It's Time To Push Out Confederates From Gettysburg For Good
Imagine if one of the first things we acknowledged about the Confederate army, when it entered Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, is that it included thousands of enslaved men. It would change how we think about the campaign, its outcome, and its place in the broader trajectory of the war.
For a brief moment the institution of slavery entered a free state. In that time, Confederates captured and sent back south hundreds of free Blacks in central Pennsylvania. Black families in and around Gettysburg were forced to flee. Their property around the battlefield, including the Bryan Farm, witnessed some of the most violent fighting of the entire war.
Unfortunately, with a few rare exceptions, we acknowledge none of it.
If we did, scenes like yesterday would not take place.
Every year Confederate reenactors are invited to march alongside United States soldiers in Gettyburg’s Remembrance Day Parade, which commemorates Lincoln’s famous address.
That’s right. On the same day that the community gathers to reflect on Lincoln’s words, Confederate flags are marched through the streets.
Over the past few years, Gettysburg College historian Scott Hancock has taken the initiative to remind his neighbors of their complicity in this sad spectacle.
Few people know that Lee’s army included thousands of enslaved men and that it functioned as a slave catching army throughout the war.
Remembrance Day commemorations began in 1957 and within a few years Confederate reenactors were invited to take part in the parade. Their inclusion dovetailed with the beginning of the Civil War Centennial and its emphasis on the theme of reunion that was embraced by most white Americans, before calls for civil rights reminded the nation of its “unfinished work.”
Throughout this time, according to historian Jill Titus, Black Gettysburgians experienced discrimination and segregation on a daily basis. African Americans in Gettysburg and on a national stage called out the hypocrisy of the centennial celebrations as a betrayal of what the nation fought for and the role that Black soldiers played in helping to save the nation and end slavery.
This history’s absence from our collective memory of the war is compounded by the culture of the town. There is no shortage of Confederate flags and other Lost Cause-inspired gifts in the shops that line Steinwehr Avenue and the Baltimore Pike.
A first-time visitor to Gettysburg with no knowledge of the Civil War might be excused for not knowing who won the battle or the war for that matter.
It is sad and disturbing to think that even after the 2015 massacre in Charleston; the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017; and the January 6 insurrection, the town of Gettysburg still allows men dressed in Confederate uniforms to carry the battle flag through town.
Only after the heinous murders committed by Dylann Roof in Charleston and the surfacing of photographs of him holding a Confederate flag did the gift shop at the Gettysburg battlefield visitor center pull items that featured the battle flag.
I can only imagine how the Black community feels about the sight of Confederate uniforms in their streets on this day. Any decent American should be disgusted.
It’s time to push out Confederates from Gettysburg for good.
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I realize this comment is about a month late but I have been thinking about this post. 1. Anyone who thinks secession and the War was not about slavery needs to read the state secession ordinances. They leave no doubt the states were leaving the Union to protect slavery.
2. I too thought this post was going to be about removing Confederate memorials until I read the article. Reconciliation was and is important. But, reconciliation and honoring those who fought against us are two different goals. I think what is going on at Gettysburg is more about the later than the former and I have very mixed feelings about this. In a time when we invite Japanese veterans to Pearl Harbor observances and German veterans to D-day observances I wonder I we are not being hypocritical by fussing about honoring Confederate veterans. But, then thinking as both an historian and US Army officer I think no. The Japanese and the Germans were not of our culture, the Confederates were. The Confederates turned against that culture with both sides waging a bitter war (despite what Darell said the North did not have a corner on waging harsh war) to put forward remarkably different visions of what that culture should be. The visions that triumphed has not been perfect but it has been way better than that offered by the other side. So my thought is it is time to stop Confederate participation in the Gettysburg address observation event. To allows this was and continues to be an insult to the Untied States soldiers who died there to protect what the country stood for, even if it had not achieved an acceptable end state at the time of the battle.
I am 100% in favor of this post. It must have been twenty-five years since I asked indignantly why Confederates should be allowed to march, all the while, shouting “Kill the Yankees.” I was outraged. But my liberal friends laughed at me and reminded me about free speech. Now look where we are. Multiculturalism does NOT extend to traitors. It’s up to every one to speak up and make these people know they’re not welcome. Social pressure forms the societies we live in —what we’ll tolerate and what we won’t. So many things to criticize. We’ve been too polite.