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Confederate flag

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The Battle Flag, shown here with the proper aspect ratio
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If you were looking for any of the flags that were actually legally adopted as the flag of the Confederacy, too bad. Nobody seems to care about those.
As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.
—William Tappan Thompson, editor of the Savannah Morning News, 1863[1][2]

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, often simply referred to as the Battle Flag, infrequently as the Southern Cross, or (incorrectly) as the Confederate flag, was a flag flown by the forces of (who else?) the Confederate States of America's Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. It was later used to represent all of the Confederate forces, starting with its adoption as the symbol of the United Confederate Veterans. From there, it became recognized as a symbol of the Confederacy in general, and later the South, yet more generally. Today, the flag is popular with southerners and non-southerners alike, who claim the flag represents their "heritage" and doesn't have any racist connotations at all. It is also popular with admitted racists, white supremacists, and alt-righters, who don't even try to deny its racist connotations.


Original caption: "The first flag of independence raised in the South, by the citizens of Savannah, Ga. November 8th, 1860"

In 1860, the first flags of the secessionists were variants of the colonial-era Gadsden Flag, a coiled snake with the words "Don't Tread on Me". In a precursor to modern-day meme wars, the Union and Confederates battled over possession of the flag, with the Union giving up on it in 1862, considering it irreparably tainted by the rebels.[3] The flag was subsequently resurrected by the Tea Party and other anti-federal government assholes from states controlled by the modern Republican Party, and also appeared at the (failed) 2021 U.S. coup attempt.[3]

During the war[edit]

The first Confederate flag, an original Stars and Bars flag; while the resemblance to the U.S. flag was intentional, it created problems for military commanders

At the first battle of Manassas, General Beauregard grew frustrated with the difficulty involved in distinguishing the Stars and Bars (the first actual Confederate flag) and the U.S. flag at a distance. This led him to propose the adoption of a separate battle flag, the design of which ultimately wound up being William Porcher Miles's rejected submission for a national flag. Its design was derived from that of the flag flown over the South Carolina secession convention, but the palmetto was removed, the number of stars was altered to twelve, and the upright cross was made into a saltire in the name of religious tolerance. General Joseph E. Johnston further modified the flag by making it square in order to conserve material. Later, another star was added to (wrongly) represent Kentucky.

Rising again After the war[edit]

The flag was adopted as the symbol of the United Confederate Veterans shortly after the Civil War, which may have had the unintended side effect of erasing other Confederate battle flags from memory. Unfortunately, it was also adopted as a symbol emblazoned on the white sheets of a bunch of idiots shortly thereafter;[note 1] however, it did not feature as prominently in Klan symbolism and rituals as it does now. In 1894, Mississippi adopted a flag with the battle flag as a canton, which it kept until the legislature accidentally left the state officially flagless in 1906, and adopted it again in 2001. Mississippi relinquished this flag in 2020 and officially adopted a new flag with no confederate imagery whatsoever in 2021. During World War II, the battle flag was used here and there by units with Southern ties, and was even raised over Shuri CastleWikipedia after the battle of Okinawa, where it stayed for three days. It made its way to the political scene in 1948, when members of the Kappa Alpha Order[note 2] brought it to the Dixiecrat convention.[4]

In 1956, the flag of Georgia consisted of a vertical blue bar with the state seal, and then the battle flag on the right, where it persisted until 2001. Changing the flag was very controversial, and the town of Trenton, Georgia used a slightly modified version with text "CITY OF TRENTON" and "INCORPORATED 1854" above and below the seal, respectively. The flag did remain on Georgia's god-awful "Barnes flag" from 2001 to 2003, albeit far smaller. The present flag of Georgia still incorporates the Stars and Bars, but doesn't seem to serve as so great a provocation as the battle flag. A Alabama former attorney general also issued an opinion that his state's flag was derived from the battle flag. However, given the lack of historical attestation to his theory, the only vague resemblance between the two, and the similarities between the flag of Alabama and the Spanish Cross of Burgundy,[note 3] this is dubious at best.

