AP Explains: Confederate flags draw differing responses

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FILE - In this Friday, July 3, 2020, file photo, Civil War reenactors marching with Confederate battle flags during their reenactment of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa. The banner, with its red field and blue X design, is the best known of the flags of the Confederacy, but the short-lived rebel nation also had other flags. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Public pressure amid protests over racial inequality forced Mississippi to furl its Confederate-inspired state flag for good, yet Georgia’s flag is based on another Confederate design and lives on. Why the difference?

The Confederacy used more than one flag while it was fighting the United States to preserve slavery, and most of the designs are largely forgotten more than 150 years after the Civil War ended. Here are some facts about the flags of the Confederacy and how those symbols are viewed today.


It depends on how you count, but lots. The Confederate States of America had three different national flags during its brief existence from 1861 through 1865, and multiple other flags were used by individual states, army and naval groups.

The flag that's best known today — a red background split by a blue X that's decorated with white stars — is often called the “Confederate battle flag.” It originated in late 1861 as the fighting flag of the nation's main eastern force, the Army of Northern Virginia, said John M. Coski, a historian and author with the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Other Confederate units to the west adopted the battle flag as the war went on, and it became the banner most commonly carried by troops, said Peter Ansoff, president of the North American Vexillological Association. The X design was incorporated into the nation's national flag in 1863 and remained there through the end of the war.


With multiple variations in size, shape and decorations, the battle flag of the defeated South lived on after the war, largely because of the soldiers who fought under it, Coski said.