A reasonable view of the Confederate Battle Flag
I am a history hound and have a special love and interest in the Civil War. The controversy over the South Carolina use of the Confederate Battle flag is of special interest to me. Born and raised in New Jersey, I had a Great Great Great Grandfather that fought for the Union. Peter S. Dougherty and his brother Pryor joined the Union Army with Company B, 23rd Infantry Regiment New Jersey on 13 September 1862 in Bordentown, NJ. Peter fought at Fredericksburg and his regiment stormed Marye’s Heights against Longstreet’s corps.
Marye’s Heights was a bloody and hopeless conflict at Fredericksburg. Porter Alexander (later a Brigadier General for the Confederacy) was famous for saying “a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” He was right. Longstreet’s corp was nestled behind a stone wall at the top of a gently rising slope. No Union soldier got closer than 50 yards.
I mention this because, despite my Yankee heritage, I have always had Confederate leanings. As a small child, my heroes were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. This was well before I had any understanding of the reasons behind the war.
Today, I am certainly glad the Union won that war.
I am glad the war was won by the Union army and that the fight was against slavery. Lincoln elevated the raison d’être for the war on January 1 1863. We are well to remember that, up until that date, Lincoln was willing to ensure the institution of slavery for unification after his election.
Even to this day, I admire General Lee for his integrity, leadership, demeanor and savvy. Those that know me can easily understand my affinity for the underdog. My business at Stealing Share is all about helping underdogs in a market steal share from the market leader.
So how do I feel about the Confederate Battle Flag that flies in South Carolina? Take it down and put it away in a museum or an historical reenactment. For me, it takes away from the historical battle flag as a historical symbol of a culture long gone. By trying to contemporize the symbol into something that reeks of racism. We can thank the Southern segregationists and the KKK for the rancor. In the 50s and 60s there is no defense of the racism that the flag now represents. It’s just wrong to fly it today.
However, the Confederate Battle Flag belongs in museums and it belongs in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University because in those places it is about history. (I wrote a blog chastising the University for removing the Battle Flags from the Lee Chapel. You can read it here)
No one should be offended by their state. A pickup truck riding down the road with a Confederate battle flag bumper sticker is not telling the world that they are history buffs. We all know what it means (a redneck racist) and it is offensive to my sensibilities and our national precepts.
There is a time and place for everything and states that cling to the Confederate Battle flag are out of time and in the wrong place.
I will still tingle with historical excitement when I see the battle flag proudly displayed at Civil War Reenactments. At these events, the historic flag is about the lost cause and the men that fought and died for something they believed in. They believed in their home states.