The Flag of Sumter

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Flag of Fort Sumter

As we close this year, one hundred and fifty years ago defeat loomed for the Confederacy.  It is good to recall at this point in our almost four year examination of the Civil War the courage with which the Confederates maintained for four deadly years their lop-sided struggle for independence against a nascent world power.  This courage is not better symbolized I think than by Conrad Wise Chapman’s Flag of Sumter.  The son of a famous American painter, Chapman painted a series of 31 paintings of Charleston Harbor at the request of General Beauregard while Chapman was on duty as an enlisted man during the long siege of Charleston.  This painting, with its lone Confederate sentry standing in the bombed out ruins of Fort Sumter under a proud but tattered Confederate banner, shows how Chapman perceived the War and how most Confederates viewed their fight.  On the horizon of the painting we barely glimpse the Union fleet, its power so much greater than any force the Confederate defenders could hope to summon, but the will to resist remains in spite of the overwhelming odds.  A majority of former Confederates in the decades after the War came to eventually accept that it had been good that the Union had been preserved and slavery abolished, but they always took great pride in the fight they had waged for a cause they thought a just one at the time.  One cannot hope to truly understand our Civil War without understanding that pride, preserved forever by this painting.

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2 Comments

  1. Kipling: “Piet” – Homage to Boer Soldiers”
    (Regular of the Line)

    “I DO not love my Empire’s foes,
    Nor call ’em angels; still, 
    What is the sense of ’atin’ those
    ’Oom you are paid to kill? 
    So, barrin’ all that foreign lot
    Which only joined for spite, 
    Myself, I’d just as soon as not
    Respect the man I fight.” 

  2. For Christmas my wife and I received Ken Burn’s documentary on the civil war. Are you familiar with it, and if so what is your opinion of it?

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