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Reviews Our regular review section features some of the best new books, films, and sound recordings in southern studies. From time to time, you'll also find reviews of important new museum exhibits and historical sites and retrospectives on classic works that continue to shape our understanding of the region and its people. Our aim is to explore the rich diversity of southern life and the methods and approaches of those who study it. Please write us to share your suggestions. Embattled Emblem: The Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag, 1861 to the Present. Exhibition at the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, through April 1995. Project director and director of museum programs: Malinda W. Collier. Script by John M. Coski. Reviewed by Edward L. Ayers, who teaches southern hhtory at the University of Virginia and is author of The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction. He is currently working on a study ofthe Civil War. The battle flag of the Confederacy continues to fly over scenes of tumult and conflict. It turns up at Ole Miss football games, over the Georgia capítol, at German political rallies, and in Harvard dorm rooms. Laid end to end, recent newspaper discussions of the Confederate flag would likely stretch from Alexandria to Austin. Everyone feels pretty sure they know what the flag stands for, but everyone disagrees. What people don't know is the history of the flag. We picture it being raised at Jefferson Davis's inauguration, flying at the head of every Confederate charge, and being hoisted in unbroken adoration by white southerners ever since the end of the Civil War. This exhibit at the Museum of the Confederacy punctures these images, albeit with considerable understatement and decorum. In a series of photographs, videotapes, and artifacts —including, of course, many flags—the "embattled emblem" lays out a history more complicated than even close observers of the South might expect. The flag we argue about arrived relatively late. The first Confederate flag bore more than a passing resemblance to the United States flag because, its designer complained, southern whites held "so strong and earnest a desire to retain at least a suggestion of the old 'Stars and Stripes.'" This flag, not the rebel flag people recognize today, was the real Stars and Bars and remained the official flag until 1863. But its similarity to the Union flag 92Southern Cultures One of the issues explored in the Museum of the Confederacy's exhibit "Embattled Emblem" is the commercialization of the Army of Northern Virginia's flag. Katherine Wetzel photo. Reprinted with the permission of the Museum of the Confederacy. led to confusion on the battlefield, and it did not win the hearts of the Confederate people . After failing in their official request for a new flag, Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston took it upon themselves to create a more serviceable battle flag. They asked the same man who had designed the Stars and Bars to design a flag more distinguishable from the Union's. He suggested what he had preferred all along, a blue cross on a red field. Perhaps in deference to requests from Jewish Confederates, the cross used was St. Andrew's, turned at an angle. It was first unfurled in Virginia in late 1861. General Beauregard took the new flag with him when he assumed command in Tennessee and ordered that it replace the crazy quilt of other flags that flew over Southern armies. Though the Confederate government continued to tinker with the national flag, placing the battle flag in the corner of a large field of white, the battle flag remained the most visible symbol of the Confederacy. The battle flag flew at ceremonies throughout the half century after Appomattox as the cult of the Lost Cause rose and fell. The United Confederate Veterans, their Daughters, and their Sons all venerated the flag. They sponsored essays and investigations, defined protocol, and made sure the flag received the support of southern state governments. They wrote pamphlets calling attention to the proper shape of the battle flag: it should be square, not rectangular. But the flag eventually escaped the control of even these assiduous guardians...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 91-94
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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