The Second Confederate Jack (1863- 1865)

Most people look at this flag and think it is a symbol of racism due to the fact that the Confederate States of America practiced slavery. What they fail to realize is that it is also called the “Rebel Flag,” and it’s called this for a reason.

The Confederacy was formed because the people in those states felt that they were being made second-class citizens by the existing government. Just because slavery was part of the Confederate way of life, it doesn’t mean that the nation was representative of racism. The Confederacy and its flag were, and still are, a symbol of rebellion against an unfair, intrusive government.


How the American Civil War almost started a World War 

The relations between Britain and the United States were tense during the American Civil War, and in the year 1863 the situation almost resulted in an international war between the US and the powers of Europe.  While officially the British Empire was neutral in the war, unofficially Britain was pro-Confederate, as her industry depended heavily on cheap raw materials from the south.  Throughout the war Britain supplied the Confederacy with weapons, ammunition, and ships.  British ports built ships which would later be sold to the Confederate Navy, the most famous was a merchant raider called the CSS Alabama.  The British made M1853 Enfield musket became the Confederate Army’s weapon of choice, and Britain would supply hundreds of thousands of such muskets during the war.  Along with Britain, it seemed that France would join the Confederate band wagon as well.  Like Britain, France also imported raw materials from the Confederacy.  French Emperor Napoleon III was indifferent to the Confederacy, but many in his government were enthusiastically pro-Confederate. In 1862 France invaded Mexico, hoping to take advantage of the United State’s inability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. France loaned the Confederacy $15 million and at the time were in the process of building a small fleet of ironclad warships for the Confederate Navy.  Both acts brought Franco-US relations to a boiling point.  

Between 1861 and 1863 a number of incidents would occur between the US and Britain which further strained relations between the two countries.  The most notorious was the Trent Affair, in which a British mail steamship was seized by the US Navy to capture two Confederate envoys.  In October of 1862 the British Government warned that it would take “resolute action” in the war, though it did not elaborate on what action would be taken.  Finally in late 1862 the British government contracted with the Confederacy to produce two Laird Rams for the Confederate Navy.  Also called Scorpion Class warships, they were heavily armed ironclad battleships, then the most powerful warships in the world, easily capable of breaking the Union blockade.  The United States warned that if they delivered the Laird Rams to the Confederacy, there would be war.

By 1863 it was clear that Britain and France were going to intervene in the American Civil War.  But the construction of the Laird Rams and threats of war set off a domino like procession of events that would make them think twice about intervention.  First, the Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck warned that if Britain and France intervened, Prussia would side with the Union.  Bismarck wanted a war with France in the hopes of unifying the German states with Prussia. (Bismarck would get his war in 1870, defeating France and accomplishing his goals). Next, the newly unified nation of Italy expressed support for the Union, with the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi even offering his services to Abraham Lincoln.  Then the Russian Czar Alexander II announced that if Britain and France went to war, he would side with the US.  At the time Russia and the United States had close diplomatic relations, while Britain and France were despised enemies after the Crimean War.  However, Alexander II did not merely announce his support, he upped the ante by sending the entire Russian Baltic fleet to New York City.  The fleet arrived in September of 1863 with orders to support the Union Navy.  Another Russian fleet was sent to San Francisco, chasing away the Confederate warship CSS Shenandoah, which was planning to bombard the city and harbor. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells shouted, “God bless the Russians!” upon hearing the news.  Likewise Oliver Holmes hailed Czar Alexander “who was our friend while everyone else was our foe.”

The presence of the Russian fleet in New York upped the raised the bar for the British and French.  Alexander’s placement of the fleet served a strategic purpose as well; preventing it from being bottled up in the Baltic if war did occur.  With the powers of Europe lining up and choosing sides, it was time for the lead actor, Britain, to decide if the war was worth it.  After the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, it became apparent that it was not.  The British withdrew their plans to deliver the Laird Rams to the Confederacy, instead commissioning them in the Royal Navy.  Once Britain backed down, France likewise withdrew from the war.  A number of Russian warships remained on patrol along the Atlantic coast after the incident, just in case things heated up again.  The Union of course, would win the American Civil War.


This unassuming house in Petersburg, Va., has an odd history. It was constructed from the tombstones of Union soldiers who had besieged the city in 1864. The Union soldiers who died while attacking the Confederate-held city were buried near where they fell. Apparently to save on maintenance, nearly 2,000 marble headstones were removed from Poplar Grove Cemetery and sold to a Mr. O.E. Young, who assembled them into a two-story house in the 1930s.

The tombstones face inward, so “as the owner lay in bed the names of the dead stood about his head,” Headley wrote in Architectural Follies in America (1996). Later they were plastered over so visitors wouldn’t be freaked out — or accidentally see their great-grandfathers’ name.

The last word must be left to the lady living next door to the Tombstone House, who confessed “Ah dont rightly see what all the fuss was about. They was jist Union boys.”


Ron Paul standing in front of a Confederate flag and telling an audience that the South was on the right side of the American Civil War

What’s this, you ask? On, nothing. It’s just a video of Ron Paul standing in front of a flag flown by traitors 150 years ago and telling his audience that the South was on the right side of the American Civil War.

