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Embattled Banner: The true history of the Confederate flag

By John M. Coski
7/9/2015 • Civil War Times

(Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA)
(Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA)

If you are a regular reader of Civil War Times, the Confederate battle flag is a familiar part of your world. The symbolism of the flag is simple and straightforward: It represents the Confederate side in the war that you enjoy studying. More than likely, your knowledge of the flag has expanded and become more sophisticated over the years. At some point, you learned that the Confederate battle flag was not, in fact, “the Confederate flag” and was not known as the “Stars and Bars.” That name properly belongs to the first national flag of the Confederacy. If you studied the war in the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters, you learned that “Confederate battle flag” is a misnomer. Many Confederate units served under battle flags that looked nothing like the red flag with the star-studded blue cross. You may have grown up with more than just an idle knowledge of the flag’s association with the Confederacy and its armies, but also with a reverence for the flag because of its association with Confederate ancestors. If you didn’t, your interest in the war likely brought you into contact with people who have a strong emotional connection with the flag. And, at some point in your life, you became aware that not everyone shared your perception of the Confederate flag. If you weren’t aware of this before, the unprecedented flurry of events and of public reaction to them that occurred in June 2015 have raised obvious questions that all students of Civil War history must confront: Why do people have such different and often conflicting perceptions of what the Confederate flag means, and how did those different meanings evolve?

The flag as we know it was born not as a symbol, but as a very practical banner. The commanders of the Confederate army in Virginia (then known at the Army of the Potomac) sought a distinctive emblem as an alternative to the Confederacy’s first national flag—the Stars and Bars—to serve as a battle flag.

(Larry Sherer/High Impact Photography)
(Larry Sherer/High Impact Photography)
The Stars and Bars, which the Confederate Congress had adopted in March 1861 because it resembled the once-beloved Stars and Stripes, proved impractical and even dangerous on the battlefield because of that resemblance. (That problem was what compelled Confederate commanders to design and employ the vast array of other battle flags used among Confederate forces throughout the war.)Battle flags become totems for the men who serve under them, for their esprit de corps, for their sacrifices. They assume emotional significance for soldiers’ families and their descendants. Anyone today hoping to understand why so many Americans consider the flag an object of veneration must understand its status as a memorial to the Confederate soldier.

It is, however, impossible to carve out a kind of symbolic safe zone for the Confederate battle flag as the flag of the soldier be-cause it did not remain exclusively the flag of the soldier. By the act of the Confederate government, the battle flag’s meaning is inextricably intertwined with the Confederacy itself and, thus, with the issues of slavery and states’ rights—over which readers of Civil War Times and the American public as a whole engage in spirited and endless debate. By 1862, many Southern leaders scorned the Stars and Bars for the same reason that had prompted the flag’s adoption the year before: it too closely resembled the Stars and Stripes. As the war intensified and Southerners became Confederates, they weaned themselves from symbols of the old Union and sought a new symbol that spoke to the Confederacy’s “confirmed independence.” That symbol was the Confederate battle flag. Historian Gary Gallagher has written persuasively that it was Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, not the Confederate government, that best embodied Confederate nationalism. Lee’s stunning victories in 1862–63 made his army’s battle flag the popular choice as the new national flag. On May 1, 1863, the Confederacy adopted a flag—known colloquially as the Stainless Banner—featuring the ANV battle flag emblazoned on a white field. For the remainder of the Confederacy’s life, the soldiers’ flag was also, in effect, the national flag.

(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)
(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)

