Should the National Museum of Civil War Medicine Change Its Logo?

We have this story out of Frederick, Maryland [see this update]

The producers of a Washington, DC visitor’s guide dropped the National Museum of Civil War Medicine from their guide because of the museum’s logo.

As you can see it has the US Flag and a confederate flag side-by-side with a caduceus between them and the slogan “Divided by Conflict, United by Compassion.”

The producers sent the museum an email asking them to submit another image, one without the confederate flag.

Is this a case where the logo needs to be changed?

Kevin Levin thinks so:


David Price, the museum’s executive director, said, “That logo is dead-on what we do, divided by conflict, united by compassion.”

Union and confederate medical personnel treated soldiers from both sides without making distinctions.

The tourism group understands the flag here is presented in a historical context, but they still object to it. According to the story, “Price said the unity between opposing sides that characterized medical treatment and history in the Civil War is a lesson for the divisions and conflict of today.”

“Danielle Davis, director of communications for Destination DC, sent an emailed statement on behalf of Elliott Ferguson, the organization’s president and CEO. ‘We are constantly evaluating how best to promote Washington, D.C., for visitors and have decided not to include images that can be considered controversial, which includes the confederate flag and weapons,’ the email stated. ‘We certainly recognize that the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is a place to learn about American history and we are willing to promote the museum without the confederate flag imagery in our publications.’ ”

The museum has been a member of Destination DC and paid the yearly $1,000 membership fee since 2011. Their ads have been in previous visitor’s guides.

“Price acknowledged the heightened awareness surrounding these symbols. He wrote in an email on Tuesday that discussions of Confederate flags have often ended with the conclusion that the proper place for the flag is a museum. ‘Well — we are a museum,’ he wrote. Price said by phone that he respected Destination DC’s decision, but he also called it a ‘missed opportunity’ for education. ‘I wish they would have taken it as an opportunity to explain our museum and the flag and why we have it and how it’s used,’ he said.”

I have to respectfully disagree with Kevin on this. I come down on the side of the museum. I think the logo is perfect to show what happened during the Civil War regarding medicine, and you can’t tell the story of Civil War medicine without telling both sides, and the logo shows clearly both sides are being included in the story. This is not a case of racial intimidation and is a textbook case of the flag being used in a historical context. I think the good people at Destination DC are mistaken and should include the museum’s ad with its logo. Perhaps they could include a short message explaining the use of the flag, but I don’t think the logo should be changed.

What do you think?



  1. I agree that, in this context, a representation of the CSA should be used. But, wouldn’t the third national flag be more appropriate?

    1. Well, the Third National has the battle flag on it, too, so why not go with the most recognizable flag?

  2. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    Witnessing the removal of the CBF from public/civic buildings and managing its proper display has been a slow ascent up a very steep mountain. I hate to think that we are going to risk credibility by sliding down the lee side of the summit on a sled of myopic views.

    I understand that we are still in the infancy of how to manage this all too powerful symbol – the Confederate Battle Flag – however, to impugn the museum for including the CBF in an educational setting is just wrong. It demonstrates that we may not have gained nearly as much ground as I thought on this topic, as some would choose to shun one of the antidotes to symbolic hate: proper historical context. Whilst it IS imperative that the CBF be taken out of circulation as a modern symbol, it is conversely as important to place the flag back where it belongs – in a museum, so that people can understand and learn of its genesis.

    As I have said before: I am hoping that this is just another example of the growing pains of a well-intentioned endeavor. I, for one, would not want to throw out a potential learning opportunity as the consequence of extreme actions.

  3. Confederate surgeons remained behind at Gettysburg, caring for wounded in the vast shambles. Prisoners? No. No one knew how to begin dealing with literal acres of shattered men, Confederate and Union surgeons worked without sleep for days, an easy thing to say- try doing it while wounds caked in filth and maggots never, ever stop being present on your operating ‘ table ‘ and blood makes puddles at your feet. . Imboden’s train forced to leave men too severely wounded to move, these officers chose to remain behind enemy lines. Union and Confederate surgeons frequently worked in proximity. Gettysburg citizens hosted some, memoirs written post war speak of these men with great fondness. What war? The massive effort, bringing wounded men to care they needed, some after laying in sun and rain for days removed all concept of ‘ side ‘. .Articles in era papers track later 1863 movements as the surgeons felt called South again. They received military clearance from Washington and an escort, to disappear back into the war- until next time.

