This has been a remarkable week. We’ve seen a coordinated push to see the Confederate Battle flag, actually the battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia, removed from state capital grounds in the south.
This has, of course, stirred controversy among people who see this as an attack on southern heritage. Nothing could be further from the truth, and for many reasons. Let’s get into the History of the Battle Flag first.
The flag was flown by all commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia. Robert E. Lee being the most recognized of these commanders. It was the flag used, because it was easily distinguishable from the Union Flag, unlike the actual confederate flag. This was the flag that the confederate troops flew over the bloodiest of battles in the Civil War.
After his defeat, Robert E. Lee wished to have nothing to do with symbols of division. He ordered his troops to honorably surrender, and to forego any attempts at guerrilla warfare. Lee refused to participate in ceremonies commemorating the war, and never few the Battle Flag again. He wished to repair the wounds that the nation had incurred, and though he was no saint, he understood that holding on to bitterness served no good. The south did not fight a just war, against a tyrannical power, they had attempted to preserve their ability to keep slaves. Even at his funeral, no confederate flags, battle flag or otherwise, flew.
After the death of Robert E. Lee, many bitter confederate officers pushed the concept of a “lost cause” explanation for confederate defeat. They pushed to keep wounds open, and founded the basis of years of bitterness. These were not the actions supported by Robert E. Lee, though they used his standard and his name often.
The Battle Flag, during the period of Reconstruction until the Civil Rights era, was not flown on State Capital grounds, it was popularly used, being a symbol of rebellion. It was used by the KKK in recruitment attempts. It wasn’t until the push for desegregation that the flag was adopted by bitter southern states. It was done purposely, to keep wounds open, and arrogantly, but this was not a symbol of long-standing southern pride.
Now for my opinion:
The south has much to be proud for, each state has given heavily of its people for the maintenance of the Union. Our founding fathers hailed heavily from the south. George Washington, Jefferson, etc. Southern heritage, except period in the 1860’s, is that of dedication, pride, and honor in service of the United States. States such as Texas find further pride in their actual flags.
Nobody is saying that you can’t fly the Battle Flag on your own personal property, however if you do, remember that this is not a symbol of southern heritage, but of Southern Arrogance, gone out of control. The true heritage of the south is of rich, diverse culture, a blemished past, and an insanely promising future. The south is home to Nasa, The Texas Medical Center, and scores of industry. This is our heritage, found under the US flag.
There has been some argument about the flying of the gay pride flag being ok, but flying the Confederate Battle flag not being ok. All I can say is that the Gay Pride flag is not being flown on state capital grounds. The Gay Pride flag has only ever been used as symbol of the struggle a group of people have faced, in the face of unfair persecution and violence. To be threatened, lynched, and even killed because you choose to love someone differently from the majority is a far cry from a flag that was flown over the bloodiest of wars.
The fact is, one flag was used to divide, the other is used a symbol of love. To compare the two is a disservice to all.
Davis, George W, Leslie J Perry and Joseph W Kirkley, The War of the Rebellion A compilation of the Official Records. Google Books Edition. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897.
Dowdey, Clifford and Louis H Manarin, The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee. New York: DaCapo Press, Inc, 1987.
Lee, Robert E. The Recollections and letters of Robert E. Lee. Ed. Captain Robert E. Lee. Old Saybrook: Konecky & Konecky, 1909.