The Confederate battle flag is a very controversial symbol. Many hate the flag and many love it, and it has acquired a lot of baggage over time. Coski goes into the history of the flag from the days it was created until today, covering a lot of territory in an extensive way.
Many think that the battle flag is the flag that served at the Confederacy’s national flag; Coski shows that this is not true. In fact, there were three national flags. The first is called the Stars and Bars, which was discontinued when it was mistaken for the flag of the United States, the Stars and Stripes, especially when it was not unfurled. This led to many problems and confusion during battles. The Confederacy adopted a second flag, which the battle flag is part of. The battle flag was in the canton, or upper corner, of the flag. The rest of the flag was white, which was mistaken as a flag of truce or surrender. The Confederates added a red bar to the edge of the flag to correct this.
The battle flag was intended to be used by the entire Confederate Army, but not all of the various units or regiments used a uniform flag. Several had their own version of it or even a totally different flag. The soldiers would put on the battle flag the names of the battles they were in. These flags were considered almost sacred and were not given up without a fight; many flag bearers on each side were killed rather than giving up their flags.
Coski researches how the battle flag has been used since the Civil War ended. At first it was hidden and only came out for special events like the funerals of Confederate soldiers. There were organizations of Confederate veterans and their successors who regulated the proper use of the flag. Over time different groups and individuals would abuse these rules and use the flag for their own interests - the battle flag has been used by hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan and then by individuals using it as an advertisement tool or gimmick.
Those interested in flags or those interested in the Civil War and the material things associated with it will enjoy this book. This book is easy and fascinating to read: there are several plates of illustrations, and the chapters are the right length. This book belongs in Civil War collections or in collections about flags. Public and academic libraries will want this book in their collections.