The Union and the Confederacy, as combatants in the Civil War, were each represented by a national flag.

The Union flag—not to be mistaken for Britain’s Union Jack—featured thirteen alternating red and white stripes and a white star for each state in the Union on a field of blue.  The Union Flag of 1859 sported 33 stars when Oregon joined, 34 in 1861 following Kansas, and 35  in 1863 when West Virginia was welcomed into the fold.

Interestingly, and perhaps in a little-known feat of clairvoyance, the stars representing states that seceded to join the Confederacy were never removed throughout the conflict, which meant that they were represented by the flags on both sides.

The Confederates’ national flag evolved from one not unlike the Union’s—with its stars arranged in a circle—into the Stars and Bars and the battlefield’s Southern Cross, until they settled on the Stainless Banner with a red bar to avoid the flag being mistaken as an attempt to surrender.

While the Southern Cross still makes appearances, one can hope that someday it will become as detestable a symbol of “racial purity” as the Nazi swastika or the Schutzstaffel lightning bolts.

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