People have been using flags since almost forever to identify a group of individuals united by a common cause. Flags flew from castle turrets and on ships that sailed the seven seas. Explorers carried flags as they discovered new lands and the astronauts even placed a US flag on the moon.
One of the most important functions of a flag is to identify soldiers on a military battlefield. This function led to the creation of the Confederate flag during the 1860s when the United States was fighting the Civil War.
Soldiers from the Confederate States of America came from all states that did not want to abolish slavery. These states went to war against the United States of America, which was fighting to end slavery. In those days, the US was often referred to as the Union.
The Union armies flew the flag we know as the US flag today. The US flag is also known as Old Glory or the Stars and Stripes, because each star represents a state and the stripes represent the thirteen original colonies.
The Confederate army needed a flag, too, that would unite all troops from the south. At the beginning of the Civil War, soldiers carried flags that represented their home towns or the southern state they came from. All the different flags were confusing and did not represent a unified military force.
The original Confederate flag looked a lot like Old Glory, with stars representing each Confederate state and wide red and white bars instead of stripes. Members of the Provisional Confederate Congress liked it because it didn’t look too different from Old Glory but it caused a great deal of confusion on the battlefield. Soldiers couldn’t tell if they were going into safe quarters or right into the middle of enemy territory.
Over time, new designs were used for the Confederate flag and the one that became the standard is a solid red background with a blue ‘X’ across it. Within the blue ‘X’ are 13 white stars that represent the 13 Confederate states.
The Union army won the war, slavery was ended, and all 13 Confederate states of the south became part of the United States of America once again. Many of these southern states changed the state flags they flew before the war to look more like the Confederate flag they’d flown during the war. Many of these states still fly flags today that bear some resemblance to the Confederate flag but the Confederate flag itself is no longer officially recognized by any government.
Even without official recognition, the Confederate flag is often on public display today. This public display often stirs up controversy and even violence because of the memory of the Civil War, slavery, and racial hatred that many people today say it represents now.