The Conquered Banner: A Poem of Defeat and Reconciliation
The Conquered Banner is one of the most famous poems of the post-Civil War era. It was written by Father Abram Joseph Ryan, a Catholic priest and Confederate Army chaplain, who has been called the \"poet laureate of the postwar south\" and \"poet-priest of the Confederacy\".[^1^]
The poem was first published on June 24, 1865, in the New York Freeman, a pro-Confederate, Catholic newspaper. Ryan wrote it under the pen name \"Moina\".[^2^] He said he composed it in Knoxville, Tennessee, shortly after General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, \"when my mind was engrossed with the thought of our dead soldiers and our dead Cause\".[^3^]
The poem expresses the grief and sorrow of the Confederate supporters over their defeat and the loss of their flag. It also urges them to furl their banner and accept the outcome of the war. The final stanza reads:
Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gentlyâit is holy--
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it notâunfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people's hopes are dead!
This is interpreted as Ryan's statement that, however noble he and others thought the Confederate cause had been, the defeat was final, and the Confederate idea should be put away forever, along with the Confederate flag.[^4^]
The poem was very popular among Southern readers, who memorized and recited it for generations. It was also published in the first issue of the Confederate Veteran magazine in 1893.[^5^] It has been described as one of the most powerful expressions of Southern patriotism and nostalgia.
However, the poem also has been criticized for its romanticization of the Confederacy and its disregard for the evils of slavery and racism. Some have argued that Ryan's poem contributed to the myth of the Lost Cause and the glorification of the Confederate flag.
Today, the poem remains a controversial and contested piece of American literature. It reflects both the pain and pride of a defeated people, as well as their struggle to reconcile with their past and their future.
The Conquered Banner also inspired other forms of artistic expression. For example, a musical setting of the poem was composed by John Hill Hewitt, a Confederate soldier and musician, in 1866. The song was performed by various singers and bands throughout the South and became a popular anthem of the Lost Cause movement.
Another example is a painting by Henry Mosler, an American artist who served in the Union Army. He painted The Conquered Banner in 1869, depicting a young woman holding a furled Confederate flag in front of a window. The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1870 and received critical acclaim. It was also reproduced as an engraving and widely circulated in newspapers and magazines.
The painting was praised for its realism and sentimentality, as well as its message of reconciliation. Some interpreted it as a symbol of the South's acceptance of defeat and loyalty to the Union. Others saw it as a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Confederate soldiers. The painting also sparked controversy among some Northern viewers, who objected to its glorification of the rebel flag.
The Conquered Banner remains a relevant and controversial poem in American history and culture. It reflects the complex emotions and attitudes of the post-Civil War era, as well as the ongoing debates over the meaning and legacy of the Confederacy and its flag. ec8f644aee