The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District is aware of the recent concerns regarding the Confederate battle flag. As an organization, we abhor the awful tragedy that took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In no way does the National Historic District condone, promote or support racism, violence or intolerance. In addition to this, the managing entity of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District is mandated by Congress to interpret, educate and inform the Nation on the Shenandoah Valley’s Civil War history and in doing so, recognizing the necessary cultural and political changes that resulted from the American Civil War.
The Confederate battle flag was adopted following the First Battle of Manassas, where Confederate troops had trouble distinguishing between their own men and Union troops. This was caused in part by the Confederate First National flag’s resemblance to the United States flag. This provoked Confederate generals Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard to lobby for a new national flag.
When a new flag design was rejected by the Confederate Congress, Confederate generals met at Fairfax Court House to discuss adopting a battle flag separate from the Confederate national flag. They agreed on a design by William Porcher Miles that became the Confederate battle flag we know today .
Though the battle flag was never adopted as a National flag, elements were incorporated into later versions. During the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns in 1863 and 1864, the battle flag or National flags bearing the same design would have been used by Confederate forces during many of the battles that took place at the sites the National Historic District preserves and interprets today.
The adoption of the Confederate battle flag by organizations opposing the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s further complicated and even exaggerated the meaning of the battle flag. As a result, the battle flag became a symbol of racial inequality and persecution to many in the general public.
The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District seeks to accurately interpret and share the Shenandoah Valley’s Civil War story. In some instances and when it is historically relevant, the display of the Confederate battle flag will be present in interpretive materials and at events. This is intended to accurately explain and depict the events that took place in the Shenandoah Valley over 150 years ago. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District will continue to honor the memories of all who lived through this period in American history.
Referenced: Clemens, Thomas G. “Confederate Battle Flag.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Jul. 2014. Web. 24 Jun. 2015.