On Saturday, March 5, 2016 the Twenty Eighth Annual Confederate Flag Day Observance and Celebration was held at the State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. The program was sponsored by the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Since 1988 the SCV has observed Flag Day on the Saturday closest to March 4th the date in 1861 the Confederate Congress adopted their first Confederate States of America “Stars and Bars” flag. It was designed by Major Orren Randolph Smith from Louisburg, North Carolina and flew for the first time over the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama the evening of March 4, 1861. Another National flag was to follow.
Finally on March 4, 1865 Congress adopted the Third National Flag—the union (upper left) showed the St. Andrew’s cross with thirteen white stars on a red field (background). That “Southern Cross” was the Confederate Battle Flag used by troops defending their homeland against Lincoln’s invading army.
The Raleigh celebration began, appropriately, with Posting of the Colors by a color guard followed by an Invocation by the SCV Chaplain Rev. Herman White. Then, the Welcome came from SCV Commander J. Daniel Bollick.
After the requisite pledge to the U. S. flag and salutes to the Confederate flag (I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence and undying devotion to the Cause for which it stands.) and the North Carolina State Flag (I salute the Flag of North Carolina and pledge to the Old North State, Love, Loyalty and Faith.) the Ellis Selph Band played “Oh! Susanna” with banjo, violin and harmonica accompaniment; followed by the Battle Hymn of Freedom (“Dixie Forever…down with the eagle, up with the cross”).
Dr. Boyd D. Cathey, independent historian and Aide-de-Camp to the North Carolina SCV gave some remarks and introduced the Keynote Speaker.
Mr. Bernhard Thuersam, Wilmington, N. C. design consultant and independent historian spoke. Mr. Thuersam is the executive director of the Cape Fear Historical Institute (website below). He reminded the audience that the many flags flown by the Confederate States of America were all American flags. Those flags that flew over Americans fighting for independence during the Revolution in the 1770s were as emblematic of liberty as were those flying during the 1860s.
The flags in this room and above us today symbolize why (North Carolinians) left their families, homes, farms, towns, and State to fight an invader intent upon subjugating them and their loved ones, confiscating their property, overthrowing freely-elected government, and installing a puppet regime controlled by aliens far, far away.
Thuersam also noted another “emblem of free government”: the North Carolina Capitol building where we gathered. It is, he said, “a symbol of the Western Civilization” which forms the basis of understanding our culture, traditions, law and government. Elements of it are “a fine example of Greek Revival architecture.”
He recalled that in March 1909, across the rotunda from our meeting, in the State Senate chamber Gov. Kitchin accepted a portrait of the Capitol architect David Paton. A speaker described the building as a simple style of Greek concept: including elements from the Parthenon, Athenian Ionic and the Acropolis.
Mr. Thuersam said that as with the American flags being honored, the Capitol building and others similar to it “are inseparable parts of the culture, traditions and heritage of the people who built them, those who carried the red, white and blue flags of the Confederacy.” Their flags symbolized Western Civilization itself—the abstract cause they fought for.
This building held, on May 30, 1893, the coffin of President Jefferson Davis, “draped in the battle flag of the Fifth North Carolina Regiment.” For two hours nearly 5000 North Carolinians paid respects to their president. The memorial in front of the building, erected on May 20, 1895, is inscribed “First at Bethel, last at Appomattox.”
Thuersam recounted reasons that the ancestors of people gathered in the Capitol House chamber fought for, as expressed in 1893 by General Samuel French:
We were a peaceful and quiet people, practicing the courtesies of an age that is past, and rose in arms only when our homes were threatened with invasion; and in doing so we did but exercise the first law of nature, an instinctive law that pervades all life.
To have acted otherwise we would have lost self-respect, been untrue to ourselves, unworthy of our homes, false to our country, and irreverent to God….
Thuersam continued: “Gen. French said their flags symbolized the fundamental reasons they went into combat—the defense of their family, home, farm and State, their efforts to preserve their heritage of liberty and republican government dating from the American Revolution.
“The flags honor the North Carolina veterans who fought under them; they are memorials to the 125,000 who left their homes to defend their country, and the 40,000 who did not return.
“The 1861 North Carolina Republic flag—the lone white star on a red field with white and blue bars alongside—symbolizes both our Mecklenburg declaration of independence in 1775, and our second declaration of independence in 1861.”
The Confederate Flag Day ceremony concluded with the Ellis Selph Band playing ‘Dixie’ with the audience joining in, followed by a Benediction by Reverend White and Retiring of Colors by the color guard.
This program was inspiring, but sad. It showed that many North Carolinians still honor their brave ancestors, and traditions of independence and fighting for freedom against oppressive regimes. But it is also apparent that the general public does not understand it and, in fact, have been taught to hide from, even reject, their honorable history.