However, though the Mississippi flag was the last to bear the obvious image of the Confederate battle flag, there are other state flags that contai
However, though the Mississippi flag was the last to bear the obvious image of the Confederate battle flag, there are other state flags that contain Confederate symbology that may be a little harder to spot.
The actual flag of the Confederate States looks a lot different: It has two red stripes and one white, with a familiar field of stars on the hoist. There were four iterations throughout the Confederacy’s short life, with each one bearing different numbers of stars to correspond to the number of Confederate states at the time.
The famed phrase “Stars and Bars,” however, usually refers to the original Confederate flag, designed in 1861, which has seven stars arranged in a circular pattern. This is an important flag to remember as you look at some current state flag designs.
“For the first third of our nation’s history, from about 1777 to 1861, it was almost unheard of for individual Americans to fly the flag. It was mostly flown primarily by the government, mainly by the military, and especially by the Navy,” he says.
Ironically, all of that changed when the Confederacy was formed, and with it, an enemy flag. Suddenly, American flags cropped up in and around Union homes, schools and businesses — and the practice extended nationwide in later years.
“When the Confederacy broke away, one of the first things that the Confederate Congress did was pick a flag,” Leepson says. “There was a big debate, and the debate centered on how close the flag should look to the American flag. They held a contest, and took votes, and what did they do? They picked a flag with red and white stripes and stars.”
That proved difficult later on in the war. According to Leepson, during the especially foggy battle of Manassas in 1861, Confederate commanders realized it was hard to tell the two flags apart. Eventually, various iterations of the battle flag became more widely used.
As you look at the different flags below, here are some things to note: The arrangement of stripes on the field, the types and placement of stars, and what is going on in the canton — the upper left part of a flag where you would normally see the fifty stars on an American flag. Also pay attention to the presence of a saltire, or St. Andrew’s Cross. That’s the diagonal “X” that defines the Confederate battle flag. (It’s also a part of many other flags around the world, including the Union Jack.)
Since the St. Andrew’s Cross is a widely used symbol, it can be easy to mistake Alabama’s flag design as mere coincidence.
In the years since the Civil War, Georgia’s flag has undergone several changes. Yet, it still looks very, very much like the flag of the Confederacy — on purpose. It used to contain a Confederate battle flag on its fly (the free side of the flag), a design change that was made in 1956.
The fact that Georgia citizens chose to add a Confederate symbol to their flag to protest desegregation shows how deeply symbolic, and actively rhetorical, flags can be.
While there are ongoing conversations about culture, heritage, history and the role of Confederate monuments and flags, in the case of Georgia’s Confederate battle-inspired flag, it’s hard to push the heritage narrative when the real reason — racism — is cemented right there in the history books.