    It not only ignores these moments of sheer humanity within a brutal war; removing the Confederate flag from this particular symbol removes the men in gray who a chose duty to plain, old alleviate suffering those unimaginable days. No, it is not over-the-top to become impassioned on the topic. ” Lee and Meade came to Gettysburg then Pickett’s Charge happened, Meade won The End ” is NOT the story of Gettysburg despite our abysmal educational system’s insistence it be taught this way. ( No reflection on our teachers, to be sure. Keep seeing them trying to slide a little History in ). This is.

    There is a vast sea of mythology already attached to the American Civil War. This would create another, by omission. For Heaven’s sake, just no.

  4. John Lindsay · · Reply

    [edit] Unlike the various states who added the Confederate Battle Flag to their state flags as a protest against the federal government for properly exercising its 14th Amendment powers this usage exists in s proper historical context. What is next; editing the battle flag out of history books or murals at the battle sites lest someone get offended? Maybe we should join the neo-Confederates in trying to expunge the existence of slavery too so that no one need know that they descend from slaves. This is nothing more than political correctness and political correctness is nothing more than slavery.

    1. Well, I wouldn’t compare “political correctness” with slavery. The two just aren’t similar at all. “Political correctness” is a term I don’t like to use because it’s applied to so many things it becomes meaningless. I don’t see anything wrong with trying to not offend people, which is why I suggested an explanatory note that tells about the logo and why it’s appropriate. I don’t agree with changing the logo, but I also think steps should be taken to alleviate concerns about it, and I think education about it is the best way to do that.

      1. John Lindsay · · Reply

        Certainly there is a similarity. Slavery is a degree of ownership of a person while PC is a degree of ownership of what a person says, does, or thinks. It strips away one of our most essential God-given rights and turns it into a privilege to be doled out at the whim of public or private agencies. How is this not slavery? Now, Is there a difference in scale between PC control and chattel slavery? Certainly. But in like regard, there is a difference in scale between a beloved and privileged house slave and the most abused field slave, but that difference does not negate the fact that the house slave is indeed a slave.

        1. There is no similarity at all. So-called “political correctness” is not in any way an ownership of what another person says, does, or thinks. That’s just silly. There is no essential right to offend people, and what some call “political correctness” is actually politeness. Is your wife raped by someone asserting “political correctness?” Do they sell your children away from you? Do you get whipped? Sorry, but don’t try to tell me the two are in any way similar.

          1. Shoshana Bee · ·

            Indeed. It is a denigration to the memory of all who lived and died under the institution of slavery that “slavery” be reduced to a mere metaphor of one’s discontent.

          2. John Lindsay · ·

            How do you figure that there is no right to offend? If one has the right to speak, one has the right to offend. If one can be prevented from offending then one has no right to speak outside of certain approved areas. As they say, the 1st Amendment does not exist to defend popular speech, it exists to protect the unpopular. You offend the neo-Confederates with the truth, they offend us with their nonsense. This is as it should be. No, no right to offend – or more accurately, no right not to take offense as one can choose to be offended by any innocuous thing.
            Now, as to my comparison, please note that I did clearly say that there is a difference in scale between controlling speech and chattel slavery so to attack my position by showing that there is a difference in scale is unfair. No, my wife does not get raped by words, my children don’t get sold by words, and I don’t get whipped by words. BUT my wife can be denied justice because of PC, my right to raise my children can be compromised by PC, and I can lose work because of PC. PC does affect our liberties and over the years that effect has increased. It is important to realize that the form of chattel slavery in the antebellum south is not the only form a slavery that has or does exist. Some are far more mild, some were actually worse. The 13th Amendment ended this chattel slavery, only to see it replaced by the slavery of Jim Crow. Having our liberties taken from us because someone else might get their feelings hurt is to descend into a mild form of slavery; and mild forms tend to get worse; just ask John Castor, the indentured servant of Anthony Johnson.

          3. I say there is no right to offend because I understand free speech. You don’t have the right to say whatever you want. Otherwise there would be no libel or slander laws. You have the right to free political speech, but you don’t have the right to offend others in nonpolitical speech. You can say whatever you want, within reason, if you are making a political point, but if you’re not making a political point you don’t have that right. I say “within reason” because even political speech is not unlimited. The famous statement about yelling “fire” in a crowded theater illustrates that point. That’s why I support an individual’s right to display a confederate flag on their own property if they wish to do so. They are engaging in political speech, and while others may be offended by the sight of that flag, those displaying it are within their rights to express that political speech on their own property. If, however, one’s political speech entails calls to violence, then they can be sanctioned for that call to violence because it is a threat to public safety.

            Your view of what is innocuous is irrelevant because what is innocuous to you is not innocuous to others. You don’t get to determine whether or not you’ve injured someone. You also don’t have the right to say whatever you want to say while representing someone else, even if political in nature. That’s because when you’re representing someone else, your speech is their speech, and you don’t get to determine their speech. They do.