If all Confederate flags had been furled once and for all in 1865, they would still be contentious symbols as long as people still argue about the Civil War, its causes and its conduct. But the Confederate flag did not pass once and for all into the realm of history in 1865. And for that reason, we must examine how it has been used and perceived since then if we wish to understand the reactions that it evokes today. The flag never ceased being the flag of the Confederate soldier and still today commands wide respect as a memorial to the Confederate soldier. The history of the flag since 1865 is marked by the accumulation of additional meanings based on additional uses. Within a decade of the end of the war (even before the end of Reconstruction in 1877), white Southerners began using the Confederate flag as a memorial symbol for fallen heroes. By the turn of the 20th century, during the so-called “Lost Cause” movement in which white Southerners formed organizations, erected and dedicated monuments, and propagated a Confederate history of the “War Between the States,” Confederate flags proliferated in the South’s public life. Far from being suppressed, the Confederate version of history and Confederate symbols became mainstream in the postwar South. The Confederate national flags were part of that mainstream, but the battle flag was clearly preeminent. The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) issued a report in 1904 defining the square ANV pattern flag as the Confederate battle flag, effectively writing out of the historical record the wide variety of battle flags under which Confederate soldiers had served. The efforts of the UCV and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to promote that “correct” battle flag pattern over the “incorrect” rectangular pattern (the Army of Tennessee’s or the naval jack) were frustrated by the public’s demand for rectangular versions that could serve as the Confederate equivalent of the Stars and Stripes. What is remarkable looking back from the 21st century is that, from the 1870s and into the 1940s, Confederate heritage organizations used the flag widely in their rituals memorializing and celebrating the Confederacy and its heroes, yet managed to maintain effective ownership of the flag and its meaning. The flag was a familiar part of the South’s symbolic landscape, but how and where it was used was controlled. Hints of change were evident by the early 20th century. The battle flag had emerged not only as the most popular symbol of the Confederacy, but also of the South more generally. By the 1940s, as Southern men mingled more frequently with non-Southerners in the U.S. Armed Forces and met them on the gridiron, they expressed their identity as Southerners with Confederate battle flags. The flag’s appearance in conjunction with Southern collegiate football was auspicious. College campuses are often incubators of cultural change, and they apparently were for the battle flag. This probably is owed to the Kappa Alpha Order, a Southern fraternity founded at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in 1865, when R.E. Lee was its president. A Confederate memorial organization in its own right, Kappa Alpha was also a fraternity and introduced Confederate symbols into collegiate life. It was in the hands of students that the flag burst onto the political scene in 1948. Student delegates from Southern colleges and universities waved battle flags on the floor of the Southern States Rights Party convention in July 1948.
(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)
(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)

The so-called “Dixiecrat” Party formed in protest to the Democratic Party convention’s adoption of a civil rights plank. The Confederate flag became a symbol of protest against civil rights and in support of Jim Crow segregation. It also became the object of a high-profile, youth-driven nationwide phenomenon that the media dubbed the “flag fad.” Many pundits suspected that underlying the fad was a lingering “Dixiecrat” sentiment. African-American news-papers decried the flag’s unprecedented popularity within the Armed Forces as a source of dangerous division at a time when America needed to be united against Communism. But most observers concluded that the flag fad was another manifestation of youth-driven material culture. Confederate heritage organizations correctly perceived the Dixiecrat movement and the flag fad as a profound threat to their ownership of the Confederate flag. The UDC in November 1948 condemned use of the flag “in certain demonstrations of college groups and some political groups” and launched a formal effort to protect the flag from “misuse.” Several Southern states subsequently passed laws to punish “desecration” of the Confederate flag. All those efforts proved futile. In the decades after the flag fad, the Confederate flag became, as one Southern editor wrote, “confetti in careless hands.” Instead of being used almost exclusively for memorializing the Confederacy and its soldiers, the flag became fodder for beach towels, t-shirts, bikinis, diapers and baubles of every description. While the UDC continued to condemn the proliferation of such kitsch, it became so commonplace that, over time, others subtly changed their definition of “protecting” the flag to defending the right to wear and display the very items that they once defined as desecration. As the dam burst on Confederate flag material culture and heritage groups lost control of the flag, it acquired a new identity as a symbol of “rebellion” divorced from the historical context of the Confederacy. Truckers, motorcycle riders and “good ol’ boys” (most famously depicted in the popular television show The Dukes of Hazzard) gave the flag a new meaning that transcends the South and even the United States.

