclusive of the border); the blue arms of the cross, 7.5 in. wide; the white border around the flag proper 1.5 in. wide. Total outside measurement is 51 in. square. The stars are five-pointed, inscribed within a circle 6 in. in diameter, and are uniform in size. There should be 5 eyelet holes in the hoist next to the staff. The Artillery and Cavalry flags are designed upon the same proportions, but the overall measurements are reduced.”

As can be seen by this description, nowhere in any of the designs or ideas is there any mention of slavery or hate. The flag design was done to keep the loss of lives down and as a rallying point that could be distinguished during battle. The Sons of Confederate Veterans adopted the Confederate Battle Flag as part of their logo in 1896, long before any “hate” group began to abuse the flag. They did this to honor all the men who died while fighting behind the Confederate Battle Flag. To these men and women, this is a tribute to their ancestors. They, like many others, do not like the wrongful abuse of the Confederate battle Flag by the “hate” groups that use it to promote their wrongful ideas.

It wasn’t until the late 1950’s and 1960’s that the Confederate Battle Flag was used by the KKK and other “hate” groups. Those that use the flag to honor their ancestors do not promote the hate and stupid ideas that those who abuse it do. They have many blacks that also respect the flag due to the fact that their ancestors served with the Confederate Army. The Confederate Battle Flag was designed to save lives in July of 1861; it was approved for use in September of 1861. What is brought forth when a person or group condemns the Confederate Battle Flag is the total ignorance of the history behind the flag and the facts, which surround it. It is these misunderstood facts, which have tempered an otherwise honorable flag into a flag of controversy by those who have been fed this misinformation and ignorance of facts about the flag.

In an opinion in the Houston Chronicle, Jerry Patterson puts forth a very good argument about the abuse of symbols. Mr. Patterson stated; “Since the KKK has adopted the cross for use in its burnings, should churches across the country remove this symbol of Christianity from all places of worship? Should we not begin to tear down monuments to the Buffalo Soldiers (Black U.S. Cavalry troops of the late 1800’s), since those soldiers were an integral part of a war that subjugated and enslaved a whole race of people, the American Plains Indians?”

In this Mr. Patterson brings forth the question of where do we stop the displacement of history for the sole purpose of being “politically correct”? Also, this shows that if we can tolerate these instances whether right or wrong, why can we not tolerate the Confederate battle Flag? Not only has the Confederate Battle Flag been wrongly and falsely accused of being racist, but recently even pictures of Southern generals have been assailed for just being Southern. These actions are reminiscent of Stalin and Hitler as they did the same thing to histories that they did not want. The Confederate Battle Flag is considered as a flag of hate and slavery, albeit wrongly, yet it flew for only four years.

The one flag that flew the longest and was actually the founder of slavery was the British Flag. The British Flag flew over slavery for 167 years before the United States became the United States. Under the United States flag slavery grew for 89 years. Neither of these flags is hated, as much as the Confederate Battle Flag, why is this? One reason is that through misinformation and prejudice, it has been cast as such.

Former President of the Asheville, North Carolina Branch of the NAACP has stated without restriction,

“Protection of Confederate symbols is THE civil rights issue of the new millennium, and this debate is long overdue. We must address this issue with peaceful, non-violent means like debate before agitation over the flag gets out of hand.”

Mr. Edgerton is a black man and a life member of the NAACP. His views are very different from the majority of the NAACP membership but he is proud to defend the Confederate Battle Flag. Look through any documentation that you can find and I am very sure that no one will ever find a document, which clearly states that, the Confederate battle Flag was designed specifically for the purpose of slavery and hate. Those who harbor these ideas are ignorant of the FACTS as the FACTS are written. The people who promote this ill-founded idea do so not to heal, but to obtain money for their cause. If they could find a better way to raise money, they would not worry about the Confederate Battle Flag.

To those groups of people who have brainwashed the masses to thinking that the Confederate Battle Flag was designed or even represents slavery and hate, I say unto you, “Let you be the first to condemn me and I shall show you how wrong you are with documented FACTS. Facts that you cannot accept because they are so very true. Many of these same groups make statements like; “We do not accept or encourage stereotyping of anyone.” Yet in this arena, they are the first to STEREO TYPE the Confederate Battle Flag.

