Why are there 13 stars on Confederate flags?

My students and I are studying the Civil War. One of my very perceptive 8th graders asked me why there were 13 stars on the Confederate flag. We only count 11 states in the Confederacy? Am I missing something here?

The short answer is that the 12th and 13th stars represent, respectively, Missouri and Kentucky.

As you may have read, both Kentucky and Missouri proclaimed neutrality early in the war. In the case of Missouri, that neutrality was broken when US forces under General Nathaniel Lyons arrested the Missouri State Guard at their summer encampment, and imprisoned them in St. Louis. His forces then proceeded up the Missouri river to Jefferson City, forcing the State government into exile. This began a civil war between the Missouri State Guard and the United States forces. The Missouri government retreated to the town of Neosho in the southwestern corner of the state. The legislature went into a special session, and on 31 October 1861 adopted an Ordinance of Secession. On 28 November 1861 the Confederate Congress passed an Act admitting Missouri as the 12th state of the Confederacy.

The Union response in Missouri was to organize a state convention, which declared the state government to be deposed, and organized a provisional state government. As a result, Missouri had two state governments: the elected government which seceded and joined the Confederate States, and the provisional government created by Unionists to remain with the United States.

In Kentucky, the actions were essentially a mirror image of Missouri. Kentucky’s neutrality was broken when CS Gen. Leonidas Polk moved his troops to Columbus, Kentucky, one day before US General Ulysses Grant moved his army into Paducah, Kentucky. The legislature of Kentucky had been elected on a pledge of neutrality backed by a secondary pledge to go with the South if neutrality proved impossible. However, when the neutrality was broken, the legislature cast its lot with the North, on the grounds that the Confederacy had been the first to break the neutrality. Southern sympathisers in Kentucky were furious. They replied that Polk’s move had been necessitated by Grant’s preparations, and that the pro-Union members of the legislature had broken their campaign pledge.

As a result, a convention with delegates from most of Kentucky’s counties met at the town of Russellville and adopted a Declaration of Independence. In the same fashion as the pro-Union convention in Missouri, the pro-Confederate convention in Kentucky deposed the elected state government and created a provisional government loyal to the Confederate States. By an Act of Congress approved on 10 December 1861, Kentucky became the 13th state admitted to the Confederacy.

So Missouri and Kentucky had representatives in both Congresses and regiments in both armies. They were not alone in this. Virginia and Tennessee also had Unionist congressmen and army regiments, and there was even a provisional government of Virginia which was recognized by the United States. The only reason I can think of that Missouri and Kentucky are treated differently in most history books from the rest of the Confederate States is that their secessions took place well after the outbreak of hostilities, and as a result large portions of their territory were pretty quickly overrun by US forces. Missouri was tenacious however. Her forces kept returning, and as a result the number of battles fought in Missouri were only surpassed by the number in Virginia and Tennessee, respectively.

Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr.