CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH: THE FLAG
by Ellen Williams
I am the Confederate Battle Flag. My design is based upon the Saint Andrew's Cross of Scotland. Some prefer to call me the "Rebel Flag". Either name I will wear with honor. There is certainly no shame in being called Confederate, as the people who bore that same honorable title are remembered for their bravery on the field of battle, a Southern culture built upon hard work, and faith in God. As for the name "Rebel", it was the Revolutionary War soldier and outstanding pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, in his series "The American Crisis", said: "Let them call me Rebel and welcome -- I feel no concern from it". Because you see, it was George Washington and his Colonial Army who were the original Rebels. My boys in gray were the second to wear the name.
My soldiers were so proud of me and held me in high steem. Many songs and poems were written to praise me. Southern ladies especially loved me and often I was hand made by them and presented to Dixie's heroes at formal ceremonies. My folds still bare the brown stains of the blood of young heroes.
A poem by Abram Ryan said: "Once ten thousand hailed me gladly, and ten thousand wildly, madly, swore I should ever wave. For though conquered, they adore me! Love the cold dead hands that bore me! Weep for those that fell before me". I was carried high on Memorial Day, and Dixie was included in July 4th ceremonies. On Veteran's Day, my men marched along with those from other wars. I waved proudly beside state flags in front of every state building in the South. The great grandchildren of my soldiers put me in tag form on their vehicles and posted me proudly in front of their homes. At some universities, I became the rallying cry at athletic events. The descendents of my warriors remembered both them and me with honor and reverent pride.
But history began to be revised and things such as hard work, personal responsibility, chastity, civility, even Christian symbols such as the cross, the nativity, and the Ten Commandments became unpopular as society became more crude and course. I find that I, the once honored flag of the Confederacy have become the primary targets of the speech police. I have heard of this thing called "diversity". And if I understand it correctly, it means that this country is working toward the inclusion of and equal treatment for all ethnic groups. Then why is my group singled out not only for omission, but also for slander?
The saddest part for me is that a great number of Confederate descendents have let the liberal media world convince them to be ashamed of who they are. Others have become afraid to display me. How I wish they could have seen their grandfathers hold my colors proudly at Shiloh, or witnessed the calm resolve at Gettysburg as General Pickett sent them forward into cannon and minie balls while I floated above their brave heads. There were no cowards at these places, only the valiant willing to die for the Constitution and the protection of their beloved homes.
Perhaps my people need to be reminded of who they are and what I am. I am a Christian symbol based on the Saint Andrew's Cross, the native flag of Scotland. According to tradition Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland was crucified on an X-shaped cross. The X-shaped cross in my colors and in the flag of Scotland is also the Greek letter chi which has long been a Christian abbreviation for "Christ". 19th century military tactics required perfect alignment in order to fire effectively upon an enemy. This rigid formation depended upon being able to align troops on the flag. Therefore, I was the rallying point for the "boys in gray". But, I was respected by the Union, too. Union troops received the Congressional Medal of Honor for the capture of a Confederate Battle Flag. Because of the confusion between the similarity of first national flag of the CSA and the national flag of the USA, General P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston adopted my design for their battle flag. I was first known as the Southern Cross and today I am generally referred to as the Confederate Battle Flag. Even the gapping bullet holes that appeared in me after every engagement were pointed to with pride as being further indication of valor for the men of the unit. It further reminds me of the courage and dedication were needed. Confederate soldiers had only to look at the blood stains of their fallen comrades which the battle action had placed upon my colors.
Even in the 20th Century I have been carried into battles for freedom. As the United Nations fought to protect South Korea from the agression of North Korea, I flew over the front lines with the U. S. 7th Marines, 3rd Battalion, E Company ("The Civil War: Strange and Facinating Facts," by Burke Davis). When the TV cameras scanned the crowds witnessing the fall of a communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe with the destructuon of the Berlin Wall, I was seen waving in many hands in that sea of humanity. In Logar Province, Afghan Freedom fighters placed me on a pole into the barrel of a captured Soviet tank as they struggled to remove Russian control over their nation (1989, Southern Partisan Magazine). During Operation Desert Storm, a British unit took me with them into their zone of responsibility as they worked to lift the aggression of Iraq over Kuwait. Somehow across the years, I think I heard again, "Rebel Yells" in approval as brave men once more carried me into battle for freedom.
In the War for Southern Independence, Corporal T. J. Carlisle of the 37th Alabama Infantry said this about me: "Hail thou flag of the brave. We lift our hats in reverence as we behold the speechless but unmistakable evidence that you have passed through the firey ordeal of war in all its fury. We are proud of your history proud of your scars and venerate you for your age, trusting that your scared folds may be preserved for ages to come and when time and its inevitable ravages shall dissolve your sacred folds into dust, may the patriotic emotions which actuated us in that memorial struggle pervade American hearts and live in vivid memories of Southern heroism and Southern chivalry.
Why do my people not still love me? Why do they not display me on their government buildings and their businesses? Above all, why do they not fly me on the occasions of Confederate Memorial Day (fourth Monday in April), General Lee's birthday (third Monday in January) and President Davis's birthday (June third)? Perhaps they just need to become reacquainted with who I REALLY AM not who those who hate me SAY THAT I AM. Remember and honor me openly, my children. I was based on a Christian symbol; represented a fight for independence, carried by fearless men; and loved by your grandparents. I am The Confederate Battle Flag.
Fly me proudly. I am your inheritance.