Confederate Flag News

1. From Facebook, a graphic illustrating some proposals for a new flag for the state of Mississippi, in order to replace the recently-defunct Confederate-themed one. I like wavy with no wreath myself, but they’re all good designs, and historically meaningful to boot. 

Then there’s the Mighty Magnolia flag, which has even more designated meaning (click the link and scroll down).

The graphic, shared on the Facebook group Flags and Vexillology, includes the motto “In God We Trust,” because the state legislature made it a requirement of the new flag. But writing doesn’t make for a good flag and I hope that the new flag does not include it (quite apart from any questions about the separation of church and state that always attend the appearance of IGWT). 

2. From the Washington Post (hat tip: Tom Martin), news of a Confederate exile community in Brazil of all places:

RIO DE JANEIRO — To Marina Lee Colbachini, it was a family tradition. Each spring, she would join the throngs who descended on a nondescript city in southern Brazil, don a 19th-century hoop skirt and square dance to country music.

The theme of the annual festival: the Confederate States of America.

It’s one of history’s lesser-known episodes. After the Civil War, thousands of defeated Southerners came to Brazil to self-exile in a country that still practiced slavery. For decades, their descendants have thrown a massive party that now attracts thousands of people to the twin cities of Americana and Santa Bárbara d’Oeste to celebrate all things Dixie. The Confederate flag? Everywhere.

On flagpoles and knickknacks. Emblazoned on the dance floor. Clutched by men clad in Confederate battle gray. Decorating the grounds of the cemetery that holds the remains of veterans of the rebel army — the immigrants known here as the confederados.

In a country that has long been more preoccupied with class divisions than racism, the Confederate symbols, stripped of their American context, never registered much notice. But now, as the racial reckoning in the United States following the killing of George Floyd inspires a similar reexamination of values in Brazil, that has begun to change.

More at the link

3. Apparently some supporters of Ireland’s Cork County GAA like to wave Confederate flags at football and hurling matches, on the principle that Cork is in the “south,” and that red is the main Cork county color. I recall seeing a video playing at the GAA museum at Croke Park and being puzzled about the appearance of some Confederate flags in the stands. I guess Cork was playing! The county GAA board condemned the practice in 2017, and recently announced that it will confiscate any Confederate flags that supporters try to bring in. 

Silverdale Confederate Cemetery

Stopped by the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery this afternoon. You can find the entrance between White Lightning Harley-Davidson and WoodSpring Suites on Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

A nearby Tennessee Historical Commission marker explains:

Here are buried 155 soldiers of the Army of Tennessee who died in hospitals during the mobilization for Bragg’s Kentucky campaign of Sept. – Oct. 1862. Their graves, formerly distinguished by wooden markers giving name, rank and organization, are now unidentified.

Plaques on the interior of the arch elaborate (in slightly odd English):

General Braxton Bragg mobilizing his army during summer of 1862 for his Kentucky Campaign, culminating the Battle of Perryville Oct. 8, 1862 camped a part of his army in this vicinity. Hospitals were located near by. Great number of his soldiers were sick and many died. About 155 were buried here, their names and commands marked on wooden boards that decayed. No records was kept and this grave yard neglected.

It’s a shame that this should have happened, although one can understand that people may have had higher priorities at the time. Subsequently:

During the late [eighteen-]nineties this cemetery was discovered by Capt. J.F. Shipp and it’s history disclosed. It’s condition reported to the N.B. Forrest Camp U.C.V., the ground purchased and substantial wire fence enclosure was erected by camp comrade J.W. Willingham, chairman during 1926-27. The following committee was appointed by the camp. Solicited and received contributions from generous citizens of Chattanooga, and a permanent rock wall was erected around the premises. 

A view of said wall as you approach.

The main gate…

…which is adorned with the seal of the Confederate States of America, featuring George Washington, that Southern planter, slaveholder, and leader of a previously successful secessionist revolt. 

The main memorial.

Some soldiers have been identified and listed.

Some have their own gravestones. Note that while Confederate veterans were not declared U.S. veterans (contrary to a popular belief), Confederate veterans are entitled to a grave marker courtesy fo the U.S. government, thus does this one match the standard font and layout, but decorated with a CSA emblem. 

