Nomenclature of Our Southern Armies

Sheet music cover for the piano piece entitled Beauregard's March, published by Miller & Beacham, Baltimore, c. 1861.
Sheet music cover for the piano piece entitled Beauregard’s March, published by Miller & Beacham, Baltimore, c. 1861.

The North Carolinians are called “Tar Heels;” South Carolinians, “Rice Birds;” Georgians, “Goober Grabbers;” Alabamians, “Yaller Hammers;” Texans, “Cow Boys;” Tennesseans, “Hog Drivers;” Louisianians, “Tigers;” Floridians, “Gophers;” Virginians, “Tobacco Worms;” Arkansians, “Tooth-picks;” Missourians, “Border Ruffians;” Kentuckians, “Corn Crackers;” and Mississippians, “Sand Lappers.” The Cavalry, “Buttermilk Rangers;” Infantry, “Webfoot.” A regiment of deserters from the Federal Army, kept behind by us to build forts, “Galvanized Rebs.” The Federals called us “Johnnies;” we called them “Yanks” and “Blue Bellies.”

Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, Journal of B. L. Ridley, Lieut. General A. P. Stewart’s Staff, C.S.A.

ἐν τούτῳ νίκα

Confederate soldiers and the new Southern Flag within the fallen Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 1861; salted paper print, Gilder Lehrman Collection.
Confederate soldiers and the new Southern Flag within the fallen Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 1861; salted paper print, Gilder Lehrman Collection.

The fourth day of March was an eventful day in the Provisional Capital of the Confederate States of America, as well as in Washington. At half past three P.M., on yesterday, the Flag of the Confederate States of America was flung out to the breeze from the staff of the Capitol and as its proud folds gradually unclosed, it seemed to wave defiance to the Northern wind that came rushing down from the Potomac laden with threats of Abolition coercion. A large concourse of spectators had assembled on Capitol Hill, and the number would doubtless have been trebled had it been possible to have given an earlier announcement of the ceremony, Miss L.C.T. Tyler, one of the fair descendants of the Old Dominion, and a granddaughter of the venerable Ex-President of the late United States, had been selected to perform the principal part upon this occasion. When the time had arrived for raising the banner, Miss Tyler steadily and with heart throbbing with patriotic emotion, elevated the flag to the summit of the staff, cannon thundered forth a salute, the vast assemblage rent the air with shouts of welcome, and the people of the South had for the first time a view of the Southern flag. Ere there was time to take one hasty glance at the national ensign, the eyes of all were upturned to gaze at what would perhaps at any time have attracted unusual attention; but on this occasion seemed really a Providential omen. Scarcely had the first report from the salute died away, when a large and beautifully defined circle of blue vapor rose slowly over the assemblage of Southern spirits there assembled to vow allegiance to the Southern banner, rested for many seconds on a level with the Flag of the Confederate States, then gradually ascended until lost in the gaze of the multitude. It was a most beautiful and auspicious omen, and those who look with an eye of faith to the glorious future of our Confederacy, could not but believe that the same God that vouchsafed to the Christian Emperor the cross in the heavens as a promise of victory, had this day given to a young nation striving for Liberty a Divine augury of hope and national durability.

The Flag of the Confederate States was the work of the Committee appointed by Congress, none of the designs sent by individuals as models having been thought suitable. It consists of three bars of red and white. The upper red, middle white, and lower red. The lower bar extends the whole width of the flag, and just above it, next to the staff on the upper left hand corner of the flag is a blue Union with the seven stars in a circle. The design is simple, easily recognized, and sufficiently distinct from the old Gridiron. Long may it wave over a free prosperous and United people.

Montgomery Weekly Advertiser, 6 March 1861.

Our Cause Is Just and Holy

Confederate Second National Flag carried by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.
Confederate Second National Flag carried by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.

Come, all ye sons of freedom, and join our Southern band,
We are going to fight the Yankees and drive them from our land.
Justice is our motto and providence our guide,
So jump into the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Secession is our watchword, our rights we all demand;
To defend our homes and firesides, we pledge our hearts and hands;
Jeff Davis is our president, with Stephens by his side;
Brave Beauregard, our General, will join us in the ride.

Our wagon is the very best, the running gear is good;
Stuffed ’round the sides with cotton, and made of Southern wood.
Carolina is the driver, with Georgia by her side,
Virginia holds the flag up, and we’ll all take a ride.

