While I don't read any statements or endorsements of historical viewpoints behind this, Microsoft had to figure someone would notice that it's now selling a Confederate Army uniform for your Xbox Live avatar's virtual dress-up and call it out as a borderline offensive gesture. One of our readers saw it, and did.
Listed generically as "Civil War Uniform," the outfit is part of an "American History" series of avatar costume items that went on sale this weekend, and in the context of the entire collection, it all seems rather benign. The collection offers British redcoat uniforms and hats, for example, and that army's rifles and bayonets spilled plenty of American blood, and its government did some things we found oppressive and horrible, at the time, too. We've still patched up most of our differences, except the ones concerning football, of course.
Some might wonder why a Confederate grey uniform is offered and not a Union blue with it. Perhaps the Revolutionary War uniform (which is blue) is meant to represent the nation, a vastly different union from what it was 75 years later. Who knows.
July 4 celebrates the American Declaration of Independence. I suppose it's as good as any national holiday to reflect on American history, but the Civil War came 84 years later. (An Abe Lincoln hat and beard set is also in the collection).
Out of context, it's also curious because a grey "Civil War uniform" is recognisable Confederate symbology. I'm not sure what Xbox Live's policy is on this particular emblem but it would seem using a Confederate flag as your gamer picture would invite moderators' attention, as that symbol is taken (and has been historically used) as a racial provocation. At minimum, someone would probably report you.
I've invited a Microsoft representative to comment on this but being that it's the July 4 holiday, of course, we may not hear anything about it for a while.
The uniform is 160 Microsoft points (two bucks) and there's also a gray soldier's cap for 80 points (a dollar).