The Vexillology of the Confederate Flag

I found this video this morning after I came across the Chris Rock Show clip. This is the vexillology of the Confederate Flag according to Dr. Thomas G. Clemens of Hagerstown Community College. As always, the comments on the video are more entertaining than the video itself. Enjoy.

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24 comments

  1. TX, FL, and the LA territory were Roman Catholic when they entered the union. VA, NC, SC, GA were founded Episcopalian. TN was SC creeping west. Colors are significant in Catholic Faiths. Red is martyrdom, e.g. Xian love. The blue and white “X” symbolizes St. Andrews Cross, for Southerns at that time, it had a double entendre symbolizing Scottish enlightenment, the philosophical foundation of the U.S.. WHEN THE SQUARE BATTLE FLAG CAME DOWN, THE RECTANGULAR FLAG ROSE FROM THE ASHES OF 400.000 CONFEDERTE MEN THAT LOVED THEIR COUNTRY THE WAY XIAN MARTYRS LOVE GOD.

    • I’m sorry but that’s just a preposterous statement. We have ample evidence left behind by the flag’s creator, William Porcher Miles, strove to avoid attributing any religious meaning to the flag. When asked about the colors, he responded that they were “Good republican colors.”

      • Flags contain symbols that are universally understood by the people it represented when it we created. National, state, etc. flags symbolize secular faiths and contain symbols that point to secular myths; for every significant history there is a mythological counterpart, e.g. the belief of what happened, not necessarily what actually happened, (see Paul Tillich, “Dynamics of Faith”). It is an error of presentism to presume that nineteenth century Southern’s were as superficial as today’s populous. * * * It is well settled that statements surrounding political controversies require context to be understood. The “ample evidence,” argument is actually coined, “substantial evidence:” It’s more than a modicum of facts, but less than beyond reasonable doubt. It is abundant, quality evidence. Without context, you have no argument. William Green, East 8 St. Manhattan.

        • With all due respect, you’re grasping at straws or picking an argument where there is none. The original video is about the history of flags which incorporates the aspect of historical memory. Myth vs history is part of the basis of historical memory and the reason for accurate interpretation of facts. If you opened what might be the only legitimate work of history done on the flag, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem, historian John Coski elaborated on the symbolism of the flag over time. In the book Coski notes that the flag’s designer, Wm. Porcher Miles, based the flag design on one that appeared at the South Carolina secession convention.

          That flag featured a blue St. George’s (or upright) cross on a red field. Emblazoned on the cross were fifteen white stars representing the slaveholding states, and on the red field were two symbols of South Carolina: the palmetto tree and the crescent. Charles Moise, a self-described “southerner of Jewish persuasion,” wrote Miles and other members of the South Carolina delegation asking that “the symbol of a particular religion” not be made the symbol of the nation.

          In adapting his flag to take these criticisms into account, Miles removed the palmetto tree and crescent and substituted a diagonal cross for the St. George’s cross.

          We have Miles’s report to Congress as well as his letters to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard about the colors and the significance of the cross. Miles meant it to me heraldic rather than ecclesiastical. Although Southerners and supporters may breathe into the flag multiple meanings in its symbols, it was not by design. However, making such statements that Southerners saw an image of Scottish enlightenment as the philosophical foundation of the U.S. is a self defeating argument. How can reconcile statements like “it is an error in presentism to presume that nineteenth century Southern’s [sic] were as superficial as today’s populous,” with your own argument that Southerners were as keenly aware of the Scottish philosophical foundation of America. How many letters from Southerners do you know of that emphasize the importance of Scottish enlightenment vs those with religious views of the flag? I mean honestly; what argument are you even trying to make? Because currently the evidence is quite clear: The flag was designed with more respect toward the secular than otherwise, regardless of generations of Southerners believing otherwise. That’s the evidence, that’s the context, that’s history vs memory.

          • You citation of myth history books is not worth reading. I pity todays college students who will likely graduate with the same skills their professors have -none. I rank among those that hold “eternal hostility” at the Robber Barons of our time: college professors.