The flag flying in the cemetery is one that you don’t see much. Usually when the stars and bars is shown, it’s the original seven-star variant. This one, however, shows thirteen stars, for the number of states claimed by the Confederacy by 1862. (Plus, Tennessee wasn’t one of the original seven states of the CSA, so it makes sense that this one should fly in this context.)

Otherwise, the cemetery is largely empty…

…except for this monument, for something I had never heard of before:

The Order of the Southern Cross was founded at Gray’s Mill on August 28, 1863, following initial meetings at Tyner’s Station, to foster Brotherhood and Patriotic Sentiment within the Confederate Army of Tennessee. As part of this aim, a charity fund to aid soldiers’ widows and orphans was established. The principal founders included Maj. General Patrick Cleburn, Lt. General Leonidas Polk and Chaplain Charles Quintard. Today the OSC continues to preserve Southern Heritage through financial grants for historical and educational projects. This monument was dedicated in 2014 in honor of the 150th anniversary of its founding.

Note the appearance of Polk’s flag on the OSC emblem. The cemetery is not maintained by the OSC, though, but by the volunteer Chattanooga Area Relic and Historical Association, and kudos to them for doing so. 

The references to Braxton Bragg bring to mind the controversy over renaming Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division. According to Wikipedia, Bragg:

is generally considered among the worst generals of the Civil War. Most of the battles in which he engaged ended in defeat. Bragg was extremely unpopular with both the men and the officers of his command, who criticized him for numerous perceived faults, including poor battlefield strategy, a quick temper, and overzealous discipline. 

It sounds to me as if support for renaming Fort Bragg should be very widespread indeed!

Flag of Mississippi

News of the Times: Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann says: 

I, like the majority of Mississippians, am open to changing our current flag.

In my mind, our flag should bear the Seal of the Great State of Mississippi and state “In God We Trust.”  I am open to bringing all citizens together to determine a banner for our future.

An illustration accompanying the article shows what such a flag might look like:

Mississippi Business Journal.

But we feel compelled to state that this is not a good design! A seal does not make for a good flag. This isn’t quite a SOAB (“seal on a bedsheet”), as so many state flags are – Mr. Hosemann has retained the tricolor background of the current Mississippi flag (although note that Missouri also has such a flag). But a seal is detailed and intricate and belongs on official documents or on the wall behind the governor as he takes questions from reporters, not on a flag, which should be “so simple that a child can draw it from memory.” On that front, the Stennis flag has this flag beaten hands down.

UPDATE (7/22): This is in fact Mississippi’s Bicentennial Flag, used in the celebrations in 2017 and in some instances as a de facto placeholder with the retirement of the most recent Mississippi flag on June 30. 

Wikipedia.

Apparently the Stennis Flag now has an official status as Mississippi’s “hospitality flag,” and you can get it on a license plate. I reckon that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes Mississippi’s official state flag.

Wikipedia.

I still prefer the Magnolia flag as a design, although it’s probably too Confederate for current taste. It is a version of Mississippi’s secession flag, and was used by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the nineteenth century. (Georgia might have been able to adopt a version of the first national flag of the CSA in 2003, but I doubt that such a thing could happen today.) 

Wikipedia.

It’s a shame that this flag lost a referendum in 2001. It retains the horizontal tricolor of the current flag, but eliminates the Confederate battle flag on the canton for an array of twenty stars (the large central one for Mississippi, the other nineteen for previously admitted states to the Union, as in the Stennis flag). 

Rainbow

One thing I like about the Pride flag is that it shows a properly stylized rainbow – the three primary colors red, yellow, and blue, and the three secondary colors orange, green, and purple, producing a flag with six horizontal stripes (preferable to vertical stripes since that’s the way a flag flies). 

