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The Confederate flag.

We have been very much interested, and doubt not that our readers will be, in the following extracts which give the main facts in reference to the origin of the Confederate flag and the several changes which were made in it until in February, 1865, the last flag of the Confederacy was adopted. We have been promised, by a competent hand, a detailed sketch of the history of the flag; but these extracts are worth preserving:

Editorial in the Southern illustrated News of march 12th, 1863.

The question of a Confederate flag and seal has again begun to excite attention. It might perhaps be thought that while matters of absolutely vital importance to the Confederacy were forcing themselves upon the notice of Congress, the adoption of a flag and seal should be deferred until there was time for the indulgence of an asthetical taste. The currency, the life-blood of the country, is disordered; food, the staff of life of the people, is scarce, and until some remedy for the financial malady can be supplied, and some means for obtaining a larger supply of provisions can be hit upon, it might seem idle to be troubling ourselves with heraldic studies and the beauty of a banner. Still the Secretary of State must have a seal, and our people are tired of looking at the poor imitation of the stars and stripes which floats from our public buildings and military posts. We may call it “stars and bars,” but the “union” is the same with that of the United States flag, and the bars are only wider stripes of the same color, and the whole thing is suggestive of the detested Federal Government and its oppressions.

We have always thought that General Joseph E. Johnston settled the question of a national flag when he selected the blue spangled saltier upon a red field as his battle ensign. It may be recollected that this choice was made in consequence of the difficulty that had been seriously felt in the first battle of Manassas in distinguishing between the Yankee colors and our own, and at a time when the two hostile armies were confronting each other on the plains of Fairfax, with the prospect of a renewal of the bloody fight at any moment. Haste was necessary in the preparation of the flags, and secresy was also desirable lest the enemy should discover our change of colors and provide themselves with counterfeits to be basely used for our destruction. General Johnston's pattern was thereupon sent to Richmond, and seventy-five ladies from each one of four or five churches were set to work making the battleflags. Their fair fingers rapidly wrought silk and bunting into the prescribed shape and arrangement of colors; but despite the injunction of inviolable confidence, the device was known the subsequent day all over the Capitol. How could General Johnston [156] expect four or five hundred female tongues to be silent on the subject? No great harm was done by the disclosure, however, and when next the brave troops of the Confederacy went into the fight those flags were seen dancing in the breeze, the symbol of hope to the defenders of our liberty, wherever the fire was deadliest over the crimsoned field, borne always aloft where follower and foe might behold it; ever the chosen perch of victory ere the fight was done.

Could these little pieces of handiwork of the women of Richmond be collected now, what emotions would not the sight of them awaken, blackened as they are with the smoke of powder, riddled with bullets, many of them stained with the blood, the last drops that welled up from the heart of a patriot hero! We repeat that the baptism of blood and fire has made the battleflag of General Johnston our national ensign. It is associated with our severest trials and our proudest achievements. Nor is it by any means a poor thing in itself. The device is simple and striking. The colors are readily distinguishable at a great distance. In heraldry, the saltier is emblematic of strength. And it is quite unlike any other flag now borne among the nations of the earth. There is but one difficulty that can present itself — the impossibility of indicating by a reversal of the flag distress of ships upon the high seas. This might be obviated by the adoption of a special flag of distress, with the saltier or Saint Andrew's a union, to be hoisted, union down, when the occasion demanded.

With regard to the seal we understand that the committee of Congress is ready to report for the obverse, the device suggested by Mr. Clay, of Alabama, of the cavalier. If by this is meant the figure of a man on horseback simply, nothing, it seems to us, could be in better taste or more appropriate as expressive of the habits of our people. The device is not new; indeed it is one of the oldest ever employed in this manner. The man on the back of the horse has ever been a favorite emblem to denote the mastery of the human over the highest type of the brute creation. It appears in sculptured majesty upon the glorious friezes of the Parthenon. It was used by the Roman Emperors upon their coins and seals; and constituted the sole image upon the great seals of the sovereigns of England, with the single exception of Henry VI, from the time of William the Conquerer down to the sway of the House of Hanover. William and Mary appeared together on the seal, a cheval, thus introducing two horses. Cromwell discarded the horsemen from the seal of the commonwealth, but placed a representation of himself mounted on a charger upon the seal of Scotland. The Southern people are eminently an equestrian people. The horseman, therefore, is the best of all symbols to be placed upon their seal of state. But if by cavalier is meant any political character, anything more than a Southern gentleman on horseback, the device is objectionable as false to history, and as conveying ideas of caste. We were not all cavaliers and we have no patrician [157] order. Far better were it to let the horseman be the well-known and revered image of George Washington, as the loftiest development of the Southern gentleman. The whole design might be taken from Crawford's noble statue in the capitol square. A seal representing horse and rider, as there seen in relief against the sky, would be one of the simplest and most beautiful that the art of the die-sinker has ever given to cabinet or people.

From a correspondent of the News.

camp on the Blackwater river, March 28th, 1863.
To the Editor of the News:
Gentlemen — I sympathize most heartily with you in the article in your last number relative to the Confederate battleflag. A new flag. What, in the name of Moses, do we want with a new flag? We have had new ones enough already.

I was originally in favor of retaining the old flag — that “Star spangled banner,” at whose very name our hearts were wont to thrill — over decks, where the haughty cross of Saint George and the vaunted tri-color had been humbled — on fields, whose names will live forever in song and story, that flag had floated triumphantly; and who shall say that its victories were less the reward of Southern than Northern valor? The blood of our fathers had been shed for it — a Southerner had hymned it in a strain which had become a national anthem; we were as much the original government as the North, and as much entitled to retain the original flag. So I thought, but others thought differently, and before the infant Confederacy had yet a flag or a government, we belted on our weapons, and gave to the winds of Mississippi the cross of Carolina.

Then the stars and bars became our flag, and waved over the heads of our regiments when we first marched to guard the borders of Virginia. It retained most of the distinctive features of the old flag, but was still thought to differ from it sufficiently; but the first field of Manassas proved that it was a mistake. The Union was the same, the colors were all the same; and when the flags drooped ‘round the staff in that sultry July day, it was impossible to distinguish them. There was no difficulty, however, when the flags were spread by the breeze, and I see no reason why the “stars and bars” should not still continue to float above all forts, ships and arsenals of the Confederacy. But we needed another battleflag. Glorious “Old Joe” willed it, and the Southern cross rose brightly in the bloody field among the constellations of war. It fulfilled all the desiderata of a battleflag. Its brilliant colors made it visible at a great distance, and there was no danger of mistaking it for the flag of any other nation. Since that time it has become historic. Displayed on a hundred stricken fields, it has never been dishonored. It were sacrilege to change it — treason to the memory of the thousands of the brave men who

Have seen it fly in triumph o'er each closing eye.


Certainly no soldier desires that Congress should do what the Yankees have never been able to do — take that flag from us. For my part I would rather fight under my lady's handkerchief as a banner, if they force us to lay down the azure cross, which we have borne so often through the rolling smoke into the light of victory.

Yours, indignantly,



From the law adopted by the Confederate States Congress May 1, 1863.

That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: the field to be white, the length double the width of the flag, with the union (now used as the battleflag) to be a square of two-thirds the width of the flag having the ground red; thereon a broad saltier of blue bordered with white and emblazoned with white mullets or five-pointed stars corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States.

In reference to the last flag adopted we can give a more detailed account of its origin and of the gallant soldier who designed it:

From the Richmond Whig of February 14th, 1865.

We give below an interesting letter from Major Rogers, the designer of the new Confederate flag which has been floating over the capitol for a day or two past. We give it not only for the interesting character of the document, but also as a page in the history of our struggle. The bill adopting the new design has passed the Senate unanimously, and is now before the Committee on Flag and Seal of the House, composed of Messrs. Chilton of Alabama, Rives of Virginia and Chambers of Mississippi:

Hon. Edward Sparrow, Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, Confederate States Senate:
General-While disabled for active service, I have employed a portion of my leisure in trying to improve our national flag, and after much attention to the subject and the laws of heraldry have submitted a design to Congress, which was introduced into the Senate on the 13th ultimo by Mr. Semmes, of Louisiana. The bill which I have drawn is as follows:

A bill to establish the flag of the Confederate States.

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows: The width two-thirds of its length, with the union (now used as the battleflag) to be in width three-fifths of the width of the flag, and so proportioned as to leave the length of the field on the side of the union twice the width of the field below it; to have the ground red, and a broad blue saltier thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in [159] number to that of the Confederate States; the field to be white, except the outer half from the union to be a red bar extending the width of the flag.

Before offering the bill that gentleman addressed a letter to the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, requesting his views in regard to the proposed alteration. General Lee replied that he thought it “very pretty and” that it “certainly added distinctness to the flag,” but with his usual modesty said he mistrusted his own judgment in such matters and that the “naval gentlemen” were the proper persons to be consulted. The bill was accordingly referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs, and after various plans were submitted and the opinions of leading officers of the navy obtained, said committee unanimously recommended its adoption. On your suggestion that it would be well to have the opinion of the other officers of the army on the subject, the bill was, on motion of Mr. Brown, of Mississippi, referred to the Committee on Military Afffairs, and I now have the honor to submit herewith for your consideration the letters I have received from General J. E. Johnston, General S. Cooper, Lieutenant-General Ewell, Lieutenant-General Longstreet's Inspector-General, Major-Generals Fitz. Lee, Rosser and Lomax, of cavalry; Brigadier-Generals Pendleton and Long, of artilery; Major-General Heth, Major-General Smith,Governor of Virginia; and Major-General Smith, Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute; Captain N. W. Barker, Acting Chief of Signal Bureau, and Captain Wilbourn, of Signal corps; Brigadier-General Wharton, Colonel J. S. Mosby, and many other distinguished officers of the army, all approving this design, which, with such letters as have been addressed to you on the subject, will furnish your committee with the desired information.

Allow me, General, to add a few words on the merits of the proposed alteration. Under the present act of Congress the proportions of the flag are incorrect, the length being double the width, which is against all rule, and a flag so made will not float. The one now used over the capitol is not according to law, but is correctly proportioned, having the width two-thirds of the length, so that the proportions at least will have to be changed, and while under amendment it is proposed to improve the field of the flag also. It has been ascertained by practical use in the army and navy that our flag is very easily soiled from its excessive whiteness, and it is especially liable to this objection on steam vessels, which are rapidly superceding all other ships of war. The portion of the flag proposed to be changed to a red bar is the part, too, most rapidly defaced. It is strongly urged by naval officers of high standing that our flag is liable to be mistaken for a flag of truce, particularly in a calm, when it hangs dead against the mast and the union is obscured by the white bunting. When seen at a distance, flags are generally displayed against the white clouds beyond, and hence want of distinctness is a great defect in the present flag, the [160] union being the only portion seen. It was hurriedly adopted at the very close of a session of the last Congress, as the best they could do under the multiplicity of plans submitted, and when the contest really was whether the battleflag should form a part of it. See accompanying letter from Colonel A. R. Boteler, chairman of the Committee on Flag and Seal of last Congress, in favor of this amendment. I respectfully submit that the bill before the Senate removes all the objections urged against the Confederate flag. It gives it correctness of proportion, distinctness and character, renders it fit for practical use and presents a beautiful standard, which, under no circumstances, can be mistaken for a flag of truce or for the flag of any other nation on earth. It relieves the flag of its pale-faced appearance and makes it look more martial.

The battleflag selected by General Johhston, and recommended by himself and General Beauregard, under which so much blood has been spilled in our struggle for independence, is fully displayed as the union of the proposed flag, which can only be done by surrounding it with white, and the red bar, forming the outer half of the field from the union, is suggested as the best design for its improvement. I am opposed to all stripes, many or few, red or blue. Instead of “the Stars and Stripes,” let us have the Stars and Bars. The colors of the new flag would be chiefly white and red with as little as possible of the Yankee blue.

