Flags of the Confederate States of AmericaMouseover to Enlarge Flags
The following flags were used by the Confederate States of America. Although they have not been in official use since the end of the American Civil War, some residents of the Southern United States and some Americans in other regions continue to use the flags as a symbol of their history and Confederate flags are also used by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist and hate groups. The Confederate battle flag (see below) was flown (until recently) over the South Carolina State House. It now flies over a monument on the state house grounds. The design of the Confederate flags was also incorporated into the state flags of Mississippi and Georgia but was recently removed from the latter.
First National Flag, "The Stars and Bars"
The first official flag of the was The Stars and Bars, which was flown from 1861, to May 1863. It caused confusion on the battlefield because it was so similar to the Stars and Stripes of the Union forces. Eventually, a total of thirteen stars would be shown on the flag.
Second National Flag, "The Stainless Banner"
The second national flag of the Confederacy was The Stainless Banner, which was put into service on May 1, 1863. To avoid battlefield confusion between the Stars and Bars with the Union's Stars and Stripes, this new flag was designed with the battle flag placed in the first quarter. This flag, however, had its own problem: when the battlefield was windless, it was sometimes mistaken for a flag of truce or surrender because the white field often concealed the first quarter.
In the South, the nickname "Stainless" was held to refer to "the unspotted virtue and honor of Southerners and their fight for independence from the tyranny and aggression of northern states." The flag is often referred to as the "'Stonewall' Jackson Flag" due to its inaugural use of covering General Stonewall Jackson's coffin at his funeral.
According to the Flags of the Confederacy website, the flags actually made by the Richmond Clothing Depot used the 1.5:1 ratio adopted for the Naval ensign rather than the official 2:1 ratio. The flag had thirteen stars, one for each of the eleven Confederate states and one each for Missouri and Kentucky. (Alternately interpreted as 13 stars for each of the original colonies.)
The Secretary of Navy, Stephen Mallory, issued regulations on May 26, 1863 which modified the Second National Flag for shipboard use, using a shorter 1.5:1 ratio than the 2:1 ratio adopted by Congress for the national flag.
Third National Flag
This is the third official flag, adopted March 4, 1865, very shortly before the fall of the Confederacy. The red vertical stripe was added to dispel confusion with the flag of surrender when the flag was not unfurled. It was sometimes called the blood-stained or blood-dipped banner. The official dimensions of the union also were altered, but according to the Flags of the Confederacy website, most, if not all, actually produced during the war continued to use the square union of the 1863 flag.
The Flag Act of 1865 describes the flag in the following language: The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The width two-thirds of its length, with the union (now used as the battle flag) to be in width three-fifths of the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the field on the side of the union twice the width of the field below it; to have the ground red and a broad blue saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with mullets or five pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white, except the outer half from the union to be a red bar extending the width of the flag.
The few examples of the Third National Flag actually made prior to the end of the war were modifications of the 1863 ensign with a red bar added.
In addition to the national flags, a wide variety of flags and banners were flown by Southerners during the War. Most famously, the "Bonnie Blue Flag" (which actually dated from the short-lived Republic of West Florida in 1810), was used as an early flag of Texas in 1836, and was used as an unofficial flag during the early months of 1861. In addition, many military units had their own regimental flags they would carry into battle. Other notable flags used are shown below.
The Battle Flag
The battle flag of the Confederacy is square, of various sizes for the different branches of the service: 48 inches square for the infantry, 36 inches for the artillery, and 30 inches for the cavalry. It was used in battle from 1861, to the fall of the Confederacy. The blue color on the Southern Cross in the battle flag was navy blue, as opposed to the much lighter blue of the Naval Jack. The Stars and Bars were too easily confused in the smoke of battle with the Stars and Stripes, resulting in very real military mistakes. To remedy this, General P.G.T. Beauregard of the Army of Virginia and others sought a better design and Beauregard was the first to adopt the flag from the design of William Porcher Miles (see below). Miles' rectangular design was sized down to a square to aid folding and carrying in battle.
The flag is also properly known as the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.
This flag proved so popular, that it became basis for the Second National flag of the Confederacy (see above). Some prefer the square proportions of this flag over Miles' original rectangle as more sonorous and more distinct.
The Navy Jack (colloquially called the "Rebel Flag")
The Confederate Navy Jack, also called "The Southern Cross," is a rectangular precursor of the Battle Flag, usually about 5×3 feet. The blue color in the saltire (the diagonal cross) is much lighter than in the Battle Flag, and it was flown only on Confederate ships from 1863 to 1865.
