See that flag up there? Everybody knows what that flag is, right? Yeah. And everybody is wrong.
There are basically two camps where the Stars and Bars are concerned, and neither of them get it quite right. There's a third camp, of course, that is the correct one. It's full of historians and obnoxious pedants with blogs.
|Not that I'm naming names or anything|
The first and more heinously incorrect camp is the one that says "It's heritage, not hate." They may well believe it, just as they (often, not always) believe that the civil war was fought over states' rights and not slavery.
Trouble is, the Southern states were only interested in states' rights as far as the states were supporting the institution of slavery. If it was a straight "limit the federal government" thing, the South would not have been so eager to pass the Fugitive Slave Act, which forbade Free States from granting free passage to escaped slaves.
|Also, it was total bullshit.|
Don't get me wrong. The North didn't go to war to free the slaves. The North wanted to ensure that future states admitted to the Union were Free States, which had a lot more to do with congressional representation than any moral crusade. Ultimately, the Civil War was about whether States were legally allowed to leave the Union.
And the answer was, "Not according to my friend Richard Gatling over here."
|He has 200 friends per minute agreeing with him, too.|
The other camp maintains that the flag at the top of this page is the flag of the Confederacy, a nation that came into existence, according to its founding members, so that the institution of slavery could continue. They get part of it right. But it's not the flag of the Confederacy. The flag at the top of this page is the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. There were three flags of the Confederate States of America, and they are below:
The fact that we remember one region's battle standard as the flag is indicative of one of the reasons the Union won the Civil War. We'd already tried a Confederacy under the Articles of Confederation. It turns out, having a strong, centralized government is good for encouraging you to fight a war with the whole country in mind rather than just one region.
Since the Army of Northern Virginia was Robert E. Lee's army, it tends to get all the attention. Thus, we have everyone thinking their battle standard was the flag of the whole short-lived country. As for the flag representing a rebellion based on the right to treat people as property...well, yeah. It pretty much is that. But only in part of one of the states. So that's something, I guess.