On July 1st 1863 Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia found itself outside the small south central PA village of Gettysburg, awaiting contact with the Union forces under Gen. George G. Meade. The battle raged for three days and would become a pivotal moment of the war. Ultimately, Lee’s forces were defeated and the Confederate Stars and Bars were forced from the field by the victorious Stars and Stripes. Now, 152 years later, another battle rages concerning the presence of the Confederate flag in Gettysburg. However this time, the battle is not about protecting the Union but to preserving its history.
Following the June 17th church shooting in Charleston S.C., pictures surfaced of the shooter displaying the Confederate flag. These images, combined with his claims of hoping to start a race war, have renewed an on again off again battle to remove this flag from many Southern state owned properties – including some State Houses. This time the argument has gained previously unseen support and multiple state legislative bodies are expected to vote on specific changes in the near future.
I was not born in the South but I was stationed there numerous times so, although I do not have a personal stake in the battle for the Stars and Bars, I do understand why some would feel strongly about protecting what they see as a symbol of Southern Pride. I also understand how others could view this as the symbol of a rebellious nation which attempted to destroy the Union or supported slavery. Personally, I believe that this is a battle which should be fought in the individual states’ legal and legislative systems – and decided by those who actually LIVE in those states. However, when the battle involves National Military Parks such as Gettysburg, it becomes a fight which affects every American.
In a recent letter to staff and vendors of NMPs, including Gettysburg, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis stated:
“We strive to tell the complete story of America…All sales items in parks are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park. Any stand-alone depictions of the Confederate flags have no place in park stores.”
Regardless of how you view the Confederate flag, it is part of American history and, if visiting a NMP at a Civil War battle field, it is a vital aspect of telling both sides of that history. If these flags are removed from NPS stores it would not be the first time the victors wrote history based upon its own view point, but that is not the American way. More importantly, if the Stars and Bars can be removed from Civil War memorials, what is to keep the Union Jack from being similarly removed from Revolutionary War memorials and battlefields?
America has a long and proud history of allowing all viewpoints to be expressed, even when offensive or contrary to the view many may hold. How can we expect to do any less when it comes to our own history?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.