Rebel Flags Collection

Rebel Flags Collection

The Rebel Flags Collection, sometimes called the Army of Tennessee or the battle flag (often incorrectly called the Stars and Bars), evokes a red flag with a blue in white cross that symbolizes the Confederate States of America. It is the only rectangular flag that was used by the CSA and is more often associated with the southern United States than its larger cousin, the American flag. The rebel flag is recognized by many Americans because it was featured on the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit and in the 1979-1985 television series The Dukes of Hazzard, where General Lee’s stock car carried the Georgia state flag with the battle flag design painted over its roof throughout the show’s run. It is also worn by the character Thelma in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise.

Rebel with a Cause: Unveiling the Rebel Flags Collection

Thousands of Iowans fought and died for the Union during the Civil War, and their captured battle flags are tucked away in a vault at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The museum’s long-term Civil War exhibit focuses on Iowans’ experiences before and during the war, rather than their interactions with Union soldiers, which makes the flags a lower priority for display.

Among those flags is one that LIFE magazine photographer Hugh Morton captured in two different locations. He may have staged the scenes of a man waving the flags, or he may have encountered the same person at two locations. The existence of the corresponding negatives suggests that he did.