          • To Epic Xeno: By myth history books do you mean all history books that you do not agree with, but cannot find facts to overturn what those books have in them? I believe you seem to dislike research that uses facts and rejects myths and lies. I’m from Missouri. If you want to prove something, then show me the evidence. If you cannot do so, that means you are full of hot air and making up stuff to fit your beliefs.

          • COMMON SENSE MUST CONTROL WHEN VIEWING SOUTHERN HISTORY! Southern culture is not academic, it is hands on and celebrates common sense. Little was written down as they were busy on their farms and with their church and family. To exclude folk history from southern history is to reduce southern history to myth history by rearranging what few scraps that were written down.

            Th: Jefferson is a great example of not writing about Scottish Enlightenment. Gifted that he was he lived both the academic and hand-on lifestyles. In his two voluminous libraries of 6,000+ books he did not have one of John Locke’s writings or books. (see Dumas Malone, “Jefferson and His Time.”) Of the 20,000+ manuscripts of his letters, John Locke is only mentioned as among the three greatest men that ever lived, along with Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon. John :Locke is Scottish enlightenment. Scotts were the dominant group down south. Jefferson’s mentor a William and Mary was Wm Small. Both Madison and Jefferson complained of the Scottish French they learned.

            The influence of Scottish music on southern is undeniable, simply listen to Haydn’s Scottish Songs and Anonymous Four “American Angels.”

            Missouri and Kentucky officially fought on the union side, and were not considered as among the rebel states; taking dissension in Missouri to the states official position and say its both confederate and union is a stretch.

            Playing with St. Andrews Cross in the light of the American Revolution, Christian Martyrdom and Rebellion is…..

          • I’m sorry but that is simply an erroneous argument. If your argument is that written records are hard to come by because southerners were too busy on the farms, then historical research would be handicapped due to the lack of primary source documents. It is from these which we can discern much about their day to day lives, cross reference other source documents and oral histories. The problem with that argument is that we have numerous accounts and primary source documents from numerous southerners and their families. Once again, I never mentioned anything about excluding folk history. This idea of “common sense” that you keep pushing is moot. You do know what a strawman argument is, correct?

            John Locke is English…. and he died long before Francis Hutcheson (the first major philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment) ever penned his first thesis. Additionally, Scotts were not the dominant group in the South….they weren’t even the dominant group in the Appalachian Mountains although it is often suggested. Here, we have the primary source information to back all of this up. Honestly, do you know what you’re talking about at this point?

            So is the influence of English culture…also undeniable.

            Missouri and Kentucky also included large factions of citizens that fought on the side of the Confederacy. Missouri supplied 30,000 Confederates alone. You asked why the inclusion of the extra two starts – the reason I gave is what the primary source documents tell us. Each state had secessionist factions that declared secession; the Confederate government recognized this.

            This argument is getting tiring – come up with something substantial that uses primary source documents to help prove your point or move on.

          • AGAIN MR. BKAER, YOU IGNORE COMMON SENSE. John Locke of Scotland is a part of what was later coined the Scottish Enlightenment. John Locke is the philosophical foundation of the US. If Scottish John Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment is NOT the philosophical foundation for the U.S.A., what is?

            Your dismissal of Southern Folk history allows Yankees to write Southern History for them. The two have been in conflict since Jefferson became the leader of the democratic-republican party. New England federalists outwardly and openly loathed and despised Southern democratic-republicans. The two regions never got along, only today the tyranny of the north (political correctness) is with a smile, not a scowl.

            You keep arguing about extraneous issues and ignore the symbols in the flag itself. You know the difficulty of demonstrating population geography at a time when records were not clearly kept, especially in the South.

            The White outline of the blue X symbolizes St. Andrews Cross, the flag of Scotland. It is well accepted that there were only 11 confederate states, the thirteen stars with the blue background symbolizes the spirit of 1776. As southern states have either Anglican or Roman Catholic foundations, the red behind St. Andrews Cross symbolizes Christian Love, John 3:16, Love in Xity is sacrifice..

