Flags of the Confederacy


The First National Flag – The Stars and Bars

When the Southern States seceded from the Union, each State used its own flag in place of the Stars and Stripes. Then as the Confederation of States was effected there arose a demand for a distinctive flag which would be acceptable to all of the States.

On March 4, 1861, the same day that Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated President, the assembly at Montgomery, Alabama adopted the first flag of the Confederacy. They retained the red, white and blue colors of the United States flag, as well as the blue canton, and used stars to represent the States. They replaced the thirteen stripes of alternate red and white with three of the same colors. These they called “Bars”, which gave rise to the popular name, the “Stars and Bars”.

This is the flag that we fly in front of the First White House. The flag was designed by Nicola Marchell, a noted Southern artist who also designed the Confederate uniform. His self-portrait and that of his wife hang in the Second Parlor.


The Second National Flag – The “Stainless Banner”

The “Stars and Bars” was too closely allied to the Stars and Stripes to be acceptable to those who favored a complete severance of ties with the Union, and who were ready to break away absolutely from the old flag.. As the war wore on through the years, the demand for a modification of the National emblem which would make it more distinctive became more insistent.

In May, 1863 the Confederate Congress at Richmond acceded to the demands. They placed the famous Battle Flag of the Confederacy which had been transformed from an oblong into a square emblem in the union, and substituted a white field for the red and white bars. Thus the “Stars and Bars”, under which so many Southern lives had been sacrificed, passed into discard. This new flag weathered the storm for less than a year before it too was modified.


The Last Confederate Flag

At a distance, when the union was hidden by folds, the second Confederate flag, adopted in 1863, could readily be mistaken for the white flag of truce. It therefore did not prove acceptable to the Confederate military leaders in the field. After nearly a year’s use, this white flag was modified.

A red bar extending over the width of the banner and covering the outer half of the field was added. The famous Battle Flag of the Confederacy in its square form was retained in the union.

This was the final National flag of the Confederacy. Under it, General Lee conducted the campaign of 1864, which began with the battle of the Wilderness and terminated with the transfer of the Federal Army across the James River, through the siege of Petersburg and the final retreat. Under it he surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in April 1865, and brought to an end the bloodiest civil war of modern times.


The Battle Flag

William Porcher Miles of South Carolina, the chairman of the Committee for the Flag and Seal, created it. He offered his first version of the flag during a meeting of the committee in one of the senatorial chambers. His original version was rectangular and contained only seven stars (seven states seceding). The flag committee refused the design…but Miles continued his efforts by sending sketches of it to his friend, Beauregard. Beauregard offered some help…but to no avail. Miles quit his position with the Confederate Government…and joined Beauregard in Charleston…and was on Beauregard’s staff when we bombarded Ft. Sumter.

Beauregard, of course, led the Confederate forces at Manassas…and it was there he decided there was a need for a separate battle flag. The Stars and Bars looked too much like the US flag in the confusion of battle. Beauregard actually almost failed in that battle because of a critical moment in which he was unsure of the identity of the flag. After realizing that it was his flag, his decision led to the brief Confederacy victory. He made the remark that he would have a separate battle flag, regardless of what course others took. There were two flags under consideration…one, a flag with the familiar Latin Cross…and his friend’s version…the St. Andrews design. Miles was with Beauregard at that battle.

Beauregard forwarded his idea to Johnston, who then squared it up…and the first Battle Flag was approved by the Confederate Congress in November of 1861. It had 12 stars…indicating 12 states with a yellow bunting. When Kentucky was admitted into the Confederacy, the 13th star was added and the bunting was changed to an orange bunting. The square version of the Battle Flag was the Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag, which eventually was altered with a white bunting. The completed rectangular version of the Battle Flag was adopted in 1863 as a Naval Jack…later, General Johnston ordered the Army of Tennessee in the western theater to use this version to avoid the confusing number of corps flags.

Beauregard did not create the flag…he brought it into public view…and his efforts led it to become the Battle Flag.

More information via Wikipedia