The Confederate Battle Flag is an honorable symbol of those many men who died fighting for what they believed in. They came from every walk of life and from every culture in the North and South. Not to honor them with the Confederate Battle Flag would be like not even acknowledging that the War for Southern Independence ever happened. This should never happen. Many people who have been misled and misinformed have the idea that the Confederate Battle Flag was raised in the early 1960’s due to the civil rights movement. This is a misconception, which now will be looked at through the use of documents and facts.

Early in 1956 the Southern states began planning on how to observe the 100th anniversary of the “War for Southern Independence” from hereon known as the “Civil War”. Some of these states decided to use the flag in their state flag or to raise it below the United States flag. Others decided to obtain a proclamation to observe the 100th anniversary of the Civil War.

A joint resolution was placed upon the floor of both houses of Congress to study and coordinate the observance of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. Both houses passed the resolution on September 7, 1957 to establish the Civil War Centennial Commission to coordinate the observance.

Many people have ignored these facts as documented in the Congressional records. Some have gone so far as to place a fictional idea that the Confederate Battle Flag was raised in defiance of the civil rights movement. Maybe the civil rights movement actually used the Centennial to promote their activities. These very same people also presented the fictional idea that the South had invented segregation when in fact segregation was a Federal Law established by U.S. Congress as a result of the “Jim Crow” case. This was nothing more than an extension of reconstruction.

Not one single person that says the Confederate Battle Flag was used in defiance of the civil rights activities will ever admit that it was done as an observance of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. To admit this fact would be to admit that they are wrong in assuming otherwise. Their information and stories are blown apart by the facts and documents that prove what they have said about this wrong.

On December 6, 1960, a little more than three years after the first indication of an attempt to organize an observance by Congress, President Dwight D. Eisenhower did something that has been overlooked when discussion of the Confederate Battle Flag comes up. It was on this day that President Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring observance of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It was labeled Civil War Proclamation No. 3882. In this proclamation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “…invited all of the people of our country to take a direct and active part in the Centennial of the Civil War.”

This took effect on December 6, 1960, just as the civil rights activities were starting, coincidence or perfect planning? The proclamation and observance originated in late 1956. It was done to observe and honor those who fought on both sides and to better understand what had happened. In the South it was a chance to raise the Confederate Battle Flag, not in defiance of the civil rights movement, but to honor the men and women who died fighting under the flag for what they believed.

By bringing the civil rights into question, many reflected upon slavery and these same people also condemned and planted the seed that the South fought to preserve slavery. The civil rights activities also drew attention away from the Presidential Proclamation to observe the centennial of the Civil War. All these activities came together at the same time. President Eisenhower even stated that we should recognize the spirit of America after such a crucial war. President Eisenhower asked Federal, state, and local officials to carry out their own appropriate observance of the Centennial during the years of 1961 to 1965.

With these facts so presented, it becomes clear that the Confederate Battle Flag was raised in observance of the Presidential Proclamation to observe the Civil War not to fight and defy the civil rights movement. It is amazing how the truth can be totally forgotten and covered up just to perpetuate what has now become “Political Correctness.” How can we as a people stand by and allow our history to be dictated by any group for the sake of an idea? Our country was not formed to fall into this madness of Political Correctness. The Confederate Battle Flag is just as its name implies, a BATTLE flag, used to rally the troops of the South and distinguish the men fighting nothing more. To state that it represents slavery and hate shows the total ignorance and stupidity of those making the statement.

The Confederate Battle Flag has come under tremendous action in the last ten years. Some of those actions to replace the flag from sight have the same earmarks as the beginnings of the Nazi era. The attacks upon the Battle Flag have come from only a few groups who make their money from certain actions they take. It comes as no surprise that these same groups have come to be known affiliates to or with people that have communistic ideals and such ideals cannot continue with acts of freedom and expression that are associated with the Confederate battle Flag.

It is a shame that our once great country has fallen down to accept the actions of the few even over the voice of the majority. In all too many cases, the few have yelled so loud that they get what they want even when the majority feels otherwise. Now our country makes decisions based upon who is offended rather than what was once based upon Constitutional rights. Germany was much the same way in the late 30’s and early 40’s.

Copyright 2005 The Sierra Times

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