            Your dismissal of obvious truth as “preposterous,” is ludicrous. You ignore obvious truths then concentrate on potential des minimis errors. I seek truth, you seem to seek victory. There is no candle here.

          • Does historical accuracy play a role in this common sense you keep harping on?

            https://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/
            John Locke was among the most famous philosophers and political theorists of the 17th century. He is often regarded as the founder of a school of thought known as British Empiricism,

            https://www.johnlocke.org/about-john-locke/who-is-john-locke/
            That the John Locke Foundation is named after the 17th century English political philosopher is no mere coincidence; the man was an intellectual titan, one whose thoughts and ideas can be found throughout our country’s earliest political documents, including and especially the Declaration of Independence.

            https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Locke
            (born August 29, 1632, Wrington, Somerset, England—died October 28, 1704, High Laver, Essex), English philosopher whose works lie at the foundation of modern philosophical empiricism and political liberalism. He was an inspirer of both the European Enlightenment and the Constitution of the United States.

            Please, tell me more about Scottish John Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment’s influence on America…

            If you seek truth, perhaps you should concede that you are wrong first and foremost on where John Locke is from…

          • Mr. Baker, insults? Avoiding discussing the Dixie Flag? We’re back to arguing Scottish Enlightenment?

            As the U.S.A. is the first secular nation without a religious foundation, What is the philosophical foundation for the United States?

            On John Locke, I studied history with John M. Dixon at the College of Staten Island in NYC. He his British and did his undergrad at East Anglia College. It is from him that I learned that John Locke was part of the Scottish Enlightenment, which is consistent with Robert A. Feguson’s “The American Enlightenment.”

            And Finally, what do believe history professors in all fifty states do and teach?

            If the white outline of the blue X does not symbolize St. Andrews Cross, the flag of Scotland and the cross being carried, what does it symbolize?

            It is well accepted that there were only 11 confederate states, the thirteen stars with the blue background symbolizes the spirit of 1776.

            All southern states have either Anglican or Roman Catholic foundations. If the red background behind St. Andrews Cross does not symbolize martyrdom, Christian Love, John 3:16, dying for what one believes in; What does it symbolize?

          • I didn’t use any insults, I merely pointed out the hypocrisy in your statement. We’re arguing about the Scottish Enlightenment because you seem to think John Locke is Scottish. He isn’t by the way. Born in England, died in England. I’m glad you studied history with John M. Dixon but he probably wouldn’t appreciate you mis-associating John Locke’s role in the Scottish Enlightenment in such a way. Now it is certainly not a stretch to suggest that John Locke had tremendous influence and relevance in the Scottish Enlightenment; in fact many philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment disagree with Locke’s treatise – but to argue John Locke is a part of that enlightenment is categorically wrong. It is most certainly not consistent with Ferguson The American Enlightenment Allow me to point this out.

            On page 34, Ferguson states:
            Does Jefferson in 1776 base the Declaration of Independence on his readings of John Locke, as some have argued, or on alternative readings of continental philosophers like Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, or on the Scottish Enlightenment? Do the court-and-country debates of England or the Common Sense traditions of Scotland control revolutionary rhetoric in America? (my emphasis)

            Notice how Ferguson draws a line between the two: Locke and court-and-country debates of England; and the Common Sense traditions of Scotland?

            There’s more, on page 55 Ferguson states,
            The answer is a step in the articulation of colonial liberties. Since the English Enlightenment, by way of John Locke and the Glorious Revolution, has confirmed that “the Rights of Magna Charta depend not on the Will of the Prince, or the Will of the Legislature,” the same must be true of religious liberty,. (my emphasis)

            Notice again how Ferguson associated Locke with the English Enlightenment?

            What do all professors do and teach? No idea, but then again I didn’t make the argument that something is wrong with history professors, then use what a history professor supposedly taught me as proof of an argument…so….

            That might be well accepted but it isn’t accurate. The First National Flag of the Confederacy, replaced in 1863, changed 4 times in its first year. Each time it added stars. It first had 7, then 9, then 11, and finally 13. Have you ever bothered to research this?