Dixiecrats jubilantly wave Confederate flags at their 1948 Birmingham, Ala., convention (Marion Johnson Photographs/Atlanta History Center)
Dixiecrats jubilantly wave Confederate flags at their 1948 Birmingham, Ala., convention (Marion Johnson Photographs/Atlanta History Center)

Meanwhile, as the civil rights movement gathered force, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, defenders of segregation increasingly employed the use of the battle flag as a symbol of their cause. Most damaging to the flag’s reputation was its use in the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Although founded by Confederate veterans almost immediately after the Civil War, the KKK did not use the Confederate flag widely or at all in its ritual in the 1860s and 1870s or during its rebirth and nationwide popularity from 1915 to the late 1920s. Only with a second rebirth in the late 1930s and 1940s did the battle flag take hold in the Klan.

(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)
(Heritage Auction, Dallas, TX)

Anyone today hoping to understand why so many African Americans and others perceive the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate must recognize the impact of the flag’s historical use by white supremacists. The Civil Rights Era has profoundly affected the history of the Confederate flag in several ways. The flag’s use as a symbol of white supremacy has framed the debate over the flag ever since. Just as important, the triumph of civil rights restored African Americans to full citizenship and restored their role in the ongoing process of deciding what does and does not belong on America’s public symbolic landscape. Americans 50 or older came of age when a symbolic landscape dotted with Confederate flags, monuments and street names was the status quo. That status quo was of course the result of a prolonged period in which African Americans were effectively excluded from the process of shaping the symbolic landscape. As African Americans gained political power, they challenged—and disrupted— that status quo. The history of the flag over the last half-century has involved a seemingly endless series of controversies at the local, state and national levels. Over time, the trend has been to reduce the flag’s profile on the symbolic landscape, especially on anyplace that could be construed as public property. As students of history, we tend to think of it as something that happens in the past and forget that history is happening now and that we are actors on the historical stage. Because the Confederate battle flag did not fade into history in 1865, it was kept alive to take on new uses and new meanings and to continue to be part of an ever-changing history. As much as students of Civil War history may wish that we could freeze the battle flag in its Civil War context, we know that we must study the flag’s entire history if we wish to understand the history that is happening around us today. Studying the flag’s full history also allows us to engage in a more constructive dialogue about its proper place in the present and in the future.

Contextual Perspectives
John Coski recently said during a presentation about the Confederate battle flag, “this symbol has an accretion of meanings across time and across different people.”
My own ancestry is a combination of people of African and European descent. My mother and her parents attended segregated schools in Southside Virginia. My great-great-great-grandmother and her children were free blacks before the war, but they lived in constant fear of slave patrollers—and were unable to obtain a legal education or vote.
My great-great-great-grand-father, however, was a white slaveholder and the father of my third great-grandmother’s children. Through that branch of my family I am also connected with many Confederate soldiers and two members of Virginia’s 1861 Secession Convention.
It is true that many Confederate troops did not own black people. But the Confederate leaders did not stutter when it came to their support of slavery and white supremacy.
The battle flag represents a gamble by 11 states (and another two states with representation in the Confederate Congress) to create a separate slaveholding republic. It symbolizes the struggles of men on well-known battlefields like Manassas, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Gettysburg. But there is no denying the role the battle flag played during the war’s bitter aftermath and Reconstruction and its use by 20th-century white supremacist groups. That same banner, in addition to images of Robert E. Lee and the American flag, was hoisted high during the 1948 “Dixiecrats” convention in Birmingham, Ala., held be-cause of opposition to Harry Truman’s advocacy of a civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform.
Then there’s the viewpoint of all those people who marched for access to the ballot. Some of those same individuals were spit on for trying to order a sandwich at a lunch counter, or were called “Niggers” because they sought access to a truly equal education. They view the flag, and variations thereof, with understandable contempt.
We cannot ignore America’s long history of prejudice. Because the Confederate battle flag is seen as a symbol of that prejudice, the call to remove it from public display is warranted in government spaces such as the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol. Original flags should be preserved and exhibited in museums.
Yet removing the flag from public display in South Carolina or Mississippi does not resolve issues such as equal access to the ballot box. It does not change the fact that this nation still jails disproportionate numbers of minorities, or mitigate the unfairness of the justice system for those people, or improve the way they are treated after they have served their time.
I am interested in resolving actual problems, so we can move beyond arguing about a piece of fabric. We need to acknowledge America’s long history of biases. But we also need to make sure we do not further contribute to divisiveness.
The Confederate battle flag does not belong anywhere near a public statehouse. It should be displayed within its historical context, such as at museums, reenactments, living histories, etc. It is also, I believe, appropriate to own one if you are an avid historian and lover of the time period, but take care to remember and be sensitive about what it can symbolize to others. That being said, after a lengthy discussion in our home, I had to furl the small
Confederate flag that was displayed with other Civil War memorabilia. I now feel as though I’ve hidden away my lineage in a dresser drawer. It’s a battle I can’t win. I’m sorry, all you Prillaman boys in the 57th Virginia Infantry, who laid it all on the line so many times, captured at the Angle at Gettysburg with your proud colors and returned to service because you had conviction. I believe you were wrong in your cause. But I believe you fought for that cause with your every fiber, because at heart you were Americans. Rest in peace. You will not be forgotten, and I won’t allow anyone to tarnish you or shove shame down my throat. I will lay this flag at your graves, alongside an American flag. You were both. You can claim both.
As William Faulkner famously wrote in Intruder in the Dust, “For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863,the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Long-street to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet…”
There is an internalized and inherited sense of loss in us Southerners. Shelby Foote spoke of this in several inter-views. Some things, perhaps, we shouldn’t have held on to, but I think even those of us who wish to be sensitive to others’ feelings on those symbols just get tired of the sense of losing. Even in our own living rooms.
My ancestors in the 57th Virginia Infantry served under the battle flag. Prillamans were captured, killed and wounded following that banner. I hate the cause that they stood for, but I am fiercely proud that they stood. 