Southern rock and its history with the flag[edit]

The genre of Southern rock became firmly associated with the flag. In particular, its main standard bearers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, were especially intertwined with it due to always using it as a backdrop for their stages. This has in turn particularly led to some to posit that there were racist feelings in the group, the main evidence used being the lyrics of "Sweet Home Alabama". However, this was usually done through deliberate quote mining and not taking in all the contradictions of the lyrics into account.[5] In addition, while he had differing explanations as to why the flag was used, lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant was known for writing deep, introspective, even progressive lyrics that were aimed at transcending and even ending the Southern redneck stereotypes, as "Saturday Night Special" demonstrates.[6] After the 1977 plane crash that killed several of the band's founding members (including Van Zant), and the 1987 reformation with Van Zant's younger brother Johnny taking his place as frontman, there was a slow degrading in the songwriting. Particularly after 9/11, the band's lyrics began to firmly land into parody redneck and Tea Party territory. Songs such as the jingoistic "Red, White & Blue",[7] the paranoid "God & Guns" (which seems to be competing with the equally paranoid "Stormtroopin'" by Ted Nugent),[8] and the bumper sticker quality of "Nothing Comes Easy"[9] attest to this. And what about the flag, you ask? In 2012, they briefly stopped using it to make a statement against white supremacy groups, but reverted back to using it to placate angry fans while using the Lost Cause of the South to justify it.[10] In light of the events in Charleston, however, the band seems to have dropped it altogether, including from their merchandise.

Tom Petty (who does not actually perform Southern rock, but has often been lumped into that genre), a native of Gainesville, Florida, had what he has termed a very sad and regretful moment with the flag. After the release of his 1985 album Southern Accents, he began to use a Confederate flag to represent the story of a character in the song "Rebels". When fans began wearing rebel flags to his shows, he took it down and even lobbied to remove a photo of it from a live album.[11]

However, several acts have defiantly continued to use the flag in spite of the Charleston tragedy. In particular, hip hop/country/Southern rock/heartland rock artist Kid Rock (who is actually from Detroit like his good friend Ted Nugent, but recently moved to Alabama and has gone on record as a raging libertarian or conservative, depending on the issue) has shouted down protests from his hometown to stop and/or apologize.[12]


In the wake of the 2015 Charleston shootings, the battle flag came to increasing prominence due to pictures of an idiot with a bowl cut the confessed shooter with the flag. Unsurprisingly, the battle flag became a major subject of debate, being widely decried as symbolizing a racist legacy, although polling indicates that a majority of Americans see it principally as a symbol of Southern pride.[13] Nontroversies ensued when the flag was removed from various public buildings. Additionally, various retailers announced intent to cease selling merchandise featuring the battle flag.[note 4] Predictably, the nuttier sorts blamed Obama.[citation NOT needed] The nation's larger flag makers also all stopped selling the battle flag – and Alabama reminded us once more that it's special.[14]

Around the world[edit]

Bars, no stars: War Flag of Novorussia

The Confederate flag is used in a few other countries with varied meanings. In Brazil, descendants of refugees from the Confederate States of America fly the flag, supposedly with no negative connotation.[15] Neo-Nazis in Germany fly the Confederate flag because it is illegal to display Nazi symbols.[15]

The 2014 Russian invasions of Ukraine were supported by American white supremacists Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach and David Duke. As an acknowledgement for their support, Russia created a flag for NovorossiyaWikipedia (the southern part of Ukraine that it intended to seize by force) that was taken from the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.[16]:148-149

Confederate flags[edit]

Historically there was no single Confederate flag. Instead, there were different flags at different times.

The "Stars and Bars"[edit]

These were abandoned due to their similarity to the Union's flag because fuck the yanks it caused friendly fire during battle.

The "Stainless Banner"[edit]

These were abandoned because from a distance they looked like a white flag. You can probably see why this would want to be avoided.

The "Blood-Stained Banner"[edit]

Other flags used by Confederate states and military[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. One theory ties this to a desire to appear as ghosts of the war dead.
  2. Yes, that Kappa Alpha OrderWikipedia and yes, that figures.
  3. South Alabama was once a Spanish colony.
  4. Woah! Capitalism!


  1. Wood, Marie Stevens Walker (1957). Stevens-Davis and allied families: a memorial volume of history , biography, and genealogy. p. 44
  2. The Birth of the ‘Stainless Banner’ Coski, John M. New York Times. 05.13.13
  3. 3.0 3.1 The disgraced Confederate history of the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag by Laura Brodie (June 14, 2023 at 8:00 a.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  13. One wonders what that "pride" means.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Here's why the Confederate flag is flown outside the US by Matthew Speiser (Jun. 24, 2015, 11:19 AM) Business Insider.
  16. The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder (2018) Tim Duggan Books. ISBN 0525574468.