October 28, 1945 Last Bastion of the Confederacy. (It’s Not what you Think).

In New York city and state alike, economic ties with the south ran deep. 40¢ of every dollar paid for southern cotton stayed in New York in the form of insurance, shipping, warehouse fees and profits.

By the early 1830s, cotton exceeded the value of all other American exports, combined. As secession loomed over the nation, one Chicago Daily Times editorial warned that if the South departed “in one single blow, our foreign commerce must be reduced to less than one half of what it is now”.


Fun Fact: South Carolina seceded in December 1860, and the world waited to see who’d follow.  New York City became the next to call for secession on January 6, when Mayor Fernando Wood addressed that city’s governing body.  “When Disunion has become a fixed and certain fact”, he cried, “why may not New York disrupt the bands which bind her to a venal and corrupt master…and destroyed the Confederacy of which she was the proud Empire City?”

In New York city and state alike, economic ties with the south ran deep.  40¢ of every dollar paid for southern cotton stayed in New York in the form of insurance, shipping, warehouse fees and profits.

30 minutes’ east of Buffalo, the village of Lancaster contemplated staying with the Union.  500 miles from the nearest Confederate state, George Huber remembered the time.  “When war was declared, Lancaster seethed with the news, and many were the nights we stayed up as late as 12 o’clock to talk things out.  I was twelve years old at the time, but I remember the stern faces of the elders and the storm of passionate and angry discussion. Soon the town split into two factions, it was a very tense situation…Often the excitement ran so high that if a man in either group had made the slightest sign, neighbors would have been at each other’s throats and fists would have taken the place of words.”

town line courthouse
The old blacksmith shop

“Town Line”, a hamlet on the village’s eastern boundary, put the matter to a vote.  In the fall of 1861, residents gathered in the old schoolhouse-turned blacksmith’s shop.  By a vote of 85 to 40, Town Line voted to secede from the Union.

As casualty reports came back from the front there was angry talk of arresting “Copperheads” for sedition.  “Seceders” grew quiet, afraid to meet in public places amidst angry talk of lynching.  A half-dozen or so of the more ardent secessionists actually went south to fight for the Confederacy.  Others quietly moved north, to Canada.   Outside of Lancaster, no one seemed to notice.  Taxes continued to be paid. No federal force ever arrived to enforce the loyalty of the small village.

A rumor went around in 1864, that a large Confederate army was building in Canada, poised to invade from the north.  Town Line became a dangerous place for the few southern sympathizers left.  Most of those remaining moved to Canada and, once again, Lancaster became the quiet little village in upstate New York, that nobody ever heard of.

Impatient to get on with it, Dade County Georgia “symbolically” seceded both from the state as well as the Union, back in 1860.  Officially, Dade County seceded with Georgia in 1861, and rejoined with the rest of the state in 1870, but the deal was sealed on July 4, 1945 when a telegram from President Harry S. Truman was read at a celebration marking Dade County’s “rejoining” the Union.

The “Confederate Gibraltar”, Vicksburg Mississippi, fell on July 4, 1863.  The city wouldn’t celebrate another Independence Day for 80 years.

In 2011, the residents of Town Line, New York dressed up to mark the town’s sesquicentennial of secession from the Union

By October 1945 there legally remained only one part of the former Confederate States of America. The little hamlet of Town Line, New York.

Even Georgians couldn’t help themselves, from commenting. 97-year-old Confederate General T.W. Dowling opined: “We been rather pleased with the results since we rejoined the Union. Town Line ought to give the United States another try“. Judge A.L. Townsend of Trenton Georgia commented “Town Line ought to give the United States a good second chance“.


On October 7, 1945 there arrived a note by courier express.  “There are few controversies that are not susceptible to a peace time resolution” read the note, “if examined in an atmosphere of tranquility and calm rather than strife and turmoil. I would suggest the possibility of roast veal as a vehicle of peace.  Why don’t you run down the fattest calf in Erie County, barbecue it and serve it with fixin’s in the old blacksmith shop where the ruckus started? Who can tell? The dissidents might decide to resume citizenship.”  The note was signed “Very Sincerely Yours, Harry Truman”.

Fireman’s Hall became the site of the barbecue, as “the old blacksmith shop where the ruckus started” was too small for the assembled crowd.  On October 28, 1945 residents adopted a resolution suspending the 1861 ordinance of secession by a vote of 90-23. The Stars and Bars of the Confederate States of America was lowered for the last time, outside the old blacksmith shop.

Alabama member of the United States House of Representatives John Jackson Sparkman, may have had the last word:  “As one reconstructed rebel to another, let me say that I find much comfort in the fact that you good people so far up in Yankee land have held out during the years. However, I suppose we grow soft as we grow older.”


May 1, 1863  Flags of the Confederacy

I find it infinitely preferable that we learn from our history, rather than hide from it.

