The Real History of the Confederate Flag

29th Jul 2020

The Real History of the Confederate Flag

What is the real history of the Confederate Flag? If you have a strong bond with the Confederate flag that we know today, you may feel that your emotional connection to the flag is misunderstood. While this flag tends to install pride in many of us because of its association with our southern upbringing, others see it as a symbol of hate. Unfortunately, the Confederate flag has become a polarizing symbol and a highly sensitive topic. But whatever your sentiments are about the Confederate flag, there’s a reason.

If you are an avid scholar of the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag is a native part of your world. The symbolism of the real Confederate flag represents the Confederate side of the Civil War. Many of us have learned that the Confederate battle flag was not named, "The Confederate Flag," and was not called the “Stars and Bars.” The Confederate flag name rightfully applies to the first national flag of the Confederacy. Many Confederate members served the war under battle flags that resembled nothing like the red flag with the star-studded blue cross.

Why do so many Americans have such conflicting perceptions of what the Confederate flag signifies, and how did those different meanings emerge? A look at this history of the Confederate flag may help shed some light on the matter.

The Confederate Flag Background

The Confederate flag we know today started as the battle flag of the Confederate Army of the Potomac — and it was not the original battle flag. The first national flag of the Confederacy, (also known as the Stars and Bars) was adopted as the original Confederate flag in 1861. This first battle flag looked like the flag we know today as the flag of the United States. The problem was that, on the battlefield, that flag was identical to the flag of the Union army.

Various Confederacy regiments went ahead and tried to adapt their battle flag designs. Each flag represented emotional importance for the soldiers who fought and for the families of soldiers who fought and died while at war. Each flag was adorned with pride for the acts of the soldiers who served.

As the Civil war continued, the Confederacy continued to move away from the past association with the Union flag. By 1962, Confederate leaders wanted an official battle flag that didn't resemble the American flag of the United States, but a flag that reflected the established independence of the Confederacy.

After much thought, Confederate leaders ruled that the battle flag from Robert E. Lee's regiment was the best Confederate flag to represent the new nation. (Robert E. Lee was quite well known and respected for his army's victories from 1862 to 1863.) The well known Confederate battle flag of the Army of The Potomac was then chosen as the Confederacy flag on May 1, 1863.

A Brief History Of The Confederate Flag

After the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag was used mostly for war veterans and to honor fallen Confederate soldiers. The Confederate flag began to take on new importance and associations in the 20th century, particularly in the 1940s, and the former “rebel flag” began to appear more frequently in contexts unrelated to the Civil War.

In 1941, the United Confederate Veterans issued a report that described the Confederate flag as the flag of Lee's army. This virtually erased other flags that were remembered throughout the history of the Confederacy. After a heavily promoted campaign over several years, Confederate groups re-established Lee's flag as the official Confederate battle flag that we know as the Confederate flag in modern times.

In 1948, the newly-formed Dixiecrat party adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of opposition to the federal government. Fast forward past 1948, and the Confederate flag became an influential piece of segregationist symbolism. It was also featured prominently in the 1956 redesign of Georgia’s state flag.

In 1962, the Confederate was raised at the South Carolina State House to mark a century since the beginning of the Civil War. A lot of onlookers perceived this as an act of protest against the desegregation of schools and the civil rights movement.

The Simple Meaning Of The Confederate Flag Today

As time passes, the flag continues to evoke a mixture of negative opinions. The Confederate flag is often associated with the Confederate States wanting to preserve the custom of slavery in the south or is seen as symbolic of white supremacist groups that have adopted the flag as their symbol. To many southerners, though, the Confederate flag is nothing more than a representation of southern pride and heritage, and a cultural distinction between the northern regions. The simple meaning of the Confederate Flag is that it acts as symbol of American history, Southern heritage, and as a way to remember our past and where we came from.


To learn more about the Confederate Flag, check some of our blog posts here including our Men’s Southern Style Guide, Where To Get Confederate Flag Bikinis, and more.