The History of the Confederate Flag

Over recent months, there has been an increasing debate about the appropriateness of the Confederate flag. Many citizens and an increasing number of politicians are calling for its removal from any and all government buildings. A recent and notable event was the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse.

Many are upset by the recent backlash against the Confederate flag. It is a widely held belief in the American South that the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage on a very personal level. What many people do not know is the true history of the flag. No matter how much heritage is associated with a symbol or artifact, it cannot escape history.

In the beginning of its history in 1861, there were about one hundred and twenty flags created for the Civil War and for the Confederacy. The first appearance was in the First Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia.

The first official flag of the Confederacy was known as the Stars and Bars. It was used as the official flag from March 1861 until May of 1863. Due to the resemblance to the Union flag, it led to considerable confusion on the battlefield. The seven stars represented the original Confederate states.


The Confederate Battle Flag, commonly known as the Confederate flag, was carried by confederate troops. The eleven stars represented the states within the Confederacy, as well as Kentucky and Missouri.

The second Official Flag of the Confederacy was adopted on May 1st, 1863. This design placed the Battle Flag as the canton on an otherwise white flag. Because of the white portion, this flag was often mistaken for the white flag of surrender. This flag has thirteen stars, which represented the current Confederate states, as well as Kentucky and Missouri, whose efforts to secede had failed.


The third Official Flag of the Confederacy was adopted on March 4th, 1865. The only difference in this design was a red bar placed vertically at the end of the flag. In May of that same year, the remaining Confederate forces surrendered.


So the Confederacy rose and fell without using what we today know as the Confederate flag. So when did the current version of the confederate flag, seen below, enter into circulation?


In 1948, Strom Thurmond’s States’ Rights Party adopted Northern Virginia’s Battle Flag as their symbol of defiance against the federal government. Georgia later adopted a version of the flag, design in 1956, as a symbol of protest against the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v Board of Education.

The increasing amount of Southern states adopting and displaying the flag was an aggressive effort to trigger the same secession as had happened in the previous century. Major elements of the flag’s recent history include opposition of civil rights, social equality, integration, and more.

With the 150th anniversary of the end to the Civil War occurring in this past April, it’s hard to support the pride and tradition of a flag that Southern ancestors (whom current generations never met) used to oppress African Americans. While the assorted Confederate flags represent an important part of our nation’s history, they should no longer play a role in our modern day culture.

The current version of the Confederate flag is simply an enlarged version of a Confederate Battle Flag. The original purpose of this flag was to be a battle flag, and it has remain entrenched in a battle ever since.

Image Sources:,,,


3 thoughts on “The History of the Confederate Flag

  1. People condemn other countries for trying to alter or erase history – and here some are succeeding in doing just that! Good, bad or indifferent – that flag is part of our history.


  2. The author acknowledges that the flag is part of our history, but then says it must be removed from U.S. public affairs, because it is a symbol of hatred. I don’t see that as denying history, but rather standing up to a negative legacy that for too long was hidden under the myth of “The Lost Cause.” There’s a difference between denying history and setting it aside.


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