John M. Coski is the author of The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2005).


62 Responses to Embattled Banner: The true history of the Confederate flag

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Just my take on current events..,

  2. Robin Burkhalter says:

    The recent CNN poll has revealed that the “Confederate” flag represents more than one thing to the American public. Flag protestors seemingly fail to acknowledge that to most Americans the flag has come to mean Southern Pride, not racism. Also, it was only on state grounds to respect the military dead, not represent the Confederacy, its principles or ideals. I think flag protestors need to get with the times. They are living in the past by attaching all these past meanings to the symbol. Judge displayers by what they say it represents to them, not some meaning you’re attributing to it. That’s stereotyping.

    • Dave Morrison says:

      Did this poll ask exclusively what minorities thought of the flag or whether they thought it mostly stood for “Southern Pride”? I think those questions are most relevant in this debate.

      • J Laferty says:

        If it wasn’t for the Confederate Flag or the Civil War
        we would still be a slave Country, at least in the
        Confederate states. The Civil War was over the
        right to suceed from the Union, caused by Pres.
        Lincolns announcement that further acquired
        lands by the U.S. for expansion of the nation would
        not be slave states. This is a vital part of American
        History, Why are we abolishing it. The flag means
        many different things, it is a symbol of a vital part
        of American history we must not forget lest history
        could be repeated.

    • V. Robinson says:

      The stars and bars was created as a symbol of opposition to changing the “status quo” of the south. It’s very fabric is a constant reminder of how the freedom of blacks was hanging in the balance of the winner of the civil war. Nevertheless, I do understand the right to preserve it. History dictates that. However, I believe white people’s devotion and dedication to this flag today is misplaced. It’s one thing to want to honor the lives of solders who fought in the civil war. It’s quite another to proudly display a flag you know has been historically used to represent separatism, racism and inequality towards an entire race of people. Even worst to PRETEND you don’t know that.

      • Alex says:

        When something is done by the mentally ill and the misinformed, such as using the flag for racist purposes, yeah we try to pretend we don’t know how stupid people are. The important thing is that we know what it truly means, and we are proud of it. A bunch of people who are ignorant of the flag’s true meaning aren’t going to change that.

  3. […] My thoughts can be found here: http://historynet.wpengine.com/embattled-banner-the-convoluted-history-of-the-confederate-flag.htm. […]

  4. Chris Jeffords says:

    Excellent article. It seems to me that the problem isn’t really flags; they’re just a handy symbol (like the infamous n-word). The problem isn’t even guns. And it isn’t racism (there are thousands of racists in the US, not all by any manner of means confined to the former Confederate states). The problem is that a mentally unbalanced individual, predisposed to violence *and* holding racist views, got his hands on a gun. That is to say, the gun, the racism, and the flag (which many see as a symbol of that racism) *combined with* his illness led to this massacre. (This excellent graph http://www.globalresearch.ca/mass-shootings-in-america-a-historical-review/5355990 shows clearly that (a) most massacres are committed by mentally ill people, and (b) massacres have increased drastically in number since the 1970s, which happens to be the decade in which the mental hospitals were emptied out (and the problem of chronic homelessness became overwhelming, but that’s another subject).)

    Most racists, like most other Americans, are sane and law-abiding; they may hold an opinion that others find abhorrent, but they have a Constitutional right to hold it and express it, and they would never think of committing a massacre (even of people whose race they hate). Let’s put the focus where it belongs: on our national failure to do something concrete about mental illness.

  5. MikeBurton says:

    Excellent article..so many misstatement out there just now I hope this gets wide circulation

  6. […] You can read an update article by Dr. Coski that appeared in the October 2015 issue of the magazine Civil War Times here. […]

  7. […] Do they know the history of the flag? Here’s an article about the “stars and bars.” […]

  8. Adam says:

    The Confederate Army was not the Army of the Potomac but the Army of Northern Virginia

  9. rxhgfg says:

    rich gang

  10. […] The confederate flag has been taken down in certain states due to this one incident, why?  The flag is a representation of a region, a group fighting in a […]

  11. […] Also another thing to note is the Flag also did not even represent a symbol of hate to begin with. it was a symbol that was altered by miss deeds such like others through history. Look at the swastika that Adolf Hitler used it was never a symbol of hate like its announced as, take a look at this article to see what i mean. It is the same scenario as the Rebel flag. Fun fact the Rebel flag we currently criticize was not even the correct “Rebel flag “.  […]

  12. steve says:

    I have no problem if someone wants to wave it at a nascar race but on GOVERNMENT facities the confederate battle flag should not be displayed. cemetaries and monuments are parks department managed. state capitols should only fly recognized government flag of the present

  13. johnda says:

    if we remove the flag other flags should be taken down to we are Americans its are right to be proud or past what next take are rights to choose of course thats slowly coming !!!

  14. Bob says:

    If you say it is rasicest then you are a bigger idiot than the teacher that told you

    • Coneyro says:

      This comment by Bob is being brought to you by someone who cannot even spell the word “racist” correctly. Maybe you should have paid a little more attention to that particular teacher, after all. No offense…..

  15. anna troyer says:

    god bless America. I love the confederate flag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its a symbol of our heritage.

  16. […] 11. Coski John M. Embattled Banner: The true history of the Confederate flag 7/9/2015 History.net http://historynet.wpengine.com/embattled-banner-the-convoluted-history-of-the-confederate-flag.htm accessed Oct 6 2015 12. Edward W. Younkins Political Correctness Threatens Free Society Rebirth of […]

  17. Tom Pierce says:

    see its 100% not racist, people is what make the confederate flag a non popular symbol.

    • Michael Robbins says:

      I agree with you Tom pierce . not to mention they targeted the wrong flag . ignorance is every where most don’t even know what the colors even stand for the Red field represents the blood of Christ the White boarders represents the protection of god the Blue “X” represents the Christian Cross of Saint Andrew the first disciple of Christ Jesus and Patron Saint of Scotland the 13 Stars Represent the 13 States of secession . The message in the Confederate Battle Flag is this ” through the blood of Christ, with the protection of God,We, the Thirteen states,are united in our Christian Fight for Liberty.”

      • Uwhat says:

        Well, I’m Scottish and we Scots aren’t too happy with our patron saint and our nations flag being a symbol of oppression. Jesus obviously thought slavery was stupid and an evil blight on the new world too as you lost the damn war fool!

      • Gypsie Lewis says:

        Yes we lost the American civil war but we are still proud, and not bowed to an English monarch,as Scotland is . Oh, by the way I’m a proud descendant of two grandfathers who served in the Confederacy and of Irish descendant of who I’m equally proud of. As I am of IRA for which one of my more recent Grandfather was named for.