            …The red background doesn’t represent martyrdom. You realize the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings had occurred since the founding of the colonies. Americans had embraced more religious pluralism. Methodism and Baptism were the largest denominations in the Country…this includes the South.

      • Can you then explain the Blue X outlined in white with thirteen stars on the red background, knowing that there were only eleven states in the confederacy? If anything is preposterous, it is the argument that American flags are mere fashion statements.

        • For starters, I never made the argument that American flags were mere fashion statements, stop grabbing at straws. There is a difference between a factual why and a belief.

          About the colors and the cross, Wm. Porcher Miles is on record as stating the colors were simply good republican colors. Colors that were represented on various flags across the world at that time. Miles stated in a letter to P.G.T. Beauregard that the cross was “more Heraldric [sic] than Ecclesiastical; it being the saltire of heraldry and significant of strength and progress. [Miles notes that it’s from the Latin ‘Salto,’ to leap].” However, his design and reason behind the stars and their placement, is fashion. Miles states that the stars “show better on an Azure field than any other.” Miles also elaborates on the white edge – in heraldry, it is improper to create the effect of “false blazening, color on color or metal on metal.” He says “It would not do to put a blue cross therefore on a red field, hence the white…” He goes on to talk about how pretty looks afterwards.

          The reason for the two extra starts is because secessionist factions in Kentucky and Missouri voted to join the Confederacy… 11 + 2

          • Despite the claims of so many that Missouri seceded, the discovery of the long missing legislative journals shows that no roll call was taken at the legislative session. This corroborates what one of the eyewitnesses to the event stated, that no quorum was present which was why the roll call was not entered into the journals. The whereabouts of every member of the legislature was not know on that date, but based on the numbers needed for a quorum, the evidence seems to suggest that there was not a quorum because too many legislators whereabouts were known.

            Interestingly, when the Missouri legislature decided to call a special convention to decide upon secession, they arranged for elections by the people of delegates to the convention. Ninety-nine delegates were elected. Ninety-eight of those delegates voted against secession at the convention, an act which Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson disliked and did his best to ignore as he constantly tried to orient Missouri towards the Confederacy. The people had chosen delegates to the convention by popular vote and they did not elect pro-secession delegates. Instead, they elected Unionist delegates.

            Finally, of the roughly 150,000 Missourians to serve in the military forces during the Civil War, 120,000 or so served the United States while only about 30,000 served the Confederacy (including the guerrilla fighters).

            The bottom line is that Missouri did not secede, not did it ever join the Confederacy. Certain people definitely wanted that, but they were a minority, not a majority in the state. The people voted on the issue twice. Once in electing delegates to the secession convention and the second time by fighting for the United States. Those are facts.

          • When relevant facts are ignored, and irrelevant facts highlighted, taken out of context and paraphrased, we have “myth history.” unfortunately, history professors today are teaching students to ignore facts that contradict their arguments, which, in practice may underlie problems in today’s criminal justice system. Our Miranda right should be clearly rewritten to say: “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, ANYTHING YOU SAY WILL BE TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT, PARAPHRASED, AND USED AGAINST YOU.”

          • Write your own history so we can laugh at the result. You seem to struggle with what a fact is. I think that is due to facts not supporting your ideology. We’ve seen the polemic garbage the lost causers have spewed out. They reject the facts in favor of total fiction. Only the idiot brigade buys into their factually challenged nonsense.

            Rob, you are quite correct in that he has no idea what history professors teach. To know that he would have to step into an actual college classroom. No True Southron does that as they would be exposed to learning something they don’t want to hear. He must not know that history professors encourage students to explore topics, develop sources, and compare interpretations of the past in order to learn more while developing their own interpretations of the past. But then, those students are using primary sources and those are anathema to True Southrons.

            I always find it ironic when the True Southrons reject the words their ancestors wrote because those words don’t fit into the True Southron’s ideology.