The heraldic significance of these colors is deemed especially appropriate for the Confederate States--the white (argent) being emblematic of purity and innocence, and the red (gules) of fortitude and courage. In the adoption of ensigns by various nations of the world, it is noticed by Captain Hamilton, in the history of the United States flag, that they generally imitate the ensigns of the nations from which they sprung. This rule is complied with in the flag as proposed, for our people are chiefly descended from the British and French, and we get the union and cross of Saint Andrew from the former and the red bar from the flag of the latter nation, while the idea of having stars to represent the States respectively is taken from the flag of the old Union, mainly founded by our forefathers. The new flag is easily made and is without the complication of any painting, which, besides the difficulty of correct execution, soon rots the bunting. The proportions, while most pleasing to the eye, possess the virtue of simplicity — the white below and on side of union being same width as the red bar. They have been approved by some of the best artists in the Confederacy, and after a careful examination have been pronounced correct by some of the most experienced officers of the navy, such as Commodore Forrest, Captain Raphael Semmes, Captain S. S. Lee, Captain Mason and Captain W. H. Parker, the latter being at the head of the Confederate States Naval Academy. Your committee has been furnished by the Quartermaster General with a model flag, made in strict accordance therewith. It may be proper to add that this improvement of the flag is advocated by almost the entire Richmond [161] press. I hope it will be the pleasure of your committee to recommend the passage of the bill, and that it will be adopted by Congress in time for the signature of the President (who has expressed his approval of it) on the 22d day of February next, in order that it may become a law on the anniversary of the birthday of the great Virginian, who was the father of his country and the chief author of his country's flag,1 and the anniversary of the day which gave birth to the permanent Government of the Confederate States.

I am, General, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

Arthur L. Rogers, Major, Confederate States Artillery. Caaffin's Bluff, January 2, 1875.

From the Baltimore Gazette.

The above letter, taken from the files of the Richmond Whig, is a part of the history of the late war which was worth preserving. It is also a matter of interest to state that the author of the Confederate flag, as adopted by Congress, is a brave soldier who served through the war, and shed his blood in defence of the Southern cause. He raised a company of artillery from Loudoun county, Virginia, which was honorably mentioned for efficient service by General Beauregard in his report of first Manassas. He was reelected captain, promoted for gallant and meritorious conduct at the second battle of Manassas, and was attached to the staff of Stonewall Jackson when he fell at Chancellorsville. Cooke, in his life of Jackson, in referring to it, says: “By this fire General Hill, General Pender, Colonel Crutchfield, Jackson's Chief of Artillery, and Major Rogers, of artillery, also of Jackson's staff, were wounded, and one of the men of the ambulance corps, carrying the litter of the wounded General, was shot through both arms and dropped his burden. . . . The litter-bearers made their way to a point on the road where a solitary ambulance was standing. In this ambulance Colonel Crutchfield and Major Rogers had been placed when wounded. Although badly hurt, the latter insisted upon being taken out to make room for the General, and Jackson was laid in his place.”

The following letters from General Lee and General Jackson's Adjutant-General bear testimony to the gallantry of this officer: [162]

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, near Fredericksburg, January 6th, 1864.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, &c., Richmond:
General — I understand that Major A. L. Rogers, of the artillery, though disabled for field duty, is anxious to render such service as he can perform. He was formerly attached to this army, and was wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville. He is a gallant officer, and if there is any duty he can perform at the stationary batteries in or around Richmond, or in the camps of instruction, I recommend that he be assigned to it.

I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General.

Lexington, Va., January 6, 1864.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, Richmond, Va.:
Sir — As Major A. L. Rogers, of the artillery corps, is applying for duty, I am glad to bear testimony in behalf of so gallant an officer. In the spring of 1864 Major Rogers was ordered to report to Lieutenant-General T. J. Jackson for duty, and was assigned as assistant to his aid, Colonel S. Crutchfield, Chief of Artillery. He performed the most important and gallant service, and was severely wounded in the battle of Chancellorsville, May 2d.

Most respectfully,

A. S. Pendleton, Lieutenant-Colonel and A. A. G., Second Corps, A. N. V., late of General Jackson's staff.

1 The basis of the flag of the United States was “the great Union flag” displayed by General Washington on Prospect hill, “in compliment,” as he said, “to the United Colonies,” on the 2d day of January, 1776, the day of forming the new Continental army. On the evacuation of Boston by the British this standard was carried into the city by the American troops. It was the union of the crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew, with thirteen stripes through the flag, alternate red and white--Hamilton's History U. S. Flag, p. 59. American Archives, 4th Series, vol. 5, p. 428.

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