Confederate flag ushers in Civil War’s 150th

Published 12:30 am Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Bonnie Blue flag of a newly independent Mississippi flew again from Vicksburg’s Old Court House Museum Saturday, unfurled by a wintry breeze as the Civil War Sesquicentennial — 150th anniversary commemoration — officially got underway.

Among the dozens of observers on the museum’s front lawn were those in period military uniforms, calico dresses with hoop skirts and gentlemen’s tailcoats and top hats, some direct descendants of veterans of the War Between the States.

“The Bonnie Blue flag was my great-great-grandfather’s battle flag,” said Vicksburg resident Robert “Bobby” Armstrong, decked out in a Confederate dress uniform trimmed with gold braid, white gloves and knee boots, and sporting the hat worn by his ancestor, Maj. Gen. Frank Crawford Armstrong.

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Confined to a wheelchair, Bobby Armstrong carried across his knees the sword Gen. Armstrong had been presented by Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“It was an absolute honor to see that flag again,” said Armstrong, a California native who also numbers in his lineage signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. “Secession is not a four-letter word.”

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the day the Mississippi Secession Convention voted to become the second state, after South Carolina, to secede from the Union.

Saturday’s events, which included the Old Court House ceremony and cannons fired from City Front and Fort Hill, were organized and presented by staff of the Vicksburg National Military Park, initiating what park officials hope will be a multi-year learning experience, said Tim Kavanaugh, VNMP interpretive ranger.