Of course, the spectrum contains an infinitude of colors, but showing six of them is a logical and visually appealing abstraction. But didn’t we learn in school that there were seven? Doesn’t the mnemonic “Roy G. Biv” stand for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet? Where does this “Indigo” come from? Wikipedia informs us that:

Indigo was defined as a spectral color by Sir Isaac Newton when he divided up the optical spectrum, which has a continuum of wavelengths. He specifically named seven colors primarily to match the seven notes of a western major scale, because he believed sound and light were physically similar, and also to link colors with the (known) planets, the days of the week, and other lists that had seven items. It is accordingly counted as one of the traditional colors of the rainbow.

Ah, Newton. One of the great geniuses of the previous millennium, but still not entirely a man of science as we now understand that term. The designation of “indigo” as a color of the rainbow simply to get to the number seven seems similar to a hypothetical situation in which we decided that five is a special number, and so imagined five cardinal directions – North, East, South-East, South, and West. 

But I wonder whether this seven-color Newtonian version – the product of a man who believed that the “Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect… and from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being,” as he says in the Principia – might not be a way to distinguish the rainbow for those who wish to “take it back” from the Gay Pride movement. It would certainly fit with the Christian idea that six is the number of “man” or “imperfection,” and seven the “totality of perfection” or “completeness.” So a seven-striped rainbow could be “Christian,” and a six-striped rainbow could be “gay.” 

In the meantime we do wish everyone a happy Pride Month!

Murdoch Mysteries

The Canadian television series Murdoch Mysteries (2009-present) is set in Toronto, starting in the 1890s. It’s a lot of fun; we’re currently up to season seven in our binge-watching. The characters are compelling, the plots not too convoluted, the art direction appealing, and the “future foreshadowing” (references to Area 51, the CN Tower, or Twitter, for instance) most amusing. I especially like hearing place names that I remember from my southern Ontario youth, like “Coboconk,” “Peterborough,” or “Grafton,” or seeing buildings like Victoria Hall, Parkwood Estate, or Boulden House (at Trinity College School) in various scenes. 

Through season six, the only flag on display in the show has been the Royal Union Flag, a.k.a. the Union Jack. 

To my puzzlement, these flags are often shown flying upside-down. But I reckon this subtly erroneous usage has always been a problem with this flag and the producers are in fact being historically accurate! 

Although I do wonder whether the Canadian Red Ensign wouldn’t have been flown more in the 1890s. A red flag with the Union Jack in the canton is at heart a naval ensign; throughout the British Empire it was often differenced with something in the fly, and some of these local variants achieved widespread use indeed, far beyond identifying ships. Canada’s flag was one such. It dates from the 1870s, was promoted for government buildings in 1891 by Governor-General Lord Stanley, and became Canada’s “civil ensign” in 1892. So you would think it would appear more than it has in the show. However, as far as I can tell, its first appearance is in season seven, episode one (set in 1901 as the portrait of Queen Victoria is being taken down in Station House Four, and Brackenreid proclaims “God save the King,” i.e. Victoria’s successor Edward VII).

The trouble with the Canadian red ensign is that the local signifier was the Canadian coat of arms. This means that one must watch for anachronisms, as Canada’s coat of arms itself changed as more provinces were accepted into Confederation. In 1901 there were seven provinces, although the original four-provinces shield also remained in common use. Flourishes like wreaths, crowns, and beavers could also be added at the manufacturer’s whim. But no one would have flown a red ensign with the coat of arms that was granted in 1921, or the version that was prescribed after 1957 (with red leaves, as in the image). 

This anachronism is especially glaring in season six, episode twelve, in which Julia Ogden is on trial for killing her husband. The Canadian coat of arms on display on the wall behind the judge was drawn by Allan Beddoe and dates from 1957. It’s far more likely that the arms on display in a courtroom in 1900 would be the royal arms of the United Kingdom. (And I wonder whether Union Jacks would actually be displayed in this context – it seems an American custom.) 

Royal arms. Wikipedia.

Royal arms in Osgoode Hall, Toronto. Wikipedia.

People just don’t know heraldry anymore. 

Montenegro

My former student Danilo Bozovic, now back home in Podgorica, shared this photo of Montenegrin flags in observance of Montenegro’s Independence Day. The referendum of 2006 was held on May 21 in that year, and since independence from Serbia was supported by 55.5% of voters, was followed by a formal declaration of independence on June 3, 2006. But it is the day of the vote that has become a public holiday.