Last week, New Orleans authorities took to the dead of night, to remove monuments to the history of their own city.   The recent fuss about the “Confederate Flag” has faded away, sort of, not so the political atmosphere that gave it birth.   For all that, it seems worth pointing out:  the “Stars and Bars” with which we’ve all become so familiar, never was the flag of the Confederate States of America.  It wasn’t even the real Stars & Bars.

Battle of Sullivan’s Island, 1776

On June 28, 1776, British General Sir Henry Clinton ordered the ship Thunder to attack the Continental fortification on Sullivan’s Island, in Charleston Harbor. The fighting was furious and lasted 16 hours and more. At one point, a British shell tore the flagstaff away. In full view and under constant fire, Sergeant William Jasper of the 2nd South Carolina retrieved the fallen flag of his regiment and fixed it to an artilleryman’s sponge pole. There he stood on the parapet, holding the flag under fire until a new pole could be installed.

Jasper’s heroism had rallied his forces to fight on.  Governor John Rutledge gave him his personal sword, in recognition of his bravery.  The battle was a humiliating defeat for a British fleet that hadn’t been beaten in 100 years. It was four years before they’d take another run at Charleston.

SC secession flag
SC Secession Flag

The Liberty Flag or Moultrie flag became a standard for South Carolina militia. A palmetto was added in 1861, a reference to the palm trunks laid over the sand walls of Fort Moultrie, which had helped withstand that British bombardment of 85 years earlier. A variant of this flag appeared at South Carolina’s secession conventions, as did militia and state flags in all the state secession conventions.

Bonnie Blue Flag
Bonnie Blue Flag

When Mississippi seceded in January 1861, a blue flag with a single white star was flown from the capitol dome. This, the first and unofficial flag of the Confederacy, came to be called the “Bonnie Blue Flag”, closely patterned after the flag flown over the short-lived Republic of West Florida in 1810, and adopted by the Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 10, 1836.


The first national flag of the Confederate States of America, the real Stars and Bars, was similar in design to the United States flag. A blue field containing seven, nine, eleven and finally thirteen stars, depending on the period, appeared in the “canton”, or upper left corner. Three stripes of equal height ran from hoist to fly end, alternating red to white and back to red.

Stars and bars
Stars and Bars

Regiments of the era carried flags to help commanders observe and assess the progress of battle. At a distance, the Stars and Bars and the Stars and Stripes were hard to tell apart, particularly in still conditions, or when smoke clouded the view.

The similarity between the two national flags led to confusion at the first battle of Manassas, also known as the first battle of Bull Run. After the battle, Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard wrote that he was “resolved then to have [our flag] changed if possible, or to adopt for my command a ‘Battle flag’, which would be entirely different from any State or Federal flag”.

The star studded diagonal stripes of the St. Andrew’s Cross is what resulted, becoming Beauregard’s battle flag, as well as that of the Army of Tennessee, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the ensign of the Confederate Navy.

Most submissions for the second national flag incorporated the battle flag into the design. The winning design adopted on May 1, 1863, was called the “Stainless Banner”, placing the Saint Andrews Cross in the canton, the rest of the flag pure white. Visibility remained an issue with this design as with the first; as it was often misinterpreted as a flag of surrender.

Stainless Banner

The third national flag, also known as the “Blood Stained Banner”, was adopted March 4, 1865. This last design retained the white background with the same canton as before, but now there was a vertical red stripe on the fly end.

The Confederate battle flag enjoyed renewed popularity during the first half of the 20th century. Several WWII military units with Southern nicknames, made the flag their unofficial emblem. The USS Columbia flew a Confederate Navy Ensign throughout combat in the South Pacific. A Confederate battle flag was raised over Shuri Castle after the Battle of Okinawa, by a Marine from Company A of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; the self-styled “Rebel Company”. It was visible for miles and was taken down after three days on the orders of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., son of Confederate general Simon Bolivar Buckner. “Americans from all over are involved in this battle”, said Buckner, replacing it with the US flag.

Blood stained banner
Blood Stained Banner

According to Civil War historian and native Southerner Shelby Foote, the flag traditionally represented the South’s resistance to Northern political dominance.

The symbol became highly controversial during the Civil Rights era, and disagreement continues over its symbolism. Supporters of the flag view it as a symbol of southern heritage and the independence of the distinct cultural tradition of the American South. Civil rights groups associate it with a history of racial discrimination and the institution of slavery.

Now, we have the current government in New Orleans, taking to the dark of night, to remove Confederate memorials from the streets of that city.

In writing these history essays, I hope to learn something new about a subject which interests me.  I enjoy the responses of those who feel the same way. There’s plenty of time for politics and I don’t intend that this blog be the place for it.  Except to say:  I find it infinitely preferable that we learn from our history, rather than hiding from it.

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