‘Raise Your Battle Flag’: How an Alabama musician came to record an alt-right anthem
August 30, 2017
By Connor Sheets
On Aug. 5, a right-wing militia group called the Georgia III% Security Force held a Confederate rally at Stone Mountain. Members and supporters stood at the crest of the Georgia mountain known for its massive stone carving of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and hoisted their Rebel flags into the air.
As he drove into a parking lot just before the event, Chris Hill, the group’s leader, listened to “Raise Your Battle Flag” by Celtic Confederate, a song that has become something of an anthem for him and for militias, pro-Confederate organizations and other alt-right groups across the South.
Hill said he first heard the tune at a Confederate flag rally about two years ago and was greatly moved by it.
“I returned home and searched for almost two days until I found the song,” he said. “It is a wonderful battle cry that has inspired me in some ways.”
‘They burned our towns’
Released in April 2011 by Odenville 34-year-old Brad Weaver, who records music under the moniker Celtic Confederate, “Raise Your Battle Flag” has seen a large spike in YouTube traffic in the wake of Charlottesville.
Its themes of pride in the Confederacy, righting supposed historical “half-truths” and reminding listeners that atrocities were committed against southerners during the American Civil War resonate with many people who believe Confederate statues should not be taken down.
“They burned down our towns / And they murdered and they raped / Our daughters, our wives and even the slaves / In the name of the Union,” Weaver sings over a fuzzy guitar line in the song’s visceral second verse.
But Weaver says that though he cares deeply about his Southern heritage and spreading the word about his views on the Confederacy, he does not support more extreme alt-right groups like neo-Nazis or white nationalists.
“Anytime anyone associates the Confederate flag or anything Confederate with the Nazi flag or anything Nazi it makes me think they are ignorant because of the political differences,” he said.
A former officer in his local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter, Weaver says he has turned down invites to join or perform for right-wing groups and militias whose views he said do not align fully with his.
A ‘genetic’ pull
Sporting long red sideburns and a thick goatee that might be reminiscent of a Confederate soldier if not for the reflective modern sunglasses he often wears, Weaver spoke with AL.com Tuesday in the same valley in the shadow of Anderson Mountain that his family has called home since at least the 1890s.
He spoke about a range of topics, arguing that though “slavery was a big part of the war” between the North and South – he rejects the term Civil War – “the war did not begin over slavery,” and speaking out against the protests and discord currently roiling the nation.
“I believe that a lot of the people who are out on the streets protesting – I’m not going to say all the protesters, but a lot of them – they’re just kind of filled with hate on both sides,” he said.
Weaver bought his first Confederate flag during an elementary school field trip to the White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery.
He says he felt something of a “genetic” pull to the flag and the Confederacy, which reflects the fact that he says he has tracked down more than 10 Confederate ancestors.
The interest he took in the Confederacy waned during his teens, but Weaver says that it was rekindled in his early twenties, when he began to read extensively about the Civil War, ultimately coming to the conclusion that its history was being taught from a one-sided perspective.
“At the time I was kind of consumed with, hey, there’s some lies being told here. Like when I went to school, in the history books they only told half of the truth, so the other half of the story needs to be told,” he said.
‘A proud southerner’
Drawing on influences including folk singer James Taylor, hair-rock band Cinderella and country star Hank Williams Jr., Weaver got his first guitar at the age of 14 and has since taught himself to play the instrument and craft songs.
For years, Weaver said he mainly wrote lyrics about science fiction in the vein of “Highlander” and other apolitical topics.
But about a decade ago he first married his musical ability together with the key conclusions he drew from that research – his beliefs that the Confederacy was brutalized by the Union and that slavery was not its only motivation, and his pride in his ancestors’ contributions during the war – to write and record his first song as Celtic Confederate, “St. Andrew’s Flag.”
It was a key turning point in his journey as a musician, and one that has paid off by turning him into something of a cult hero among pro-Confederate and certain alt-right groups.
His music has never brought him anything approaching widespread mainstream success, but “Raise Your Battle Flag” alone has notched well over 100,000 listens on various platforms, and effusive YouTube commenters state that they play it at Confederate rallies, funerals and social occasions.
As for what’s next for Celtic Confederate, Weaver has some lyrics and guitar lines kicking around that he hopes to bring together and release in the coming months. To him, it’s a matter of pride and giving voice to his views.
“It’s a we need to stand up for our rights type of thing, and stop being bullied around,” he said. “I’m a proud Southerner. I’m a proud Southerner before anything.”
© 2017 Alabama Media Group.