There are Tennessee and Texas also in the ring;
They wouldn’t have a government where cotton wasn’t king.
Alabama and Florida have long ago replied;
Mississippi and Louisiana are anxious for the ride.

Old Lincoln and his Congressmen with Seward by his side,
Put old Scott in the wagon just for to take a ride.
McDowell was the driver, to cross Bull Run he tried,
But there he left the wagon for Beauregard to ride.

Manassas was the battleground. the field was fair and wide;
They Yankees thought they’d whip us out, and on to Richmond ride;
But when they met our “Dixie” boys, their danger they espied;
They wheeled about for Washington, and didn’t wait to ride.

The Tennessee boys are in the field, eager for the fray;
They can whip the Yankee boys three to one, they say;
And when they get in conflict with Davis by their side,
They’ll pitch into the Yankee boys and then you’ll see them slide.

Our cause is just and holy, our men are brave and true;
We’ll whip the Lincoln cutthroats is all we have to do.
God bless our noble army; in Him we all confide;
So jump into the wagon and we’ll all take a ride.

The Southern Wagon (1861).

Our Just Rights Will Be Respected

…wherever the voice of justice and humanity can be heard, our declaration, and our just rights will be respected. But the blood which flows in our veins, like the tributary streams which form and sustain the father of rivers, encircling our delightful country, will return if not impeded, to the heart of our parent country. The genius of Washington, the immortal founder of the liberties of America, stimulates that return, and would frown upon our cause, should we attempt to change its course.

— Fulwar Skipwith, 1st (and only) Governor of the Republic of West Florida,
Inaugural Address,  1810.

* * *

On 23 September 1810, after meetings beginning in June, rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge and unfurled the flag of the new republic: a single white star on a blue field. This flag was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. It would later become known as the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”

The boundaries of the Republic of West Florida included all territory south of the 31st parallel, west of the Perdido River, and east of the Mississippi River, but north of Lake Pontchartrain. The southern boundary was the Gulf of Mexico. It included Baldwin and Mobile counties in what is now Alabama; the Mississippi counties of Hancock, Pearl River, Harrison, Stone, Jackson, and George, as well as the southernmost portions of Lamar, Forrest, Perry, and Wayne counties; and the Louisiana parishes of East Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington. Despite its name, none of present-day Florida lies within its borders. The capital of the Republic of  West Florida was St. Francisville in present-day Louisiana, on a bluff along the Mississippi River.

On 27 October 1810, West Florida was annexed to the United States by proclamation of President James Madison, who claimed it as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Initially, Skipwith and the government of West Florida were opposed to the proclamation, preferring to negotiate terms to join the Federal Union as a separate state. However, William C. C. Claiborne, who was sent to take possession, refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the West Florida government. Skipwith and the legislature reluctantly agreed to accept Madison’s proclamation.

* * *

Born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, Fulwar Skipwith was a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson. Skipwith studied at the College of William & Mary, but left at age 16 to enlist in the army during the American Revolution. He served at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. After American Independence was achieved, he entered the tobacco trade.

Following the French Revolution of 1789, Skipwith was appointed US Consul to the French colony of Martinique in 1790. He experienced the turmoil of the revolution, and the aftermath of the abortive slave insurrection in Martinique before departing in 1793. In 1795,  he was appointed Consul-General in Paris under Ambassador James Monroe.

The First Cabinet (1861)

The original Confederate Cabinet. L-R: Judah P. Benjamin, Stephen Mallory, Christopher Memminger, Alexander Stephens, LeRoy Pope Walker, Jefferson Davis, John H. Reagan and Robert Toombs.
The first Cabinet of the President of the Confederate States of America, assembled at Montgomery, Alabama (1861). L-R: Judah P. Benjamin, Stephen Mallory, Christopher Memminger, Alexander Stephens, LeRoy Pope Walker, Jefferson Davis, John H. Reagan, and Robert Toombs.

First Confederate Capitol

A view of the Alabama Capitol, in Montgomery, in 1886. This building also served as the first capitol of the Confederate States of America from 4 February 1861 until 29 May 1861, when the Confederate capital was removed to Richmond, Virginia. Two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in Montgomery, adjourning May 21. The Permanent Constitution was adopted there on 12 March 1861.

Independent Now and Forever

On 11 January 1861, the Alabama Secession Convention passed a resolution designating a flag designed by a group of Montgomery women as their official flag. This flag has often been referred to as the Flag of the Republic of Alabama. On the obverse side of the flag is depicted the Goddess of Liberty holding in her right hand an unsheathed sword; in her left a small flag with one star. In an arch above this figure were the words “Independent Now and Forever.” On the reverse side of the flag was a cotton plant with a coiled rattlesnake. Beneath the cotton plant are the Latin words: “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch Me Not). This flag was flown until 10 February 1861, when it was removed to the Governor’s Office after having been damaged by severe weather. It was never flown again.

Here’s to Our Confederacy

Cover of sheet music for the popular song The Bonnie Blue Flag.

The third verse of the song misstates the order in which the states seceded from the Union. The dates on which the states seceded are as follows:

South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861), Texas (February 1, 1861), Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), North Carolina (May 20, 1861), and Tennessee (June 8, 1861).

Thus, Alabama did not take South Carolina by the hand, but delayed its secession until the departure of Mississippi and Florida. The most likely reason for the discrepancy is literary license and a desire to fit within a certain poetic meter.

* * *

We are a band of brothers
And native to the soil,
Fighting for the property
We gained by honest toil;
And when our rights were threatened,
The cry rose near and far–
“Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star!”

CHORUS:
Hurrah! Hurrah!
For Southern rights hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

As long as the Union
Was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and like brothers
Both kind were we and just;
But now, when Northern treachery
Attempts our rights to mar,
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

First gallant South Carolina
Nobly made the stand,
Then came Alabama,
Who took her by the hand.
Next quickly Mississippi,
Georgia and Florida
All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

Ye men of valor, gather round
The banner of the right;
Texas and fair Louisiana
Join us in the fight.
Davis, our loved president,
And Stephens statesman are;
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

And here’s to old Virginia–
The Old Dominion State–
Who with the young Confederacy
At length has linked her fate;
Impelled by her example,
Now other states prepare
To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

Then cheer, boys, cheer;
Raise the joyous shout,
For Arkansas and North Carolina
Now have both gone out;
And let another rousing cheer
For Tennessee be given,
The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag
Has grown to be eleven.

Then here’s to our Confederacy,
Strong are we and brave;
Like patriots of old we’ll fight
Our heritage to save.
And rather than submit to shame,
To die we would prefer;
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

— Lyrics by Harry Macarthy (d. 1880).

The Bonnie Blue Flag.

Let Us Invoke the God of Our Fathers

Inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America, 18 February 1861, the Capitol at Montgomery, Alabama.

It is joyous in the midst of perilous times to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by his blessing they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity. With the continuance of his favor ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.

— From Inaugural Address of President Jefferson Davis, 18 February 1861.

Every Facility Will Be Afforded By Our People to Induce Them to Come

An Alabama regiment marching through Capitol Square, on their way to join the forces under Beauregard.

Richmond as the Confederate Capital. — We understand there is considerable favor shown to our beautiful and advantageously situated city by the Provisional Congress, as the permanent Capital of our Southern Confederacy. We say advantageously situated, for if Washington was a suitable location for the Capital of the United States, we think that, as we cannot hold that city, the next best selection would be the Capital of Virginia, which has so many historical associations, and around which cluster so many National recollections. For beauty and centrality of situation, facility, convenience of access, polished society, and perfect healthfulness — summer and winter — surely no city in our fair Southern land can vie with Richmond. There is no lack of suitable sites for a National Capitol, and there is abundance of accommodation for the deputies in Congress, and visitors on business or pleasure. Washington had nothing to recommend it as the seat of government, except, perhaps, that it stood midway between the Northern and Southern States on the Atlantic coast, which then composed the Confederacy. It has always been considered unhealthy in summer, and we are very much disposed to concur with our confreres of the Charleston Mercury, in believing the odor of corruption hangs around it in too great measure to make us willing to start our pure and virgin Government in a city which has been so polluted, even could we obtain possession of it. There may be difficulties, indeed, in the way of ceding the jurisdiction to Congress of the necessary “ten miles square,” but we trust they can be overcome, should the choice be made in our State. At the same time, until we know precisely of what States our Confederacy will be composed, it is probable Congress will defer selecting a permanent seat of Government. We think it quite likely that the Provisional Government will temporarily remove to Richmond, from reliable information which has reached us from Montgomery. If this decision be arrived at, our State Executive and citizens of Richmond will heartily welcome the distinguished gentlemen now administering the Government at Montgomery, and we are sure every facility will be afforded by our people to induce them to come and make their residence agreeable. Even now, we learn that Richmond will, in a few days, be the headquarters of the Confederate Army, it being announced that general officers to command the Southern troops are about to be appointed and sent to Virginia, to direct the movements of the Confederate troops.

