Friday, January 30, 2009

The Confederate Battle Flag And Civil War Memory

The debate and emotion generated by the Confederate flag flying in Tampa not only captures what a hot-button topic this symbol still is, but how comprehensive our disconnect with the actual history of it. Example: while this flag is referred to as "the" Confederate flag, there actually was no national flag of the Confederacy until maybe 1863. This flag was also not the battle flag of the entire Confederacy, late in the war it was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. From this it has metamorphosed into a political hot potato, a divisive insult, beach towel kitsch, and a NASCAR staple.
Okay, clearly this subject requires more study, and thankfully I think I found the resource at Point Loma books in San Diego (a smashing addition to the list of San Diego used/independent bookstores). John Coski, the director of the Museum of the Confederacy, wrote a book called "The Confederate Battle Flag" which provides a comprehensive discussion of the history of this flag's cultural evolution. Don't let preconceptions about the Museum of the Confederacy fool you, Mr. Coski is a scholar of a high order, and his interview on NPR in 2005 (which you can listen to by clicking here) gives evidence of that fact.
I'm going to try something a bit different with this book; instead of reviewing it en bloc when I'm done, we'll take it piece by piece as I move through it. Feel free to get a copy for yourself and join me.

No comments: