The proposed flag resembled the United States flag, but
replaced the "stripes" with 3 "bars". The flag had 7 stars, one for each
state that was part of the confederacy at the time. This flag was dubbed the
"Stars and Bars". The United States flag had been known as the "Stars and
Stripes". This flag had replaced the stripes with bars, so it was logical to
call it the "Stars and Bars". Note that today people often refer to the
Confederate battle flag (pictured at the top of the page, on the left of the
photograph) as the "Stars and Bars". Strictly speaking, this is not a
correct description of the Confederate battle flag.
Those who preferred a very different flag from that of
the United States proposed several different flags, one of which resembled
what would later become the Confederate battle flag.
In March of 1861, those who supported a flag similar to
that of the United States prevailed, and the "Stars and Bars" became the
official National flag of the Confederacy. The flag's first official use was
inauguration of Jefferson
Davis on March 4, 1861.
As more states joined the Confederacy, more stars were
added to the flag. Eventually the Stars and Bars had a total of 13 stars.
The thirteen states represented were: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida,
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina,
Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky. Note that Missouri and Kentucky never
officially seceded, but were slave states, and did have some confederate
state governments, although they were in exile for the most part.
With this matter resolved, the participants proceeded
with the prosecution of the War. While there were several smaller skirmishes
in early 1861, the first major battle of the year, and the war for that
matter, was the Battle of Bull Run, which was fought on July 21, 1861. There
were over 4,800 men killed or wounded on the two sides.
At the Battle of Bull Run, there were a number of
Confederate regiments that used the Confederate national flag as their
battle flag. While having a National flag that looks similar to the
old United States flag might have been comforting to the people of the newly
formed Confederacy, it turned out to be a bad idea in battle. In battle, the
purpose of a flag is to help identify who is who. Who is on your side, and
who is on the other side. From this perspective, having two sides fight
under flags that are similar in appearance is a very bad idea. It actually
did cause some degree of confusion at the Battle of Bull Run.
The confusion caused by the similarity in the flags was
of great concern to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. He suggested that
the Confederate national flag be changed to something completely different,
to avoid confusion in battle in the future. This idea was rejected by the
Confederate government. Beauregard then suggested that there should be two
flags. One, the National flag, and the second one being a battle flag, with
the battle flag being completely different from the United States flag.
was successful in having a separate battle flag created. The one chosen was
actually similar to one of the flags that had earlier been proposed to be
the National flag. The battle flag would be a blue X on a red field. As a
battle flag, the flag would be square. The flag had 13 stars, for the
thirteen states in the Confederacy. This flag was first used in battle in
December 1861. Being a new flag, different from the United States flag, it
gained widespread acceptance and allegiance among the Confederate soldiers,
and population in general. The flag is referred to as the Confederate battle
flag, and as the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.
It should be noted, however, that there were many
different confederate battle flags used at different times, and by different
regiments in the war.
The National flag of the confederacy is almost forgotten
today, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia has become the
symbol most associated with the confederacy, and it remains a controversial,
and divisive symbol to this day.
for the Army of Northern Virginia
The battle flag of the confederacy was typically square.
The flag as displayed today, is typically rectangular in shape, with
proportions similar to other national and state flags. A question arises as
to whether the flag was always square at the time of the Civil War.
I have looked through a number of original illustrations
from the war, and have found several of examples of what appears to be
rectangular battle flags in use by the Confederacy. Since these are
drawings, not photographs, it is not completely conclusive, as the artist
might have not accurately captured the proportions on the flags. At right is
the cover of the September 17, 1864 edition of Harper's Weekly. The
illustration shows a fallen confederate soldier, and a union soldier taking
the Confederate battle flag from him. To me, it looks as if this flag is in
fact rectangular in shape.
In the background, there is another confederate flag
flying, which also appears to be rectangular in shape. This flag is smaller,
and the shape is less conclusive than the larger flag.
next illustration also shows Confederate Troop under a rectangular version
of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. This illustration
appears to fairly conclusively show a rectangular battle flag. The
image is from the September, 27, 1862 edition of Harper's Weekly. The troops
pictured are the First Rebel Cavalry of Virginia. It can also be seen that
the flag has fringe on the edges, which was a common attribute of Battle
Flags of the day.
Historic Picture of
Confederate Flag in Harper's Weekly
Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia"
Over Rebel Forces