— From the Richmond Dispatch, 11 April 1861, p. 1.

We Have Rescued the Constitution from Utter Annihilation

Alexander H. Stephens.

[…] I presume that no event since the separation of the more Southern States from the late Union, has occurred to give such unbounded pleasure to the whole Southern people, as the news that the Old Dominion had thrown her fortunes with ours.

We had thought, from the beginning, that this result would ultimately be inevitable. Individually, you will allow me to say I had not the slightest doubt upon the subject, and I feel extremely gratified that my anticipations have been so early realized.

[…]

The importance of a union or an alliance of some sort on the part of your Commonwealth with the present Confederated States South, in this conflict for our common rights, I need not discuss before this intelligent body. Any one State, acting in its own capacity, without concert with other States, would be powerless, or at least could not exert its power efficiently. The cause of Virginia, and I will go further, the cause of Maryland, and even the cause of Delaware, and of all the States with institutions similar to ours, is the cause of the Confederate States — the cause of each, the interests of each, the safety of each is the same; and the destiny of each, if they could all but be brought to realize the dangers, would be the same. Therefore, where there is a common danger, where there is a common interest, where there is a common safety, where there is a common destiny, there ought to be a common and united effort.

[…]

Map of Virginia, 1861.

But to be entirely frank, I must say that we are looking to a speedy and early union of your State with our Confederacy. Hence the greater importance for this immediate and temporary alliance. We want Virginia, the mother of States, as well as of statesmen, to be one of the States of our Confederation. We want it because your people are our people –your interests are our interests; nay, more: because of the very prestige of the name of the Old Commonwealth. We want it, because of the memory of Jefferson, of Madison, and Washington, the father of his country — we want it for all the associations of the past — we want it because the principles in our Constitutions, both provisional and permanent, sprung from Virginia. They emanated from your statesmen — they are Virginian throughout — taught by your illustrious sages and, by their instrumentality mainly, were incorporated in the old Constitution. That ancient and sacred instrument has no less of our regard and admiration now than it ever had. We quit the Union, but not the Constitution — this we have preserved. Secession from the old Union on the part of the Confederate States was founded upon the conviction that the time honored Constitution of our fathers was about to be utterly undermined and destroyed, and that if the present administration at Washington had been permitted to rule over us, in less than four years, perhaps, this inestimable inheritance of liberty, regulated and protected by fundamental law, would have been forever lost. We believe that the movement with us has been the only course to save that great work of Virginia statesmen.

[…]

On this point indulge me a moment. Under the latitudinarian construction of the Constitution which prevails at the North, the general idea is maintained that the will of the majority is supreme; and as to constitutional checks or restraints, they have no just conception of them. The Constitution was, at first, mainly the work of Southern men, and Virginia men at that. The Government under it lasted only so long as it was kept in its proper sphere, with due regard to its limitations, checks and balances. This, from the origin of the Government, was effected mainly by Southern statesmen.

[…]

We have rescued the Constitution from utter annihilation. This is our conviction, and we believe history will so record the fact. You have seen what we have done. Our Constitution has been published. Perhaps most of you have read it. If not I have a copy here, which is at the service of any who may wish to examine it. It is the old Constitution, with all its essentials and some changes, of which I may speak presently.

[…]

The people of Virginia may have been attached to the Union; but they are much more attached to their homes, their firesides and all that is dear to freemen — constitutional liberty.

All hopes of preserving this in the old Union are gone forever. We must for the future look to ourselves. It is cheering to feel conscious that we are not without hope in that quarter. At first, I must confess, that I was not without serious apprehensions on that point. These apprehensions were allayed at Montgomery.

[…]

Virginia Capitol.

For, while I have no authority to speak on that subject, I feel at perfect liberty to say, that it is quite within the range of probability that, if such an alliance is made as seems to me ought to be made, the seat of our Government will, within a few weeks, be moved to this place.

— Excerpts from address by Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, and Special Commissioner to the Commonwealth of Virginia, to the Secret Session of the Virginia Secession Convention, Tuesday, 23 April 1861.