Responsible Confederate flagging of graves

Posted on March 17, 2008 by


This might seem petty to some, but this is just one of those items that gets under my skin. It’s just one of my those “stickler” issues that I have as an historian.

Just about every morning, I drive by Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg, Virginia and I notice the seven star First National Confederate flag that flies on the flagpole in front of the Stonewall Jackson B&B and the flags (three of them – the Confederate Battleflag, the Virginia flag, and the First National) in the Confederate section of Woodbine. OK, I see the “quaint” connection with the named B&B and, of course, over the graves of Confederate dead. It’s just that the absence of that eighth star in the First National, whenever flown in Virginia, is like a joke when it comes to “responsible flagging” of Confederate graves (it also seems a bit odd that a B&B with the name Stonewall Jackson attached to it flies a seven star First National, considering Jackson hailed from the eighth state to secede). Even if the cemetery wasn’t in Virginia, odds are that about half of the men buried in the Confederate section are from states that seceded after Virginia. So, if a First National is to be flown, and considering those who place the flags are supposed to be “responsible” advocates of Confederate heritage (and “know” their history and heritage), the flags being used need to accurately represent the soldiers in the graves.

Frankly, I find the whole matter of flagging Confederate graves to be very complicated, especially when adding reluctant conscripts to the formula. Just as in examples of wrongful placement of headstones over graves, so too should the placement of Confederate flags on graves be more heavily scrutinized by those who engage in the practice. The persisting question should be, “do the flags over the graves represent the wartime sentiments of those in the graves?” I am quite certain that it is not the rule in all cases, and perhaps not so in more cases than some realize or would care to admit.