      • Uwhat says:

        Well, neither the Scot’s nor the Irish would be too proud of you! And you are talking out of your American bottom with that ridiculous statement. Thank God your gene pool immigrated.

      • Jr Schanzenbacher says:

        I think what she is saying, is her immigrating family members were the forerunners of the terrorists we fear today.

      • James Ronnie Green says:

        You are committing two logical fallacies in drawing your conclusion. First, you are committing the Fallacy of Aggressive Ad Hominem in calling Rat King a fool. Second, you are committing the fallacy of Begging the Question in both assuming both without proof that Jesus thought that “slavery was stupid and an evil blight on the new world [lower case letters in text]” and that that was the reason the Confederacy lost the War of Northern Aggression. Third, you commit the Fallacy of Relevance in not establishing relevance of either of these two conclusions to today’s Blessed Flag of Southern Independence or the Neo-Confederate movement toward a new Southern Nation.

    • Vandyfan7 says:

      I am at a loss to understand how you could read the above information about the Confederate flag including its history throughout the years and come to the conclusion that it is “100% not racist.” Amazing. It states, “In 1954 defenders of segregation increasingly employed the use of the battle flag as a symbol of their cause.” In addition it was stated that in the late 1930s and 1940s the battle flag took hold in the KKK. So to summarize so you might comprehend the meaning of the previous statements, the people who were in favor of segregation (which basically makes them white supremacists because they believe that the white race is superior to other races) used the flag as a symbol to represent the fact that they thought segregation was the way to go. Then the battle flag took hold in the KKK which is pretty self explanatory. The KKK is a group of white people brought together based on their shared hate of all other races. *****Please tell me after reading this how in the world the confederate flag is not a direct representation of racism and hatred. The “South” did not want to end slavery. They wanted to continue owning people and continue to treat them worse than animals. How in the world is slavery not racist??? Why would someone want to wave a flag that represents people fighting for slavery. You couldn’t pay me to have a confederate flag in my possession and I would NEVER wave one from my car or home for the world to see. I believe everyone is equal. No one is better than anyone else. I would love it if every race got along harmoniously as if they did not even notice each other’s skin colors or countries of origin. This world would be a lot happier place without racism………..And you may be interested to know, I happen to be white and I am from and live in the south (Tennessee).

      • James Ronnie Green says:

        “Why would someone want to wave a flag that represents people fighting for slavery.”? Because it doesn’t stand for people fighting for slavery. That is a Yankee lie that has been propogated by Northern abolitionists to justify the Union’s War of Northern Aggression. The truth is that the slave owners of the Civil War South actually REJECTED it as the South’s national emblem. And some of the slave owners were actually PRO-UNION and remained loyal to Lincoln and the North, both of whom allowed these slave owners to keep their slaves until December (?) 1865 [I’m not completely sure about the month], even though Lincoln had been assassinated in April.

    • UjutPaneerak Wilkins says:

      In what “RACE COLOR & MENTALITY”.. ‘womb’, did this BANNER evolve

  18. SiderFace says:

    This is one person interpreting information in one way. There are no sources. This essay would not even be graded by a college professor; it would be denied and marked “incomplete assignment”. There are many truths in the essay, and there are many deceptions. He may not have intended to be receptive, as bias is a difficult (nearly impossobke) thing to overcome. When something is being explained, a person can leave out tiny pieces of information that effectively remodel the entire reality of the truth they are SEEMINGLY portraying.
    This is the reason why citing soirces is so important. Even if the source is weak, it is still a citation of another person reciprocating the statements of a writing. This gives the readers a chance to see if the writer is strategically leaving out little pieces of information to manipulate the effective message being delivered.
    Here is a great example of a citation :P


    • Aaron McArthur says:

      As a college history professor (Arkansas Tech University – check if you don’t believe me), I would accept this assignment as a blog post. I think that would be fair since it is blog post, and follows the format you should use when posting to a blog. I would not accept it as a term paper, but that is clearly not what the author intends it to be. The author does not cite his sources, but he does indicate that he is the author of The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2005). Given that it is with the Harvard University press, the imprint of the oldest university in the country, I would assume that his citations are solid. If not, I could always grab a copy of his book and check for myself. Extensive citations are not appropriate for where this is being published, any more than they would be required for a newspaper article or a documentary film. In those mediums, if you thought a source was bogus, you would contact the author/writer/producer and demand their sources. If they had misquoted or made up information, THEN, and only then, would you call them out, but state exactly what they got wrong. It would also help if you had a basic understanding of the difference between primary and secondary sources and how they apply to academic writing. A familiarity with the differences between academic and popular presses and how those compare to a truly democratic and universally accessible collaborative editing platform would also be useful.

