Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

When Make-Believe Confederates Diss Real Confederates

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 2, 2012

There’s been some discussion about the Virginia Flaggers’ recent appearance at an event in Fredericksburg, a commemoration of a procession on Decoration Day in 1871 when local residents and visitors from as far away as Washington, D.C. and Richmond to honor the Union dead buried in the national cemetery there. The Flaggers weren’t invited, they just showed up and trailed along at the end of the procession, to bring “a Confederate presence” to an event that, historically, didn’t commemorate or involve real Confederates at all. The group’s leader, Susan Hathaway, has said that the Flaggers “were greeted warmly by all the participants,” and John Hennessy notes that the Flaggers “were respectful and genial every step, as was, I think, the audience toward them.” But despite the civil tone, at least one participant disputes the notion that the Flaggers’ presence was appreciated  by the procession’s participants, stating bluntly, “within the column itself they weren’t welcome.” That’s one of the tricky things about the South; just because people are polite doesn’t mean they actually like you.

Other bloggers have mentioned this event, but in concentrating on the Flaggers’ participation in the recreated Decoration Day procession, a number of folks have “buried the lede,” as the saying goes, which is that the Flaggers did not participate in the ceremony at the nearby Confederate cemetery (above). Michael Aubrecht and Ryan Quint have both noted this, but to me it’s a tremendous “tell” that the Flaggers opted to participate in the Decoration Day march, rather than honor their own Confederate forebears. The rationale seems pretty transparent; people carrying Confederate flags at a Confederate ceremony in a Confederate cemetery is not news. Marching in a procession to commemorate an event held years after the war to honor Union dead, that’s gonna make the papers.

Mission accomplished, y’all!

The Virginia Flaggers have shown consistently that their priorities lie less with spending time and effort doing the quiet, dogged work of preservation and education, than with self-promotion and generally stirring up resentments about  “traitors and scalawags” and so on. They have a bad habit of picking unnecessary fights, setting up confrontations for the cameras, and claiming that a civil disagreement with them constitutes an “attack.”

The Flaggers like to call themselves Confederates. But last Monday they had the opportunity to honor real Confederates, and they took a pass, opting instead to “advance the colours” at an event that had no historical involvement of real Confederates, where they were neither invited nor especially welcome, but that they knew would attract attention and publicity. That pretty much epitomizes the Flaggers’ approach to “restoring the honour”; it’s all about them.


Image: Confederate cemetery at Fredericksburg on May 28, 2012, via Fredericksburg Remembered.

26 Responses

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  1. Margaret D. Blough said, on June 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I wonder how the Flaggers would react if members of the Sons of and/or the Daughters of Union Veterans showed up uninvited at, say, a Lee-Jackson Day event in order to bring a Union presence to it.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      I suspect they would welcome that, because it would give them validation, just so long as the SUVCW types didn’t interfere with the Confederate hagiography going on, or mention the S-word.

      But it’s a fair question. Folks like the Flaggers want it both ways — they want to be recognized with a full. unique identity as Southerners — which in their case is to say, Confederates — but at the same time bristle at the idea that those who fought for the Confederacy were not equally fully Americans, which is a larger, encompassing entity. They will reflexively cite a 1950s U.S.; law that officially designated Confederate veterans to have the same status as U.S. veterans (not coincidentally about the same time the last actual CW veterans died), but will sh1t their butternut drawers if someone puts as “yankee rag” over some Confederate’s grave on Memorial day. (Which, BTW, is standard practice in my town.)

      That’s the thing — if the Flaggers wanted to show their support for the Frederickburg procession, and the symbolism of the original 1871 event it commemorated, they certainly could do so with U.S. flags or no flags at all. To do so would not have dishonored their ancestors in any way. What they actually did was (once again) go out of their way to draw attention to themselves.

      Anyone who’s ever been the parent of a four-year-old who thinks the grown-ups aren’t paying sufficient attention to him knows exactly where this sort of behavior comes from.

  2. Billy Bearden said, on June 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Andy my good friend!

    Please dont be a hater! The Flaggers in Virginia participated in 4 events that day. Laid a wreath at Huguenot Springs, were in Dinwiddie, Richmond and Fredbg. Just a few days prior they participated in the Hood’s Texas Brigade Monument unveil at Gaines Mill, Today they laid a wreath at Jefferson Davis’s graveside and were responsible for 200 stick battleflags for Confederate graves, plus had 43 Flaggers in front of the VMFA with TV Channel 6 doing an interview…

    I am not sure how or why, but you keep overlooking these events – they are mentioned on the same facebook pages you find this other stuff…

    In Virginia there is a law that says it is illegal to place Union symobls on Confederate memorials or graves and vice versa (this is one of the laws the VMFA is breaking)..

