There were several flags of the Confederate States of America used during its existence from 1861 to 1865. Since the end of the American Civil War, personal and official use of Confederate flags, and of flags derived from these, has continued under some controversy.
The state flags of Mississippi and Georgia were based on Confederate flags. The flag of North Carolina is based on the state's 1861 flag, which dates back to the Confederacy and appears to be based on the first Confederate flag. The flags of Alabama and Florida appear to be of Confederate inspiration, but are probably derived from the Cross of Burgundy flag, which flew over the territory of Spanish Florida.
The first national flag of the Confederacy was designed by Prussian artist Nicola Marschall in Marion, Alabama. The Stars and Bars flag was adopted March 4, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama and raised over the dome of that first Confederate Capitol. Marschall also designed the Confederate uniform.
One of the first acts of the Provisional Confederate Congress was to create the Committee on the Flag and Seal, chaired by William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. The committee asked the public to submit thoughts and ideas on the topic and was, as historian John M. Coski puts it, "overwhelmed by requests not to abandon the 'old flag' of the United States." Miles had already designed a flag that would later become the Confederate battle flag, and he favored his flag over the "Stars and Bars" proposal. But given the popular support for a flag similar to the U.S. flag ("the Stars and Stripes"), the Stars and Bars design was approved by the committee. When war broke out, the Stars and Bars caused confusion on the battlefield because of its similarity to the U.S. flag of the U.S. Army.
Eventually, a total of 13 stars would be shown on the flag, reflecting the Confederacy's claims to have admitted Kentucky and Missouri into their union. The first public appearance of the 13-star flag was outside the Ben Johnson House in Bardstown, Kentucky. The 13-star design was also used as the basis of a naval ensign.
During the solicitation for the second national flag, there were many different types of designs that were proposed, nearly all making use of the battle flag, which by 1863 had become well-known and popular. The new design was specified by the Confederate Congress to be a white field "with the union (now used as the battle flag) to be a square of two-thirds the width of the flag, having the ground red; thereupon a broad saltier [sic] of blue, bordered with white, and emblazoned with mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States."
The nickname "stainless" referred to the pure white field. The flag act of 1864 did not state what the white symbolized and advocates offered various interpretations. The most common interpretation is that the white field symbolized the purity of the Cause. The Confederate Congress debated whether the white field should have a blue stripe and whether it should be bordered in red. William Miles delivered a speech for the simple white design that was eventually approved. He argued that the battle flag must be used, but for a national flag it was necessary to emblazon it, but as simply as possible, with a plain white field]
The flags actually made by the Richmond Clothing Depot used the 1.5:1 ratio adopted for the Confederate Navy's battle ensign, rather than the official 2:1 ratio. Initial reaction to the second national flag was favorable, but over time it became criticized for being "too white". The Columbia Daily South Carolinian observed that it was essentially a battle flag upon a flag of truce and might send a mixed message. Military officers voiced complaints about the flag being too white, for various reasons, including the danger of being mistaken as a flag of truce, especially on naval ships, and that it was too easily soiled. This flag is nonetheless a historical symbol of the civil war.
The third national flag was adopted March 4, 1865, just before the fall of the Confederacy. The red vertical stripe was proposed by Major Arthur L. Rogers, who argued that the pure white field of the second national flag could be mistaken as a flag of truce. When hanging limp in no wind, the flag's Southern Cross canton could accidentally stay hidden, so the flag could mistakenly appear all white.
Rogers lobbied successfully to have this alteraton introduced in the Confederate Senate. He defended his redesign as having "as little as possible of the Yankee blue", and described it as symbolizing the primary origins of the people of the South, with the cross of Britain and the red bar from the flag of France. The Flag Act of 1865 describes the flag.