      Also, as someone who holds a Ph.D. in history, I would not say that Wikipedia is one of the most reliable sources on the planet. Sometimes it is very good, but it is not subject to nearly the same level of scrutiny that something that is published at an academic press is. The number of sources does not necessarily make something reliable either. I will take the word of one credible source over one hundred less credible sources any day.

      Dr. John M. Coski is the Historian and Vice President of Research and Publication at the Museum of the Confederacy, now the American Civil War Museum. He received his doctorate from the second oldest university in the United States, the College of William and Mary in 1987, which means that he has been a practicing academic for over three decades. As the Historian of the Museum of the Confederacy, I would imagine that he knows what he is talking about when he writes on this topic. He literally works in the place where they keep thousands of the original artifacts and documents from the Confederacy, including 500 original wartime battle flags of the CSA. I discovered all this information, by the way, by using Google Search. I just applied a little ability to evaluate sources when I did it. Just because he has credentials, it does not mean he is right. It does mean, however, that he realizes that if he is caught in a lie it could destroy his career.

      I don’t care which side of the flag debate you are on. If you are going to attack someone’s academic honesty, please familiarize yourself with how real academic research is conducted, presented, and disputed.

      • romulargin says:

        That is the most awesome response to a nutjob I have ever heard! Thanks

      • Vandyfan7 says:

        I agree.

      • DoubleDogDiogenes says:

        As another College Professor, I certainly agree.

      • Gellie says:

        From what I have learned about John Coski he is one of the best historians as far as the flags of the Confederacy are concerned. He works at one of the Civil War museums in Richmond. I have watched several of his videos on the Confederate battle flag and they are excellent.

      • BajaDreamer says:

        And yet he wrote the following right here in this piece.

        >>”The commanders of the Confederate army in Virginia (then known at the Army of the Potomac)…..”<<

        This is entirely incorrect and anyone who is highly touted as being any kind of a Civil War expert should have known that the primary Confederate army at that time and in that area was the "Army of Northern Virginia".

        The "Army of the Potomac" was in fact the Union's primary force!

      • tim kent says:

        You my friend are the one that happens to be wrong. When Beauregard commanded the army in 1861, it was indeed called “The Army of the Potomac” and was named that by General Beauregard himself.

      • Suzie says:

        My eighth grade students even know not to use Wikipedia! If you ask them why, they will tell you that it is not a reliable source since anyone can change anything in blue.

      • I would disagree with that.
        Have any of your students actually attempted to “change anything in blue”?

      • Mr.Steven kitchen says:

        I wish this guy would take on the MSM.

      • Alex Braun says:

        As a historian, you shouldn’t trust Wikepedia too much. Over the years I have noticed subtle and sometimes not so subtle content changes to better align them with the political correctness du jour.

    • Andres Guevara says:

      “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [from the Union]; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. [Applause.]”

      Source: https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech

      Thanks for the link! Helped me understand even more what the CONFEDERATES supported and what the CONFEDERATE flag symbolizes. Any resemblance between the words written in capital letter?

    • Fuzzybat says:

      This is rich. The person who states there are no sources and cites wikipedia, a source no school should ever accept as a viable source due to the fact that any schmuck with a computer can go onto wikipedia and change the information on the pages to whatever they want it to say, with virtually no checks or balances. If you’re going to argue that there are truths and falsehoods in this article, how about you cite the specific truths and falsehoods, otherwise your argument is total crap, just like your opinion.

    • Cat says:

      This is the attempt to rewrite history claiming to be a legitimate source “history.net”

    • Eric Stott says:

      I’m sorry, but Wikipedia is largely considered by all educational institutions as an unacceptable source of reliable information and that is for good reason.