          • I’ll let him respond then I’m putting a fork in this thread. The previous comment I left demonstrates that either he is confused or simply oblivious.

  2. Let him tell us his education and where exactly he observed history professors teaching in the manner he described. I have a feeling his education will not include a college degree and that his opinion on professors is merely his imagination running amok.

    The reality is he doesn’t like his ideology challenged by facts.

      • Insulting comments and emphasis on my des minimis errors are effectively evading a discussion on the vexillology of Robert E. Lee’s battle flag. Vexillology is the “study of flags;” A flag is “the symbol or emblem of a country or institution” that frequently contains symbols; a symbol is “thing that represents or stands for something else.” (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2001). Symbols point to myths. Myths point to the “ultimate concern,” in secular myths the ultimate concern is an ideology. (Paul Tillich, “The Dynamics of Faith.”)

        History is what actually happened. Myth history is what is popularly believed to have happened. Every significant event in history has a mythological counterpart. Robert E. Lee’s battle flag contains multiple symbols. 1) The Red Background, 2) Thirteen stars on a blue x, 3) the white outline of the blue x. If we approach the symbols from a material culture studies perspective, we do not have the liberty of ignoring images in the object being studied (Arthur Asa Berger, “What Objects Mean.”)

        1) The Red Background symbolizing personal sacrifice. VA, NC, SC and GA were founded Anglican (Episcopalian) colonies. The Louisiana Territory was established by Roman Catholic France. Florida was purchased from Roman Catholic Spain. Texas was carved out of Mexico, which was established by Roman Catholic Spain. In catholic faiths, colors hold meaning. On feast days that celebrate martyrs, celebrants wear red; at mass, the wine served as the blood of Christ is red. In Xity, love is sacrifice: “For God so love the world he gave his only begotten son,” (John 3:16) In New Advent, the Catholic Enlcyclopedia, love is desribed as duty and obligation. The red background symbolizes Christian love: duty, obligation and sacrifice. Dumas Malone in Jefferson and His Time, vol. 4, finds that Jefferson, the first leader of the democratic-republic party saw public service “more as a duty than a career.”

        2) Thirteen stars on a blue background symbolizes the first confederacy established in 1781, as there were only 11 states in the confederacy. (see https://www.britannica.com/topic/Confederate-States-of-America).

        3) The x-shape outlined in white symbolizes St. Andrews Cross, the flag of Scotland, e.g. the Scottish Enlightenment, (see http://confederatewave.org/wave/confederate-flag-history.phtml, and, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Andrews-cross-cross)

        Southern folk history says that when the war ended, the square battle flag came down and a rectangular flag was needed to cover the coffins of some of the 400,000 confederate war dead. Today’s Dixie flag commemorates those war dead and the sacrifices they made for their country.

        • This is the last comment on this particular thread. The argument is becoming circular.

          Like I said in a previous comment, I’m sure you think so. You pushed an issue with John Locke as being Scottish and a primary figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. When you were proven wrong, using your own source that you provided against you, you now want to claim I’m dodging the conversation. Admit you got it wrong and move along.

          As far as your other points – they remain redundant. History is the study of the past, myth history -or myth – is/are common stories that are either fictitious or intertwine history and fiction. However, we are talking about Vexillology, which is the study of flags as you point out. However, that study includes history, symbolism, usage, perception, interests, and change over time concerning each.

          If you want to argue what the symbols on the flag might mean in regards to how Southerners view the flag, go right ahead. But the authoritative argument you are making on religious and enlightenment grounds is simply loose conjecture. It’s a lot of claims and opinions unsubstantiated by fact. You talk about religious foundations of states but don’t account for change over time; you argue about symbolic meanings without evidence. When confronted with actual evidence in the form of primary source documents – you dodge and cry out about common sense, folk history, or myth.

          So I’m left with two options: I can either continue this circular argument and hope you’ll provide some sort of evidence to substantiate your claims; or I can just recognize that regardless of being proven wrong and confronted with primary source documents you aren’t changing your mind. I’m going with the latter.

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