Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Emblem of Treason

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Since soon after the close of the Civil War, it has been customary for those in league with the Confederate Cause to fly Confederate battle flags. This practice was extremely popular among Confederate veterans. Whenever they gathered, whether it be for a speech, commemorative meeting, monument dedication, or patriotic gathering, former Rebels were sure to unfurl the banners under which they had once marched into battle.

As you might imagine, Union veterans were not especially pleased with this practice - thinking such a display of treasonous emblems insulted the cause for which they had fought...and won. Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic and other groups worked tirelessly to prevent the display of Confederate flags in public - particularly those where the colors of the United States were also present. They spoke at length expressing their concerns. Today I offer an excerpt from the minutes of G.A.R. N.Y. Department, Brooklyn City Post 233, recorded on March 11, 1905:

Loyalty and treason cannot harmoniously march ‘elbow to elbow’ in the same column under ‘Old Glory’ and the ‘Secesh’ emblems. The future generations of the South, by this proposed transfer, should not have their minds fired with false admiration of what emblems of treason stand for, on the contrary, if it is esteemed a graciousness to do so, rather let such emblems be totally destroyed…Now, if the flags, emblematic of treason and disunion, are to be returned, should not we, also, be required to detach our beloved emblem of loyalty and unionism from our breasts, so that the metal of the captured cannon may likewise be restored to those who turned them against the Nation’s life? Let it preserve a manly respect for the valor of our formerly mistaken foes of the ‘lost cause,’ without exhibition of maudling sentiment that would apparently place treason and loyalty on level. Forgiveness and restoration to all rights of good citizenship and fostering of love for the Union is a laudable aim – and to this desideration, ‘let us have peace!’

Clearly, the author favored reconciliation, but did so with decidedly Union terms in mind. These days, the Confederate Battle Flag is used for all sorts of purposes - from a "stick it to the man" symbol of rebellion to racist hatred. But something to think about: not too terribly long ago, it was primarily an emblem of treason.




  1. Keith, any sense of which decade after the war saw the flag flown the most?

  2. Pat - I am going to go with the 1950s as part of the massive resistance to the Civil Rights movement.

  3. “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”

    “War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.”

    “My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

    “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”

    William Tecumseh Sherman