Dutch Masters

Enjoyed the “Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt” exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum this weekend. My personal favorite: Hendrick Avercamp (Dutch, 1585-1634), Winter Landscape near a Village (1610-15), illustrating a regular occurrence during the Little Ice Age, and a favorite Dutch pastime

I was also pleased to see a banner of the arms of Zeeland flying in the background.

Greensboro

I regret that I did not have time to visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The walk between my hotel and UNC-Greensboro allowed me to snap pictures of a statue of the city’s namesake, Nathanael Greene…

…and of the city’s flag:

It’s a shame, though, that the Guilford Courthouse flag was nowhere in evidence. That would give the place some style points. 

Wikipedia.

Every university needs a carillon clock…

…and a statue of the founder.

I was pleased that Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, featured so prominently on campus. I assume that this is a testament to the UNCG’s origins as a women’s college.

So I must say that I’m puzzled why UNCG’s sports teams are known as the Spartans. Like the words “automobile” or “television,” this mixes Greek and Latin! Plus, if the standard visual representation of the Spartan is the hoplite warrior, it’s sexist to boot. 

Fathead.com

South Africa

Congratulations to South Africa, whose national rugby team defeated England’s this morning in Japan to win the William Webb Ellis trophy, i.e. rugby’s World Cup. A post in celebration, featuring (what else?!) South African symbols.

Wikipedia.

South Africa has a pretty cool flag, which was adopted in 1994 as symbolic of the new political dispensation in that country. I knew the designer, Frederick Brownell, who sadly died earlier this year. He wrote that: “The unique central design of the flag, which begins as a ‘V’ at the flagpost and comes together in the centre of the flag, extending further, as a single horizontal band to the outer edge of the fly, can be seen as representing the convergence of diverse elements in South African society.” The colors (black, blue, green, “chilli red,” gold, and silver) have no set meaning, however, since “individual colours can have widely differing meanings for different people” and thus “may be interpreted freely” – although clearly black, gold and green are the colors of the African National Congress, and “chilli red” (halfway between orange and red) can represent the orange and red that have appeared in the Dutch and Dutch-derived flags that have historically flown over the country.

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s old flag, which waved over the Union, and then the Republic, of South Africa from 1928 to 1994, is almost universally known as the “Apartheid flag” and is not seen flying much these days. In fact, South Africa’s Equality Court recently ruled that public displays fo this flag now amount to hate speech, except for certain cases of “journalistic, academic, and artistic expression.” The flag was the (originally) orange, white and blue flag of the Netherlands, with the central band showing the flags of the three combatants in the Boer War: the United Kingdom, and the two Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (ZAR, or the Transvaal). These little flags were supposedly arranged in such a way that no flag had precedence over any other, and as you might expect this design was a compromise between the English and Afrikaners, reached after great rancor in 1928. Even those extremists who want their own Afrikaner Volkstaat aren’t likely to fly this flag, since the existence of the Union Jack on it has always annoyed them!

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s coat of arms underwent a similar transformation in 2000. The current coat of arms features central shield with two red-ochre Khoisan figures greeting each other. Other elements include elephant tusks, ears of wheat, a crossed spear and knobkierie, a protea flower, a secretary bird, and a Khoisan motto meaning “diverse people unite.” 

I confess that I like SA’s previous coat of arms better, if only because it’s more properly heraldic. The shield features an amalgamation of symbols representing the four South African colonies that were united and granted dominion status in 1910: the Cape Colony, Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. But it’s more European than African in form, and since South Africa is now divided into nine provinces, its symbolism is also obsolete. 

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s parliament got its own emblem in the same style as the new coat of arms in 2007. A drum rises out of a protea flower, which is ensigned by a sun and rests on a book. The sun represents healing the divisions of the past and improving the quality of life for South Africans. The drum calls parliament to order, and the book at the bottom represents the constitution, whose initial words “We, the People” are prominently displayed.

Wikipedia.

The parliamentary emblem replaced one that had been in use since 1964, which featured (I believe) South Africa’s parliamentary mace crossed with its Black Rod mace, between the old coat of arms and the crest. (Needless to say, these maces have been updated too.)

Finally, we have the emblem of the team itself. South Africa’s national rugby team is known as the Springboks, and its logo is a leaping springbok. 

Wikipedia.

The logo appears on most things associated with the team… except for the front left of their jerseys. Like the flag, the coat of arms, and the parliamentary maces, the springbok, to many people, is representative of the old ways. Until 1994 the team was by policy all-white, and the ANC, which took power that year, saw the springbok as symbolic of this. If you’ve seen the movie Invictus (2009), you’ll be familiar with the story of how the sports ministry wanted to replace the rugby team’s springbok with the king protea, South Africa’s national flower, and how Nelson Mandela, in an attempt at reaching out to South Africa’s white population, personally intervened to prevent it. When South Africa won the World Cup at home in 1995, Mandela donned a springbok jersey to present the Webb Ellis trophy to the team captain Francois Pienaar. It was a great moment in post-Apartheid reconciliation. 

Telegraph.co.uk.

Classicrugbyshirts.com

You’ll notice, though, that the jersey at the time featured a springbok leaping through a wreath of protea flowers.

JG

The Springboks’ jerseys from 1999 also featured a protea in addition to its namesake bovid. (The photograph is from a replica jersey in our possession.) Clearly the team was trying to do its own outreach. 

Wikipedia.

The protea-springbok device was in use as late as 2007.

Footballkitnews.com.

But the ANC did not give up, and by the World Cup of 2011 it finally prevailed. With Mandela out of the picture, the party could finally force the team to decorate the fronts of its jerseys with the protea alone, although you’ll notice a small springbok on the left sleeve.

Wikipedia.

The team’s jerseys for this year’s tournament follow the same pattern – protea device on the front left of the jersey, springbok on the left sleeve. 

The South African.

Although for the Rugby Championship this year the springbok was on the front of the jersey, along with the protea (and a shirt sponsorship – can’t let any revenue escape!). As you can also see, the team is racially integrated these days – the photo is of Herschel Jantjies, a coloured scrum-half from Stellenbosch, who was one of ten non-whites on the thirty-one man World Cup squad. 

It’s nice that the springbok has not been entirely effaced. But whatever the symbol, there’s no arguing with success. Congratulations, South Africa! 

Toronto Flaggery

I enjoyed a great weekend in Toronto, where I participated in the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada’s Study Day with a talk on symbols of Newfoundland (drawn in part from previous posts on this blog). It was nice of my parents to come in from Port Hope for the day (and for my cousins to put me up). 

Photo: Robert Walsh.

In keeping with one of the themes of this blog, I took some photographs of flags that I saw.

This is the interior of the “Great Hall” of Union Station, which features a display of all the provincial flags of Canada.

Flag of Toronto, flying on University Avenue. This flag dates from 1974 and was the flag of the old City of Toronto proper, i.e. one of the constituent cities of Metropolitan Toronto, which included East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York. With the abolition of these cities in 1998, the flag of the one part became the flag of all the parts, since the 1999 grant of arms to the amalgamated City of Toronto did not include a flag. The design references the distinctive architecture of Toronto City Hall.

Flying from the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, the flags of Ontario, Canada, and Legislative Assembly, which consists of the arms of Ontario with crossed maces and an embattled bordure. This was granted back in 1992 and was somewhat controversial, if I recall correctly, since generally legislatures get badges, not full coats of arms. Plus, it seems that the actual flag granted to the Ontario Legislature was supposed to be square, not rectangular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyed a nice dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, where the flags of Canada’s three armed service commands are prominently displayed in the lobby. 

Also on display at RCMI, a World War I era Canadian red ensign, complete with nine-quartered coat of arms. 

I walked by a renovated Varsity Stadium, the main sports field of the University of Toronto. Flying on Bloor Street were two U. of T. flags, one featuring the university’s coat of arms with a reversed background (nice effect!), and another athletic flag featuring a T and a maple leaf. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a flag that I did not know about. In front of the Legislative Building we encountered a protest in favour of Azad Kashmir, with numerous examples of its flag being displayed.