Synopses & Reviews
"Bonner offers an intriguing perspective on Confederate nationalism as well as a broader meditation on the meanings and uses of patriotism. Bonner's book provides valuable new historical context for the Confederate flag controversies of our own time."--Drew Gilpin Faust, author of Creation of Confederate Nationalism and Mothers of Invention
"This book describes more than the story of a flag, but the origins of a flag culture in the Confederacy. Bonner presents how southern separatists created symbols of resistance and then of national unity. This is the best study to date not only of the creation of the flags but also of their representation of an inner struggle of a people to define themselves, the meaning of the war, and their nation. Anyone who wants to gain an understanding of the complicated ways in which past and present intersect will want to consult this insightful study."--William Blair, The Pennsylvania State University
"Robert Bonner's Colors and Blood is an engaging, perceptive, and thought-provoking study of the Confederacy's flags and what they meant to the men and women who pledged allegiance to them from 1861 to 1865. Bonner brings to light in a most creative way one of the crucial but neglected aspects of the Rebel nation's culture, and in doing so provides valuable perspective on one of today's most contentious issues."--Stephen V. Ash, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
"The Confederate battle flag has been at the center of heated debates about the meaning of secession and the Confederacy, the changing uses of symbols in the South, and the continuing volatility of race in the United States. This perceptive and persuasive study explores how Confederate flags took on enormous emotional and political significance during the Civil War, as well as how Lost Cause advocates later used the banner to promote their vision of a gallant white South battling against the odds. Anyone interested in the cultural importance of flags, debates about the degree to which white southerners developed a sense of Confederate nationalism, and a range of other important topics will turn to this book with great profit."--Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War and Lee and His Army in Confederate History
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2003
"Colors and Blood
represents the best of recent Civil War scholarship applied to a topic of the widest recent interest.... Most impressive is [Bonner's] excavation of the place of flags in everyday life and thought. . . . Colors and Blood
not only provides insight into the development of the Southern Cross, one of the most controversial images in contemporary America, and into the structure and values of the Confederacy, it also illuminates lasting intersectional understandings of flags in the United States."--Thomas J. Brown, Georgia Historical Quarterly
"Thought-provoking. . . . It will appeal to all those who have an interest in flags or the Confederacy, and to those who seek a clearer understanding of the roots of today's Confederate flag controversy."--Richard Sauers, Civil War News
"Bonner's outstanding research and analysis provide hope for those who still feel that first-rate scholarship might inform, contextualize, and transcend contemporary historically charged and emotionally passionate polemics. An outstanding work."--Choice
"A timely, thorough, and highly sophisticated discussion of the origins, context, and significance of the flag(s) of the Confederacy. Colors and Blood
represents quite an achievement. . . . [F]or those who want to understand why the symbols of the Confederate South remained so powerful in the New South, Bonner's close reading of rebel iconography is just what we have waited for."--W. Scott Poole, H-Net Reviews
"The book is much more than a history of Confederates and their flags. It is a study of myth-making and symbolism, an interpretation of collective emotion, a meditation on war and violence, and, lastly, a judicious commentary on historical memory and contemporary flag culture. . . . This is a fantastic accomplishment."--Paul Christopher Anderson, American Nineteenth Century History
"By using the flag as an organizing principle for the study of the
complexities of Confederate nationalism, Bonner has written a book that is useful for scholars, appealing to students, and of interest to the general public as well."--Anne Sarah Rubin, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
As rancorous debates over Confederate symbols continue, Robert Bonner explores how the rebel flag gained its enormous power to inspire and repel. In the process, he shows how the Confederacy sustained itself for as long as it did by cultivating the allegiances of countless ordinary citizens. Bonner also comments more broadly on flag passions--those intense emotional reactions to waving pieces of cloth that inflame patriots to kill and die.
Colors and Blood depicts a pervasive flag culture that set the emotional tone of the Civil War in the Union as well as the Confederacy. Northerners and southerners alike devoted incredible energy to flags, but the Confederate project was unique in creating a set of national symbols from scratch. In describing the activities of white southerners who designed, sewed, celebrated, sang about, and bled for their new country's most visible symbols, the book charts the emergence of Confederate nationalism. Theatrical flag performances that cast secession in a melodramatic mode both amplified and contained patriotic emotions, contributing to a flag-centered popular patriotism that motivated true believers to defy and sacrifice. This wartime flag culture nourished Confederate nationalism for four years, but flags' martial associations ultimately eclipsed their expression of political independence. After 1865, conquered banners evoked valor and heroism while obscuring the ideology of a slaveholders' rebellion, and white southerners recast the totems of Confederate nationalism as relics of the Lost Cause.
At the heart of this story is the tremendous capacity of bloodshed to infuse symbols with emotional power. Confederate flag culture, black southerners' charged relationship to the Stars and Stripes, contemporary efforts to banish the Southern Cross, and arguments over burning the Star Spangled Banner have this in common: all demonstrate Americans' passionate relationship with symbols that have been imaginatively soaked in blood.
About the Author
Robert E. Bonner is Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations and Tables, xiii
Introduction: Waving Colors and Boiling Blood, 1
1. The Stars and Stripes of Senator Davis. A Prologue, 8
2. The Standards of State Resistance, 19
3. Selecting and Singing a New Constellation, 39
4. Blood Sacrifice and the Colors of War, 67
5. The Southern Cross and Confederate Consolidation, 96
6. Treason's Banner and the Colors of Loyalty, 125
7. Conquered Banners, Furled and Unfurled, 153