The design was originally made by South Carolina Congressman William Porcher Miles with the intent to be the first national flag, but it was rejected by the Confederate government for looking too much like crossed suspenders (British English = (clothing) braces). It was used by a few army units, including the Army of Tennessee as their battle flag from 1864-1865. (After General Joseph Johnston took command of the Army of Tennessee from Braxton Bragg, he ordered its army-wide implementation to improve morale and avoid confusion.) Today, it is the most universally recognized symbol of the South, where it is commonly called the rebel or Dixie flag. This flag is often erroneously called "the Confederate Flag". (This Flag has also been incorrectly referred to as the Stars and Bars, although this is generally accepted as fact, the real Stars and Bars is the First National Flag.)
The Confederate Navy Jack, 1863-1865
ControversyDisplaying the flag
Other former flags of the CSA have become more obscure. Today, this CSA flag is usually recognized as simply "the Confederate Flag."
What is usually called "The Confederate Flag" or "The Confederate Battle Flag" (actually the Navy Jack as explained above) is still a widely-recognized symbol. The display of the flag is a controversial and very emotional issue, generally because of disagreement over exactly what it symbolizes. To many in the US South it is simply a symbol of their heritage and pride in their ancestors who held out during years of war under terrible odds and sacrifice. Others see it as a symbol of the institution of slavery, or of the Jim Crow laws established by the many Southern states enforcing racial segregation within their borders for almost a century later. It can also be used to tell others that there are guns in the household. The Confederate battle flag is a controversial symbol in contemporary American politics. Because of its link to slavery and because Southern opponents of the Civil Rights Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, American neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists have used the flag as a symbol for their causes, many Americans, particularly African Americans, consider it a racist symbol akin to the Nazi swastika. As a result, there have been numerous political fights over the use of the Confederate battle flag in Southern state flags, at sporting events at Southern universities, and on public buildings. According to Civil War historian and southerner Shelby Foote, the flag traditionally represented the south's resistance to northern political dominance generally; it became racially charged during the Civil Rights Movement, when protecting segregation suddenly became the focal point of that resistance.
On April 12, 2000, the South Carolina state senate passed a bill to remove the flag of the former Confederate States of America from on top of the statehouse dome by a majority vote of 36 to 7. Placed there in 1962, according to one local news report, "the new bill specified that a more traditional version of the battle flag would be flown in front of the Capitol next to a monument honoring fallen Confederate soldiers." The bill then went to the House, where it encountered some difficulty. But on May 18, 2000, after the bill was modified to ensure that the height of the flag's new pole would be 30 feet, it was passed by a majority of 66 to 43, and Governor Jim Hodges signed the bill five days later. On July 1, the flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse. Current state law prohibits the flag's removal from the statehouse grounds without additional legislation. Police were placed to guard this flag after several attempts by individuals to remove it. Some regard the flag as easier to see in that location than when it was atop the State House Dome.
More recent studies, however, show changing attitudes toward the Confederate battle flag, particularly among blacks - perhaps due to media reports of the issue stemming from legislative battles regarding the flag's official use in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In 2005, two Western Carolina University researchers found that 74% of U.S. African-Americans polled favored removal of the flag from the South Carolina Capitol building. As battle lines over the use of the flag have (again) hardened, the NAACP and many civil rights groups have attacked the flag. Other groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans have actively protested the use of any Confederate flags by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups, stating that the hate groups are blemishing the memory of the ancestors of the SCV. Some members of the SCV have even faced down Klansmen at their rallies and marches, to protest the inappropriate usage of these flags. The NAACP maintains an official boycott of South Carolina, citing its continued use of the battle flag on its Statehouse grounds.
The Confederate Battle Flag became a part of the Mississippi state flag in 1894, whereupon a strange series of events ensued. In 1906, the flag statutes were omitted by error from the new legal code of the state, leaving Mississippi without an official flag. The omission was not discovered until 1993, when a lawsuit filed by the NAACP regarding the flag was being reviewed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. In 2000, the Governor of Mississippi Ronnie Musgrove issued an executive order making the flag official. After continued controversy, the decision was turned over to citizens of the state, who, on April 17, 2001, voted 2-1 to keep the Confederate Battle Flag emblem on the state flag. Also at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) the Rebel Flag was very prevalent at the football games because the team's name, the Rebels. However, the administration banned sticks at football games in an attempt to rid the stadium of the flags, which they believed hampered them in recruiting black athletes and they also believed they were discriminatory and were bad for the public image of Ole Miss (which had already had its share of bad experiences with race relations, e.g., James Meredith). The flags of Alabama and Florida both contain a red saltire, which some view as representing the blue saltire of the "Southern Cross". The Arkansas flag also uses a design that is reminiscent of the Confederate Battle Flag.