"... overwhelmed by requests not to abandon the 'old flag' of the United States."
~ John M. Coski
Miles had already designed a flag that later became known as the Confederate Battle Flag, and he favored his flag over the "Stars and Bars" proposal. But given the popular support for a flag similar to the U.S. flag ("The Stars and Stripes" ~ originally established and designed in June 1777 during the Revolutionary War), the "Stars and Bars" design was approved by the committee.
When the War of 1861-1865 broke out, the "Stars and Bars" caused confusion on the battlefield at the First Battle of Manassas because of its similarity to the U.S. flag, especially when it was hanging limp, down on the flagstaff. The "Stars and Bars" was also criticized on ideological grounds for its resemblance to the U.S. flag. Many Confederates disliked the Stars and Bars, seeing it as symbolic of a centralized national power the Confederate states were seceding from in order to preserve the core principal of the enumerated power of the states above the enumerated power of the federal government of the United States. As early as April 1861, a month after the flag's adoption, some were already criticizing the flag, calling it a "servile imitation" and a "detested parody" of the U.S. flag.
In January 1862, George William Bagby, writing for the Southern Literary Messenger, wrote that many Confederates disliked the flag.
"Every body wants a new Confederate flag. The present one is universally hated. It resembles the Yankee flag and that is enough to make it unutterably detestable."
~ George William Bagby
The editor of the Charleston Mercury expressed a similar view, stating that:
"It seems to be generally agreed that the 'Stars and Bars' will never do for us. They resemble too closely the dishonored 'Flag of Yankee Doodle' ~ we imagine that the 'Battle Flag' will become the Southern Flag by popular acclaim."
~ Robert Barnwell Rhett
In addition, William T. Thompson, the editor of the Savannah-based Daily Morning News also objected to the flag, due to its aesthetic similarity to the U.S. flag, which some Confederates negatively associated with emancipation and abolitionism. Thompson stated in April 1863 that he disliked the adopted flag:
"... on account of its resemblance to that of the abolition despotism against which we are fighting."
~ William T. Thompson
(From 21 May, 1861 To 02 July, 1861)
(From 02 July, 1861 To 28 November, 1861)
Over the course of the flag's use by the Confederacy, additional stars were added to the flag's canton, eventually bringing the total number of stars on the flag to thirteen. This reflected the Confederacy's claims of having admitted Kentucky and Missouri into the Confederacy. Although they were represented in the Confederate Congress for the duration of its meetings, and had shadow governments made up of deposed former state politicians, neither state was ever fully controlled or administered by the Confederacy.
(From 28 November, 1861 To 01 May, 1863)
The first showing of the 13-star flag was outside the Ben Johnson House in Bardstown, Kentucky; the 13-star design was also in use as the Confederate Navy's Battle Ensign.
National Flag: "The Stainless Banner"
(1863 - 1865)
|(From 01 May, 1863 To 03 March, 1865)|
The flag is also known as the Stainless Banner, and the matter of the person behind its design remains a point of contention. On April 23rd, 1863, the Savannah Morning News editor William Tappan Thompson, with assistance from William Ross Postell, a Confederate blockade runner, published an editorial championing a design featuring the battle flag on a white background. In a letter to Confederate Congressman C. J. Villere, dated April 24th, 1863, a design similar to Thompson's was proposed by General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard PACS:
"... whose earlier penchant for practicality had established the precedent for visual distinctiveness on the battlefield, proposed that 'a good design for the national flag would be the present battle-flag as Union Jack, and the rest all white or all blue'..."
~ C. J. Villere; Confederate Congressman
The final version of the Confederate Second National Flag, adopted 01 May, 1863, did just this:
"It set the St. Andrew's Cross of stars in the Union Jack with the rest of the civilian banner entirely white."
The Confederate Congress debated whether the white field should have a blue stripe and whether it should be bordered in red. William Miles delivered a speech supporting the simple white design that was eventually approved. He argued that the battle flag must be used, but for a national flag it was necessary to emblazon it, but as simply as possible, with a plain white field. When Thompson received word the Congress had adopted the design with a blue stripe, he published an editorial on April 28th in opposition, writing that:
"The blue bar running up the centre of the white field and joining with the right lower arm of the blue cross, is in bad taste, and utterly destructive of the symmetry and harmony of the design."
~ William Tappan Thompson
Regardless of who truly originated the design of the Stainless Banner, whether by heeding Thompson's editorials or Beauregard's letter, the Stainless Banner was officially adopted by the Confederate Congress on May 1st, 1863. The flags that were actually produced by the Richmond Clothing Depot used the 1.5:1 ratio adopted for the Confederate Navy's Battle Ensign, rather than the official 2:1 ratio.
The Confederate Naval Battle Ensign
26 May 1863
Initial reaction to the second national flag was favorable, but over time it became criticized for being "too white." The Columbia-based Daily South Carolinian observed that it was essentially a battle flag upon a flag of truce and might send a mixed message. Military officers also voiced complaints about the flag being too white, for various reasons, such as the danger of being mistaken for a flag of truce, especially on naval ships, and that it was too easily soiled. Due to the flag's resemblance to one of truce, some Confederates cut off the white portion of the flag, leaving only the canton.
The first official use of the "Stainless Banner" was to drape the coffin of General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson PACS as he lay in state in the Virginia capitol, May 12, 1863.
Funeral Of General Thomas Jonathan
"Stonewall" Jackson PACS
(12 May 1863)
National Flag: "The Blood-Stained Banner"
|(From 26 May 1863 To The End)|
Rogers lobbied successfully to have this alteration introduced in the Confederate Senate. He defended his redesign as having "... as little as possible of the Yankee blue," and described it as symbolizing the primary origins of the people of the Confederacy, with the Saltire of the Scottish flag and the red bar from the flag of France.
The Flag Act of 1865, passed by the Confederate Congress near the very end of the War, describes the flag in the following language:
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 battle flag) 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 Saltire thereon, bordered with white and emblazoned with mullets or five pointed stars, corresponding in 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.
Despite the passage of the Flag Act of 1865, very few of these third national flags were actually manufactured and put into use in the field, with many Confederates never seeing the flag. Moreover, the ones made by the Richmond Clothing Depot used the square canton of the second national flag rather than the slightly rectangular one that was specified by the law.