            Free speech involves the government making rules. So if you say offensive things at work, even if political in nature, you can be fired. That’s not Congress or a state/local government passing a law or punishing you for saying something, it’s a private employer doing so, and they can do that. That’s why an employer can prevent you from advocating a political candidate at work, and that’s why they can prevent you from saying offensive things. That’s not “PC.” That’s the employer maintaining a professional work environment.

            The above claims about slavery are just nonsense. To claim one is enslaved because one can’t insult someone else at work is idiotic at best.

  5. One tourist magazine wants a change. Fine. Take another Confederate flag and put it in the logo and use it for only Destination DC advertising.

    1. Would another one be as recognizable?

  6. Pat Young · · Reply

    Destination DC is not asking for the logo to be changed, they are asking for a new image for the museum’s ad.

    1. Isn’t an organization’s logo its official image?

      1. My org does ads all the time without our logo, but to each her own.

        1. Presumably, we’re to believe that some people would be offended seeing the logo in the visitor’s guide. Let’s say they put in a different image and those individuals decide to visit the museum based on the ad. Wouldn’t they then be offended upon seeing the logo once they arrived, and would they not feel they had been deceived into believing they would not be offended in going to the museum?

          Instead, it seems better to me to have the logo in the ad and an explanatory note explaining that the flag is presented in a historical context only. That to me is an upfront method of handling things.

          1. I wonder if you and Kevin are missing the question here for the museum. It is not whether the logo is appropriate or not, or whether someone would be offended or not. The question is whether the museum wants to advertise in the guide sans CBF.

          2. The question arose because of the logo. If the logo didn’t have the flag on it, there wouldn’t be an issue. That tells me the logo is the underlying issue.

  7. I’m ambivalent about this one. As the most recognizable CSA symbol, I agree that the CBF is appropriate to use in places like this. I’m typing this with my Antietam poster close by with the national flag over Mac, and the CBF over Lee. It’s clearly just a symbolic device to immediately communicate which side each General was on (in case we didn’t know).

    Then again, I can understand how some people feel about any depiction of the CBF, historically appropriate or not. Wouldn’t a photo of a wounded soldier in blue and another in gray on opposite sides of the caduceus reflect their slogan/mission equally well?

    Happy aloha Friday, Al. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Bert, same to ya. 🙂

      A soldier in blue and a soldier in gray might do it, but do you make one of them African-American? Which one? Or do you keep them both white? Then you’re not being inclusive of all the soldiers. The flags include all the soldiers who fought for each side.

      1. Good point, Al. Although I do still think the blue and gray uniforms are sufficiently iconic to get the symbolic point across pretty well. But I’d agree if there ever was a place where the CBF is ok, this is it. Does that make me a borderline Flagger? 😉

        1. Not even close, Bert. Perhaps just the uniforms with no soldiers in them?

          1. Maybe. I think a wounded/bandaged soldier from each side wearing their blue/gray uniform would capture the spirit of their mission well. But to switch gears, I recall a TED video on flags and icons suggesting that the KISS rule applies here (my interpretation not his words). The simplest design that instantly gets the message across is always best. So maybe they knew what they were doing when they designed that logo.

          2. Sounds like they did.

        2. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

          Hi Bert,

          Trying hard not to drift into my usual hyperbole, I would say that there was never a more important opportunity to educate the public on both the CW & CBF, than to have it (CBF) contained in a purely historical setting. I would venture out on a limb to say that there are probably folks out there who are more familiar with the CBF in its “modern setting” than in its historical, contextual one. By having this sort of all-or-nothing approach to the symbol, it could suggest the introduction of some sort of hysterical approach towards the study of history, so that it has to be rendered palatable by today’s standards before passing muster to study/explore. [edit at request of writer]

          I want to emphasize that there IS a time and place for the CFB, and the modern use is not one of them; however, one must be able to draw the line between now and then — “then” being 1861-1865 — when approaching the topic/study of the CBF.

  8. bob carey · · Reply

    As I commented over at Civil War Memory, I believe that the Destination DC folks are acting with good intent but in this case they are creating a tempest in a teacup.

  9. I would argue that the CBF is symbolic of the war overall, not just the Confederacy. Otherwise, a US flag icon could be for the Revolution, World Wars, Vietnam, Fourth of July, Captain America …. whatever. It’s just our flag, with no context.

    (Yes, I’m aware of the stars …. but unless it’s the Betsy Ross circle, who bothers to count the stars?)

    1. You’d be surprised. Already I’ve seen someone criticize the US flag on the logo because it doesn’t represent the Union in 1863 or 1864 due to the number of stars.

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