On This Date in History: For the past 30 years or so, during the political season a certain topic seems to come up. In particular, whenever there is an election in South Carolina, it seems as if the old flag controversy has raises its head again. Thing is, the flag that is in question was not the real flag or at least not the one adopted by the Confederate Congress. There are various claims regarding the Confederate flag history, with at list one source suggesting the Confederate Congress neglected to officially pass a flag act. Nevertheless, there is not much dispute that the original flag looked the one above with 7 stars for the first seven Confederate states. But commanders on the battlefield complained that it looked like the Union’s Stars and Stripes and it was difficult to determine friend from foe at distances. They changed it a couple of times by putting what would be a square “stars and bars” shape in the corner of a white field and then the same design only with a red vertical bar on the right end. It was suggested that commanders in the field adopt their own battle flag. However, some histories suggest that in fact, there were different flags adoped officially during the days of the Confederacy. None of them though feature the familiar rectangular flag. The original flag did not come into existence until March 1861 and on this date in 1861, the state of Louisiana seceded from the union, adding what would be the 6th star to the soon to be adopted flag.
The Army of Northern Virginia had used the common “stars and bars” for quite some time though it was a square, not rectangular flag. In fact, the proper name of the flag is the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. I suppose since that was the army of Robert E. Lee and is so prominent in remedial history and because it was associated with arguably the South’s best or at least best known general, it became dominant in lore. If you wanted to find a retangular flag with the stars and bars, you would have to head to the high seas. See, the Confederate navy had a couple of flags. One was a square blue field with a circle of 7 stars. Then it was a flag similar to the Army of Northern Virginia flag except it featured a different shade of blue and it was rectangular and not the square used by General Lee’s army. The flag over time ended up as what is now thought to be the Confederate flag, or the “stars and bars.” It has the design and color of the Army of Northern Virginia, but the shape of the second naval flag. However, by the middle years of the war, the success of Lee’s army became apparent and several armies of the south changed their battle flags to look like that of the Army of Northern Virginia. But, again, it was supposed to be square. The Army of Tennessee though ended up with a rectangular flag not by design, but mistake. A square was ordered but a rectangle was delivered.
So, one can only conclude that the flag that is the center of controversy was not really the flag of the Confederacy but instead was the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s army which over the course of the war was adopted by other armies in some form. Depending on which battle at which time of a re-enactment, there are probably many movies out there that are inaccurate regarding the flag, though is not surprising considering how much of history hollywood misrepresents. In many battles portrayed on film, a completely different flag was really used and the one used that is most similar was more often a square not a rectangle. The flag has 13 stars but there were really only 11 states in the Confederacy. They added the other two to try and claim Kentucky and Missouri but claims and truth are often at odds because both “border states” remained with the nation as the Kentucky legislature even invited the Union to send troops to fend off invading rebels. This is how US Grant ends up with early victories in the western part of the state and how the Union Army of the Ohio came to be based in Louisville. And finally, ironically, the Confederate Congress adopted the flag design above specifically because it did resemble the Stars and Stripes which was the exact reason why military leaders found the flag worthless on the battlefield. That would not be the first time that a Congress and military butted heads. I suspect that the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia became the de-facto Confederate Flag in popular culture came about due to its use in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, which itself was an abhorent obfuscation of history.
So, don’t believe the hype. The flag that has become such a controversial symbol, was not in wide use until after the war. I think that the number of flags used is more symbolic of disorder in the Confederacy and they had more immediate concerns than a flag. As for the controversy regarding the display of the flag, it’s really kinda silly. I mean the Confederacy is gone and was never recognized by the United States or almost anyone else. Some say its just represents heritage. Heritage of what? Secession? Oh..what a great thing to remember. Then there are those who say it represents slavery. It seems a bit far fetched to me but, if that is what some think, then so be it. I suppose one might say that since it was the battle flag used by the side that supported slavery, then..well..okay. But, in my mind, the flag has no business any place except maybe a museum. The reason is that it was a battle flag. It’s use was intended to aid the members of those in arms against the Union. To me, it represents armed insurrection against the nation. That is not a heritage I think should be celebrated.
Weather Bottom Line: Monday night about midnight it was still around 35 degrees. That meant that all precipitation that fell was melting, leaving wet roads. As the overnight wore on, by 5 am we dropped below freezing. We got between a quarter and a half inch of snow on the ground but, more importantly, those wet roads froze making for a difficult morning drive. If we get above freezing on Tuesday, it won’t be by much. We will get a break on Wednesday with highs near 40 or maybe a couple of degrees higher. Then comes our storm system. Right now, the only apparent continuity in the modeling data is that the critical thickness lines will be down to about the southern Tennesee border. That should be far enough away to limit the potential for ice, though I wouldnt totally rule it out at this time. The biggest contradiction comes in the moisture. The NAM has the low tracking so far south that the precip line is south of Louisville and it calls for no snow at all. The other models are more bullish to varying degrees. The long range models want to dump a fairly significant amount of snow on our area with the Canadian model even looking suspiciously like some decent ice early on. I would tend to think that the NAM is wrong in saying no snow at all but beyond that, the data is just too muddled and the the critical thickness lines so close to the area that any minor variation can cause an enormous difference in the type of precipitation and the degree of that precipitation. At this point, I would plan on a potential winter storm for the last part of the week that may create some travel issues. Friday seems to be the day. Then, look for a cold weekend. I would not expect temperatures back above freezing until early next week.