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Augusta County Fair orders removal of Confederate flag display

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FISHERSVILLE — Ken Chandler, a history teacher on staff at the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, was invited to the Augusta County Fair this year to educate the public on the American Civil War.

However, his display of three Confederate First National flags, as well as three United States and three Virginian flags, was not well received by some members of the community.

“And they said I had to take them down,” Chandler said of the fair board’s decision.

Chandler said the First National is the first flag the Confederate States of America had, and is not the Stars and Bars flag that most know of the Confederacy using. After the first Battle of Manassas, the Confederacy changed its flag to the Second National flag so that their flag would not resemble the United States flag. The Confederacy’s flag changed again just before the war ended in 1865 to what is called the Third National flag. And the Confederacy also had a battle flag.

“Those flags were a part of my talk,” Chandler said. He said he will still talk with the public about the Civil War, but the flags will not be displayed as a visual artifact.

Chandler, who also teaches about the Revolutionary War, has sabers, knives, pistols, torpedoes, a saddle and belt buckles from the Civil War to share as artifacts. He dresses in Civil War clothing, but said he is not a reenactor.

“I do these programs for schools all over Virginia,” he said. In his program, Chandler shares what Civil War soldiers ate and how they were paid for their service.

He said that several members of the community, including the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, came by his table Wednesday night at the fair and expressed their disappointment that the flags had been taken down instead of remaining as part of Chandler’s educational talk.

Ellen Shaver Shank, executive director of the fair board, said Chandler is one of the entertainments provided at the fair “to show people history.” This is Chandler’s first year participating in the Augusta County Fair as an interpreter of the Civil War.

“We knew this was part of the Civil War,” Shank said of the flags.


Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.