A Tale of Two Flags


Civil War FlagsThe 4th of July always motivates an outpouring of patriotism … and an annual display of American flags unmatched at any other time of the year.

There is, however, no need for me to unfurl a special flag for Independence Day … because mine flies every day on a flag-pole at the corner of my home.

DSCN0442 reducedAnd on the hood of my truck … with a smaller version of the same flag decal on the tail gate.

And elsewhere inside my home, where I have displayed more than 100 American flag-themed items, ranging from wooden flag replicas in the family room …

Family Room Flags cropped & adjusted medium… to a stained-glass flag atop my hallway “ego” wall …

Joan Baker American Flag… to flag stamps and first day cover items, refrigerator magnets, a golf towel …

Home Flag Items… and a “Proud to be American” flag-themed banner in the window of my office.

Proud to be AmericanI bow no one in my love of our country and my reverence for our flag. I stand at attention and, as a military veteran, salute during the playing of the National Anthem at Cal football games.

Besides those on display, I have many other American flag stamps and first day covers, challenge coins and casino chips in my collections of those items.

All of that said, I write today primarily not to discuss the American flag, but to follow up on my earlier posts on the flags of the Confederate States of America.

Some defenders of the display of the so-called “Confederate Flag” …

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

… really the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, as I previously discussed here …

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/that-is-not-the-confederate-flag-flying-in-south-carolina/

… have tried to mythologize the Civil War, claiming that the war was not about slavery. It was, at least as far as the government leaders of the seceding states were concerned.

However, many, if not most, of the soldiers in the Confederate Army fought for the South not to preserve slavery, but for the same reason that many colonists fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. That is, they acted out of loyalty to their local communities and states at a time when our national identity was not as well-developed and pervasive as it is today. Despite being poorly fed and equipped … and often poorly led … Confederate soldiers fought as gallantly as had the soldiers of any army to that point in history.  Very few of these soldiers considered themselves “traitors”; nor do I.

Eight ancestors on my wife’s side of the family fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and one of them was KIA at Gettysburg. Once my daughter Larisa, through her genealogical research, identified these Confederate veterans, I added them to the extended family Veterans list that I publish each year on Veterans Day:

Slide4Both of the Confederacy’s highest ranking generals, Robert E. Lee …

Robert E. Lee… and Joseph E. Johnston, disliked slavery and supported some form of emancipation. Lee, who owned slaves through inheritance, freed them before the war ended. The majority of Confederate generals had never owned slaves; few common soldiers ever had.  Even Confederate President Jefferson Davis had come to believe that slavery should be ended, even if the South won the war.

In my collection of challenge coins, I have seven that feature Confederate flags …

Confederate Flag Challenge Coins Obverse… top to bottom, they are the three national flags of the confederacy, the “Bonnie Blue” flag (more on this one below), the Rebel battle flag and the battle flags of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

The reverse of each features the Rebel battle flag.

I like these coins; they are colorful and interesting symbols of one of the most important events in American history — in fact, second only to the American Revolution.

The Bonnie Blue flag was originally the flag of the Republic of West Florida for about 90 days in 1810 (until the U.S. annexed the territory). A close variation of the Bonnie Blue flag was adopted by the state of Mississippi when it seceded from the Union in January 1861. This flag was used as an unofficial Confederate flag during the early months of 1861 and, in fact, was flying above the Confederate batteries that fired Fort Sumter to start the Civil War.

Union General Ulysses S. Grant, known by the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, nevertheless, in accepting the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, declined to relieve Lee of his sword (a traditional gesture of surrender).

Grant and LeeThen, as Lee rode away to inform his men of the surrender, Grant saluted him by raising his hat, in which gesture of respect the other Union officers present joined.

The United States fought two wars against the British — one to gain independence, the other to preserve it. The British are now our most staunch allies in the entire world. We twice fought the Germans in world wars; they are now friends, economic trading partners and hosts of a number of permanent American military installations. We fought the Japanese during World War II; they are now one of our greatest allies in Eastern Asia. We also fought the Italians during WWII; they are now friends and their country is one of the favorite places for Americans to visit. We fought other wars with Mexico, Spain & the Philippines; they are all now friends and economic partners.

It strikes me as strange that we have been able to reconcile with each of these foreign nations after engaging in what were often vicious & brutal wars, but we somehow have never been able to fully reconcile the two halves of our own country.

July 4th Postcard Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1865, with the following words:

Lincoln -- With Malice Toward NoneThe Civil War Confederate flags are an integral part of American history. And while I agree that the Rebel battle flag ought not to be displayed on government property, I see neither logical nor emotional reason to attempt to banish it entirely from our national consciousness. Nor do I think it appropriate at this late date to be removing from public display monuments, statues or other remembrances of those who served on behalf of the Confederacy.

I certainly have no intention of removing from my family veterans display the names of the Douglas family members who fought for the Confederacy. Nor will I remove from my collection of challenge coins those depicting the various Confederate flags. These, of course, are personal decisions … and rather insignificant in the big scheme of things, but it seems to me that there is no way I — or anyone else — can improve on the sentiment expressed by Lincoln and we would all be better off if everyone in the United States today lived up to those words, “with malice toward none, with charity for all”.

————————————————————

FLA 71

Advertisements

“Take It Down”??


The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

I have been giving a lot of thought to the issues raised by the flying of the so-called “Confederate Flag” — which, of course, ISN’T the “Confederate Flag” at all — see my previous blog post on that subject:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/that-is-not-the-confederate-flag-flying-in-south-carolina/

The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the flying of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the grounds of the South Carolina state house, have motivated a wide-ranging re-evaluation of how the United States deals with the issue of racial hatred and discrimination.

Rebel Battle Flag on grounds of South Carolina State HousejpgThere are now calls for the removal of the Rebel Battle Flag from the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina, and the South Carolina legislature has agreed to debate the issue.

The Citadel Confederate Naval JackThe governing board of The Citadel, a military academy in Charleston, voted to remove the Confederate Naval Jack from the school’s chapel. One of the Emanuel shooting victims was a graduate of The Citadel.

Virginia’s governor has ordered the removal of “the Confederate Flag” from all of his state’s license plates (thereby joining the chorus of people incorrectly identifying the battle flag, which appears as an optional design on some Virginia license plates). Politicians in several other states, including Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee have vowed to do the same with their states’ license plates.

Mississippi State FlagMississippi’s Republican speaker of the house issued a statement calling for the removal of the Confederate battle cross from the Mississippi state flag (at least he knows what the symbol actually is).

Alabama Confederate MemorialAlabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag (he got it right, too) and three other flags from the grounds of the state Capitol in Montgomery, where they stood in front of a memorial honoring Civil War soldiers. The other three flags? The three versions of the actual Confederate flag.

Jefferson Davis Statue Capitol Rotunda Frankfurt KentuckyAnd it’s not just the flags and symbols of the Confederacy that are drawing fire. The president of the Kentucky state senate said in an interview that a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, should be removed from the Capitol rotunda in Frankfurt, Kentucky.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust in Tennessee State HouseIn Tennessee, politicians of both parties have also said that a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, should be moved out of the state house.

Lake Calhoun MinnesotaIn Minnesota, not exactly a hotbed of confederate fervor, activists have demanded that a lake named after John C. Calhoun be renamed because Calhoun, though both a US Senator and American Vice President, was from South Carolina and a supporter of slavery.

South Carolina State Senator Paul ThurmondEven South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of US Senator Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist, announced that he would vote to remove the battle flag from the state house grounds, saying that he is “not proud of this heritage”.

Walmart Sears eBay & Amazon LogosPrivate companies are also weighing in … Walmart, Sears, eBay and Amazon have all announced that they will no longer sell confederate themed items.

The Baltimore Sun LogoIn Maryland this past Monday, the Baltimore Sun opined in an editorial, “For a state to endorse a symbol of the defenders of slavery by putting the Confederate flag on representations of government speech is unconscionable.”

It therefore appears that supporters of slavery — and the symbols of that support — are under unrelenting pressure which is going to result in the permanent removal of both from public display. I personally support the banishment from public places of all versions of the Confederate flags (albeit, as mentioned in my earlier blog post, I also support the right of private persons to display Confederate symbols on their private property).

Shortly after being transferred to the Sixth Naval District in Charleston in January 1969, I encountered what I thought at best an odd circumstance — the Charleston Naval Base, bowing to political pressure from the state of South Carolina, was to be closed for a holiday on the birthday of Jefferson Davis, but all personnel were to work on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, then a national holiday. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston News & Courier, suggesting that it was time for South Carolina to rejoin the union. I signed it “James T. Reilly, LTJG, US Navy”, which earned me a visit with my boss, the Sixth Naval District commander (a rear admiral), who allowed as how I had the right to express my opinion, but asked me to please sign any future letters with my name only, omitting my military rank.

However, and this is the point of this blog post, if we are going to vanquish memorials to rebellious supporters of slavery and their symbols of oppression, the measures described above are manifestly inadequate. To do this job right, we will also have to vanquish from the public forum memorials to ALL rebellious supporters of slavery and slave owners, starting with …

George Washington… George Washington (the “Father of our Country”) …

Thomas Jefferson… Thomas Jefferson (the primary author of the Declaration of Independence) …

James Madison… James Madison (the primary author of the Constitution) …

Patrick Henry… Patrick Henry (he of “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” fame) …

John Hancock… John Hancock (whose signature is the most prominent on the Declaration of Independence) …

Benjamin Franklin… Benjamin Franklin (who owned slaves for 40 years before finally becoming an abolitionist in 1785) …

Founding Fathers… and many other Founding Fathers who were also slave owners.

The Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1787, authorized the continuation of slavery in the country and counted slaves as “three-fifths of a person”. And so, to truly eliminate all vestiges of rebellious supporters of slavery …

Washington Monument… it is down with the Washington Monument …

Jefferson Memorial… demolish the Jefferson Memorial …

Benjamin Franklin Memorial… and the Benjamin Franklin Memorial …

Mount Rushmore… blast Washington and Jefferson off of Mount Rushmore …

Currency & Coinage Washington Jefferson & Franklin… remove Washington, Jefferson and Franklin from our currency …

American Flag Betsy Ross & George Washington… and get rid of the Stars & Stripes, which waved over slavery for nearly a century.

Not doing so may be seen as a particularly disingenuous form of hypocrisy.

______________________________________________

FLA 68