    Just this past year, as a Virginia Flagger of which I am a member (the local SCV does not want to participate) I have stood publically to recognize the 150th anniversary of the muster of Cobbs Legion Company B Bowdon Vols, the 150th anniversary of the muster of the Haralson Invincibles and Defenders, in Franklin – Co seat of Heard County Ga for Confederate Memorial Day and stood in honor and recognition in Heflin Alabama on March 17th for Patrick R Cleburne’s Birthday (Heflin is county seat of Cleburne Co, Al)

    Miss Margaret – In my area they jes aint alot of them SUVCW fellas, but we gots a few. Sometimes they shows up in they blues uniforms with a gun and all, and they is welcomed, they stand at attention in “Present Arms” and bow they heads when wees speak to the Lord. The camps arounds hear – they sport the yankee flag at the head of the parades, or in the group of flags for a cemetery service. I is thinking you have some sort of bias thinking about the groups, As most Flaggers have backgrounds in SCV and UDC…

    • Andy Hall said, on June 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Aw, shucks, Billy, I’m not a hater. Why is everyone who’s critical of you guys’ actions a “hater”?

      As for the other stuff the Flaggers do, remember that I tend to focus on the ridiculous, offensive or disingenuous stuff that I observe. And I didn’t say boo about the Flaggers for months, until I realized how manipulative and disingenuous sort of y’alls’ actions actually were. I know you don’t like what I write, but y’all keep giving me so much material, you know?

      • Billy Bearden said, on June 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

        Andy my friend…

        Idunno why some in your blogosphere act untowards a nice sweet lovable group of women and children.
        I remember a very shortlived post over on kevlevs site where he attacked Mrs Hathaway and posted all her personal information.

        I have looked at the photo on Aubrechts site
        and if there were ZERO Flaggers, what about the other marchers? What is that green flag? How many umbrellas were present in 1871? Ballcaps?

        Where is the articles amongst your peers on the Ga Div SCV Camp going to honor a USCT grave?

        Andy, man, sometimes I just feel, and perhaps it is just me, but feel like it is a little bias. It dont bother me, I gave up caring about being called names in 2001. Just knowing good folks like Susan, Karen, Tripp, etc… dont really deserrve such undue attention.

        If you say you aint a hater, then I believe you.

        • Andy Hall said, on June 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm

          You’ll have to ask Kevin about what he posts on his blog. Contrary to popular belief, he and I are different people. 😉

        • Kevin Levin (@KevinLevin) said, on June 3, 2012 at 6:11 am

          And this was after that same person wrote on a Facebook group page encouraging members to pay me a visit at my place of work, which happens to be a school. At least try to be honest and tell the complete story.

          • Andy Hall said, on June 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

            Absolutely true. I remember that clearly, but didn’t know if you wanted us to rehash it here. As I recall, Hathaway suggested a bunch of her buddies (pre-Flaggers?) come to your workplace to teach you a lesson of theirs. Hathaway volunteered to hold the door.

            You shoud not be surprised that Billy left out that critical element of the story; selective presentation of events is what the Flaggers do. It wasn’t until after the President General of the UDC spoke publicly that they acknowledged that yes, they’d been warned not to come on the property and would be treated as trespassers if they did.

            Casual threats of violence are routine among some Defenders of Southron Heritage™; if called out, they claim it’s all a joke, but it’s reprehensible behavior nonetheless.

    • Will Hickox said, on June 3, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      “They sport the yankee flag”–just to be clear, you are referring to the flag, adopted in 1777, of the nation you live in?

      • Billy Bearden said, on June 5, 2012 at 10:17 am

        No Will, I am not aware of any that use a Betsy Ross flag at the events related to 1861 – 1865.
        They would be the 34 – 36 star UNION flags (read yankee) of that time period.

        • 108thinfantry said, on June 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm

          Thanks for the explanation. My point was that the U.S. flag was adopted over 200 years ago and isn’t just a “Yankee flag.”

  3. John Cummings said, on June 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    BTW, the green flag is the 4th Division of the 9th Corps, of which the 23rd USCTs were a part.
    As I’ve said other places, this was not a “reenactment”, this was a commemoration, and members of the community (even in modern day clothing) were welcome to join in. We had invited a local unit of Confederate reenactors to march with us but they could not get from their Confederate Cemetery event in time to join us for our procession, as the times overlapped. They did, however, arrive in time to accompany us up into the National Cemetery, with our color company, during the speeches portion of the program.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      John, thanks for commenting. I tried to avoid suggesting it was a reenactment. But regardless, I find the insistence of the Flaggers that there needed to be a “Confederate presence” there to be inappropriate.