At 1:25, Paul says that buying slaves’ freedom would have been a better way to free them than fighting a war over the issue. Does anyone actually believe that Ron Paul, were he a member of Congress in 1861, would have supported a plan for the United States government to spend taxpayer dollars to buy slaves, even if it were to free them? He’d abolish Medicare and Social Security, and he doesn’t support universal healthcare, but he’d support a federal government that would undoubtedly need to increase taxes and then spend that tax money on the purchase of southern slaves? No, he wouldn’t.

What’s stunning about Paul’s views on slavery and the Civil War is the fact that he calls himself a libertarian, and he talks more about personal liberty than any politician currently in office, but he would have been willing to accept idea that human beings could own other human beings. He’s arguing in this video that the North should have purchased the slaves of the South in order to free them, and that tells me that he would have been willing to accept that the northern government could legally purchase human beings. If one opposes slavery, and one believes that personal liberty is our primary, guiding principle, the idea that anyone (or any government) could purchase a human being should be unacceptable. To have supported the North’s purchase of human beings from the South would have been supporting slavery — the idea that one human being could be the property of another — as a legal concept.

Further along in the video, at 2:00, Paul he calls the Civil War a “loss of liberty.” For whom? Certainly not for the slaves who were freed. Were he a slave in 1861, I doubt that his libertarian ideals would have allowed him to argue that his freedom was for sale, to anyone, whether in the North or the South, for any reason. I doubt that he would have referred to the South as the victim, argued that the Civil War was a “loss of liberty”, or complained about “northern aggression”, a term that Southern apologists love to use.

Thank you to Dominion of New York for their article that brought this video to my attention.

October 12, 1870: Robert E. Lee Dies

On this day in 1870, Robert E. Lee, the leading general of the Confederate Army, died at 63 in Lexington, VA after suffering a massive heart attack . Lee was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War (1861-65) which was the most successful of the Southern armies.

His surrender to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865 signified the end of the Civil War in the Union’s favor.

Browse American Experience’s “Lee the Man” photo gallery for a timeline of Robert E. Lee’s personal history.

Photo: Portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army (1863) (Julian Vannerson/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons).


The Confederates of Brazil,

Every year in the State of Sao Paolo, in the City of Americana, Brazil, the locals host a festival called the Festa Confederada.  The women wear American Antebellum style dresses while the men often dress as Civil War Era Confederate soldiers.  They eat Southern food, they dance to Southern music, and they fly the Stars and Bars (Confederate flag).  On occasion they may even have a Civil War re-enactment.  The only thing they lack is a heavy Southern drawl as most of the people are native speakers of Portuguese.

An oddity to find in South America for sure, there is a logical explanation to this madness.  It all goes back to April of 1865, when Union forces occupied the South and forced the Confederacy to surrender, there were many who were not willing to give in to the Union.  Many others had their land confiscated or their property totally destroyed by the war.  Many had nowhere to go.

That year Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil wanted to encourage the cultivation of cotton in Brazil, and he knew of thousands of people with the resources and expertise to do it.  He began to offer special insentives for immigrants from the former Confederacy to move and settle in Brazil.  This included subsidies on travel, cheap land, and tax breaks.  More importantly in Brazil slavery was still legal and would not be abolished until 1888.  

Between 1865 and 1875 ten to twenty thousand former Confederates made a home at Americana, Brazil.  There they set up a community that was an almost exact copy of the pre-Civil War antebellum South.  Because of their culture and heritage, they became known as the Confederados. At first the Confederados were a very insular group, interacting little with the Brazilians and fiercely maintaining their own culture.  However the third generation descendants of the Confederados began to break with tradition, intermingling with the Brazilians and eventually intermarrying with them.  Today Confederado decedents are little different from regular Brazilians, except perhaps when they host their Festa Confederada.  

Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida, home to the fighting Confederate Rebels, is named after a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and confederate general. It has been since 1959, when administrators changed the name to show their defiance to school integration laws enforced by Brown v Board of Education. But town residents, fed up with kowtowing to racial extremists, are looking to change that.

One Jacksonville resident launched a petition that has so far garnered over 150,000 signatures, asking the Duval County School Board to change the name.

A Manual of Military Surgery, Confederate States of America, Surgeon General’s Office, 1863-National Library of Medicine

 25,000 Southerners returned from the Civil War permanently disfigured from the amputation of a limb. There are relatively few historical works that address the meaning of amputation following the Civil War. When veterans returned home from the war, they faced a new set of challenges, especially for those who returned home physically and emotionally scarred. Chiefly, although the war became a venue wherein Confederate men could find new definitions of individual and societal worth based on their performance in battle, it also produced new challenges to the older definitions.

It is reasonable to assume that Southerners would view the actions of their soldiers as honorable. Circumstances required that Southern men and women incorporated the imperfect Southern male body within their traditional notions of manhood. They did so by blending traditional gender models with their celebrations of veterans’ sacrifices in remembering the Civil War as an honorable defeat.



A widow’s plea
Nancy Woodward, a Confederate widow, wrote to President Davis and asked him to release her only son from the Army so he could return home and help her. Southern civilian life during the war was very difficult, especially for women. While coping with shortages of food and other resources, they maintained the home front and ran farms, plantations, and businesses.

Letter from Nancy Woodward to Jefferson Davis, 11/12/1862

via DocsTeach