By Dr. Richard Banz
The Confederate flag holds different meanings for different people. Throughout the last 150 years, they have taken on a wide variety of connotations, some deserved, some misunderstood, but all emotional.
On Monday, the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History will be fortunate enough to unveil a rare regimental flag issued to the 65th Georgia Infantry during the Civil War. This flag will not only be an important exhibit for the museum, but it will serve as the centerpiece of an ongoing dialogue about the causes and outcomes of the Civil War.
This flag is the only known surviving example of an Army of Tennessee flag that has both the unit and state designations sewn onto both sides. Bloodstained and riddled with 41 bullet holes it received during the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns, the flag appeared at veterans gatherings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
To fully understand the impact of the Civil War, it’s important to discuss all aspects of this battle flag and others like it – what it meant to the soldiers who fought in the War, what the flag symbolized after the War and what it came to represent to the next generations of Americans.
With all of our exhibits, we do not set out to spark argument, but rather spur thoughtful conversation. To understand and learn from the past and what symbols such as the Confederate flag have meant over time, it’s important to face these head on and discuss in an open and considerate forum.
The Museum is grateful to the Davis Family (Don Davis, Rhonda Davis Nesmith and Pete Davis) who donated the flag. The banner had been in the Davis family for 145 years after Private John Davis of the 65th Georgia Infantry Regiment brought home the flag following the war.
Private Davis, who served as the unit color bearer, is the great-great grandfather of the current generation of Davis’.
Dr. Richard Banz is executive director of The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History.