  4. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on June 3, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Well Andy I don’t know, why don’t you ask them before you run your hate anti
    Southern bashing article about them. BTW I am with Billy Bearden he done told it like it is, now aren’t you ashamed of yourself.

  5. Jefferson Moon said, on June 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

    “”In Virginia there is a law that says it is illegal to place Union symobls on Confederate memorials or graves and vice versa”
    Here in Ohio sometimes they put U.S. flags on Confederate graves sometimes the CBF.I wouldn’t tell Virginia what to do in this matter,but it seems to me that if these fellows had lived they would have “greased up and slid back into the Union”,so it doesn’t much matter which flag you put on their graves.What do you all put on the graves of Confederate veterans that died after the war ??

    • Andy Hall said, on June 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

      In my town Confederate graves get U.S. stick flags on Memorial Day, and C.S. flags at other times. I don’t recall any strenuous objection to the practice here. Confederate flags are placed regardless of when the person died. I’ve written before about Charles DeWitt Anderson, whose grave near me is marked by a standard Confederate VA stone, that makes no mention whatever of his long and active life, both before and after the war, in U.S. government service. He was the first cadet appointed to West Point from Texas, served longer in the U.S. Army than in the Confederate, and spent much of the years after the war working as a civilian employee of the govt, first as an engineer on waterways projects and finally as a lighthouse keeper. It’s hard for me to imagine that, were Anderson here today, he’d be happy that his entire long life is reduced down to the four years 1861-65, to the exclusion of all others.

      • Billy Bearden said, on June 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

        My parents, especially my mother, would most likely be upset that their headstone eliminates all mention of their vast life except that my father was a 3 war veteran, and my mom was ‘his wife’ . Mom and dad held numerous jobs, raised kids, did much community involvement among much other things. However in Arlington National Cemetery spouses share 1 marker and that is all they get.

        • Andy Hall said, on June 5, 2012 at 10:38 am

          I understand about Arlington, but (I presume) that was a decision they made. My concern (and this applies to veterans of all periods) is when folks come along generations later, often who never knew the person, and sort of make a de facto decision that that person’s military service is the sole element that gets remmebered, when the actual person might or might not have chosen that at all.

          There isn’t an easy answer for this, it’s just something that I think about sometimes.

      • Margaret D. Blough said, on June 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

        Andy-James Longstreet’s grave marker, placed there by his second wife, Helen, has a crossed US & Confederate flags carved on the face. It includes his military service, both USA and CSA, carved underneath the flags Finally, “Manassas to Appomatox” is carved on one side and “Palo Alto to Chapultepec”. He didn’t rejoin the US Army for the Spanish-American War like FitzHugh Lee did, but I think that was a matter of his very poor health, by that time, and his paralyzed arm from his Wilderness wound.

  6. Forester said, on June 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    ” That’s one of the tricky things about the South; just because people are polite doesn’t mean they actually like you.”

    Hahahaha, that is SO true. In my family experience, the degree of politeness actually reveals how little they regard you (Southerners tend to only be blunt with close friends and family). Everyone else gets the “bless her heart” treatment.

    I might add: acting mournful at a funeral does not mean they actually liked or even knew the disceased. When some Uncle Billy-Bob who we haven’t seen in 20 years passes on, we still drive down to Carolina and act like we were close. Then we all eat KFC chicken, swear we’ll get together and see each other when its not a funeral, but we never really do. It’s a cultural thing. But the flaggers take Southern funeral fakeness to the level of a new art form, honoring vague “ancestors” who probably wouldn’t have even liked them.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      But the flaggers take Southern funeral fakeness to the level of a new art form, honoring vague “ancestors” who probably wouldn’t have even liked them.

      I agree. I’ve observed for a while that these make-believe Confederates tend to be far more determined to prove their unreconstructed-ness than most real Confederates were.

      I suspect that Cou’n Katie, who knew a thing or two both about the UDC and actual Confederate veterans, would’ve had no truck with the Flaggers at all.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      Everyone else gets the “bless her heart” treatment.

      The classic example is the insult-disguised-as-sympathy, as in:

      Bless her heart, she just doesn’t realize that dress to two sizes too small for her.

      Getting back around to the Flaggers, I believe them when they say their encounters with the public are overwhelmingly positive. People don’t generally like to be confrontational or combative, esepcially if they’re out with the family visiting a museum or historic site; those who choose to interact with the Flaggers are inevitably going to be people who are sympathetic to them. The rest will just smile, take a handout and keep walking.

      • Woodrowfan said, on June 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

        and then there’s the New York versions, “no offense” and “and I mean that in the best possible way.”
        as in “Your sister is the ugliest woman i ever saw, no offense…”

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