The Confederate Battle Flag is one of the most controversial symbols in America
. Those opposed to its display cite it as a divisive symbol of a dark time in the country's history, when men considered other men as property
, and brother fought against brother
. Those who support it usually cite it as an important symbol of Southern heritage, the chivalry and honor romanticized in the antebellum
South, and the bravery of men defending their homeland. As every historian knows, the civil war was not fought to end slavery.
Actually, one can make a good case that those who fought on the side of the Confederacy had the more correct position, anyway. Secession had been a right of states since the Union was founded. The war was fought to force the southern states to remain in the union, bearing an unfair tax burden due to the tariffs prevalent during the day. The vast majority of people who fought were 1) not slaveowners, and 2) not benefitting from slavery. For poor whites, slavery was not beneficial. They were effectively excluded from low wage jobs, in much the same way as many unskilled laborers today cannot compete with immigrants (particularly illegal aliens who will work for less than minimum wage). This is one of the reasons many people were opposed to slavery being extended to new territories. It was not some noble opposition to oppression, it was to protect white people's jobs.
The bulk of those who fought were fighting an invasion force. Had the states who seceded been allowed to go their own way, there is no reason to believe the south would have attacked the north. The name for the conflict, is therefore, something of a misnomer, since a civil war is a war for dominance, and the war was really a war for independence, much more similar to the American Revolution than the War of the Roses for example. The Confederate Battle Flag is also something of a misnomer, as it never was that in any official capacity. It was the flag of General P. G. T. Beauregard, and became the most popular design since it was distinctive from the stars and stripes of the American Flag. The flag most often seen flying today is not a battle flag, either, since the battle flag was a perfect square.
The confederate battle flag experienced something of a resurgence with the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s with some states changing their flags to incorporate the St. Andrew's Cross as an act of defiance to federal government policies of forced desegregation. There is debate as to whether these objections were due to racism or federalism, which parallels the debate over the meaning of the confederate battle flag itself in modern America.