  19. Alex Klebenow says:

    As a person who has studied The Civil War of, literally, decades, the writer lost me completely when he said that the Confederate Army was “then known as The Army of the Potomac”.
    THAT was the name of the UNION Army,
    NO Confederate Army was EVER known as “The Army of the Potomac”. ALL Confederate Armies were named after states, in the same way they named all the battles after the nearest town; whereas the Union Armies were generally named after Rivers (General Pope’s temporary The Army of Virginia being the most notable exception), in the same way they general named battles after the nearest body of water (Gettysburg and Vicksburg being the 2 most notable exceptions), although neither of these are written in stone rules.

    • Amy Westerbank says:

      There was the confederate Army of the potomac and a Union army of the Potomac. The confederate version is more remembered in history for their actions and losses. It is best remembered for the First Bull Run battle and being under the command of the infamous P.G.T. Beauregard long considered an impractical general. It is under this particular group (Eventually merged with the Army of the Shenandoah) that the initial confederate flag we all know came into existence. So his claim is supported by history. It’s just a matter of which wikipedia link you click on to learn more about.

  20. Dustin says:

    The white race is the most dominant race. Why you ask? So english came about from this race and what language is becoming of dominant of this world? Literally English, in all countries just about there is an english word used due to no foreign language word being able to be thought of. Prime example!

    • disqus_GUHF9WEukg says:


      • E4439qv5 says:

        Laughed harder than I should’ve.

        Yo @disqus_2uOPCAZAlg:disqus, your points don’t correlate. For one, English is on both sides of the term-coining game. It sponged up over half its words from Greek and Latin; aside from those two it’s pulled words that it definitely didn’t invent from hundreds of other languages, dead and alive. It’s useful today as a multi-cultural language thanks to its intelligibility (it’s easy enough to understand when spoken, even with errors here and there), holdovers from colonialism (rule Britannia), and how the internet developed. White people certainly sit in privileged positions in world discourse, but there are many more factors in what makes a ‘race’ “dominant.” Population is another one:


  21. Clayton Marchman says:

    more revisionist bullshit by a moron for morons

    • Kenneth Langford says:

      More empty comentary from national embarassments. So wear your flag with pride and keep polishing your second place trophies. They look real good next where you keep your ghost costume.

  22. BajaDreamer says:

    Does anyone edit this crap before posting or publishing it?
    Early on the piece states……

    >>”The commanders of the Confederate army in Virginia (then known at the Army of the Potomac)…..”<<

    In point of fact the "Army of the Potomac" was the principal UNION army of the Civil War. The primary Confederate force was known as the "Army of Northern Virginia"!
    This is an almost inexcusable error in a piece written on a supposedly factual historical basis.

    • Kenneth Langford says:

      Look up P.G.T. Beauregard. Commander of The Confederate Army of the Potomac during the First Battle of Bull Run.

  23. UjutPaneerak Wilkins says:

    In what “RACE COLOR & MENTALITY”.. ‘womb’, did this BANNER evolve FROM?! .. DOMINANCE, OPPRESSION & HATRED… for HUMANITY, in all.

  24. Alex Braun says:

    The banning of the Confederate battle flag is only the beginning. Now they are protesting against “Gone with the Wind,” forcing theaters that hold revivals of classic movies to ban it from their list. If the movie is under attack, surely the book itself cannot be too far. There is an excess of white privilege, you see.

    • DoubleDogDiogenes says:

      Yes, indeed there is an excess of white privilege. This may be a misguided action, but so is banning To Kill a Mockingbird by white supremacists. The Confederate Battle Flag and the racism and oppression behind it is not fiction. Gone with the Wind is. I’d prefer to see the battle flag displayed in a museum where relics like it belong. Not flown on a state capital to remind much of the population that whites used to own them, whites enacted Jim Crow laws, whites stripped of their right to vote (and are trying to again), and enacted the fiction of “separate by equal segregation. And the racism and ignorance continues.

  25. Mike Ross says:

    Very bad things happen when the hot eyed Liberal do-gooders assume control of history.

  26. Jay Reeder says:

    What a goat rodeo.

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