Historian Manisha Sinha on a possible Trump “Gettysburg Address”

2e894-gettysburg10web

As we noted yesterday, Trump may accept the GOP nomination for president at Gettysburg battlefield. Manisha Sinha, a historian who is no stranger to followers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog and podcast, shares her thoughts at CNN.

Here is a taste:

Yet, Trump aspires to Lincoln-like greatness, clumsily suggesting to the pliant Republican governor of South Dakota that he would like his likeness on Mount Rushmore, which he used for his highly partisan and forgettable Fourth of July speech this year. That this is a desecration of sacred ground of the Lakota people, who protested his rally, predictably does not cross his mind.

Trump’s potential choice of Gettysburg for his acceptance speech is even more offensive given his fondness for Confederate leaders and generals like Robert E. Lee. He has defended the Confederate battle flag and “beautiful” Confederate statues and has included neo-Confederates and White supremacists among “very fine people.” So much so that a few political commentators have called him the last Confederate president.

Gettysburg, site of one of the biggest Confederate debacles of the war, is a standing monument to the defeat of a despicable cause. If Lincoln consecrated Gettysburg with one of the most famous speeches in American history, Trump would just as surely desecrate it by his proposed Republican convention address.

Agreed.

Read Sinha’s entire piece here.

Gettysburg Confederate monuments to get new panels to offer more historical context

Lee at Gettysburg

Here is Nolan Simmons at Penn Live:

Panels will soon be installed near each of 12 Confederate state monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park to offer visitors more context to understand when and under what circumstances they were erected.

The National Park Service expects the panels to be added by September. They will be located near the Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tenessee, Texas and Virginia state monuments.

This move is partially a response by the park service to the recent national conversations about what should be done with Confederate monuments across the country, said acting spokesman Jason Martz.

A fake social media post, advertising plans by Antifa to burn flags at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on July 4, drew dozens of armed people to the battlefield with the intention of thwarting any such protest. The initial post was later revealed to be a hoax.

While that incident bolstered the conversation, the decision to install the contextual panels has been in the works since earlier in the summer, Martz said — since calls for racial equality spurred by the death of George Floyd came to encompass a discussion about monuments that glorify those who fought in support of slavery.

Scott Hancock, a professor of Africana Studies at Gettysburg College who lives near the battlefield, has argued that the monuments tell a one-sided story that ignores the flaws of those memorialized, and the historical context in which they were erected.

The panels are a sort of middle-ground solution for the park.

Read the entire piece here.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what Trump says there”: Trump may accept the GOP nomination at Gettysburg

monument-gettysburg-P

Civil War historians get ready.

Here is Lauren Gambino at The Guardian:

Donald Trump said on Monday that he is considering accepting the Republican presidential nomination later this month with a speech at the civil war battlefield of Gettysburg, one of the most hallowed spots in American history.

The move prompted almost instant condemnation from critics. Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle of the US civil war and viewed historically as a turning point for the Union army against the Confederate army defending the slave-owning rebel south. There, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a speech carved into the walls of his presidential memorial on the Washington Mall.

The prospect of Trump delivering his own speech on the battlefield, after repeatedly defending the use of Confederate symbols and monuments during a period of civil unrest linked to racial justice protests, was met with derision from his critics.

Trump speaking at Gettysburg?”  tweeted Bill Kristol, a Republican critic of Trump. “The good news: 1. The prospect is more ludicrous than sickening. 2. The presumptuousness of the choice of location will backfire. 3. The world will little note, nor long remember what Trump says there.”

Presidential candidates traditionally deliver their remarks on the final night of a weeks-long nominating convention, in front of a raucous crowd of thousands of the party faithful. Plans for this year’s party conventions have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing both candidates to reimagine these events without the usual pomp and circumstance.

Trump said he was mulling two options: Gettysburg and the White House.

Read the rest here.

When the Confederacy came (back) to Gettysburg

Some of  you may recall my post last week about a friend of friends who visited the Gettysburg National Military Park on July 4, 2020 and encountered overt racism. You can read it here.

We now have a video of what happened.

Watch:

The man debating these white supremacists at the Robert E. Lee monument is Scott Hancock, professor of history at Gettysburg College. Scott, as you can tell from the video, is a man with an incredible amount of patience and self-control. He is a Christian who attends my evangelical church.

Listen to our interview with Scott on Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

What happened in Gettysburg this weekend?

 

Gettysburg Race 1

Jimmy, a friend of friends who works in a local ministry to drug and alcohol abusers, was in Gettysburg this weekend. Here, in his own words, is what happened:

Over the last 2.5 years, I have been in a group called “Be the Bridge.” The goal of the group was to have meaningful conversations about race, racism, systemic racism, the Church’s response to race, and racial reconciliation. My Dad and I (along with 2 other white guys) met with 4 Black guys each month to talk through these issues.

It was eye opening. It was challenging. I learned a lot about my own biases. I learned about the part I play in propping up systems that benefit white people. I learned about the systemic racism that plagues the U.S (throughout history and present day). I learned about what it takes to make important personal changes and become aware of my own cultural preferences. And, I learned about the strong theological basis for justice and racial reconciliation.

It left me with a strong desire to find tangible, everyday ways to fight for racial equality.

Yesterday, my Dad and I went down to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial to meet with the Black guys from our group. The goal was to talk about how important it is to tell the truth about many of the Confederate monuments and to keep a clear focus on the goals of the Confederacy (which was the preservation of slavery).

We held some signs at three different monuments: North Carolina, Robert E. Lee, and Mississippi. These are important statues.

The North Carolina statue was made by a staunch supporter of the KKK, Gutzon Borglum (he also did Mount Rushmore). He famously said of the KKK, “I would do anything to serve them…”

Robert E. Lee’s statue was chosen because of the “hero status” he embodies. But, Robert E. Lee was in charge of his wife’s 189 slaves, beat and whipped them, and said of slavery, “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

Mississippi was also chosen because of their article of succession. If you haven’t read it, please read it here. The opening several lines are most key.

Scott (one of the members of our group and a history professor at a local College) led most of these discussions. Scott believes that the Confederate Monuments should remain at Gettysburg, but should tell the full story of the monuments and those represented. This is the reason we were in Gettysburg yesterday. This is important and worth reiterating: We were there to tell this critical part of history, so it wouldn’t be forgotten or swept under the rug.

While we all remained civil, we were met with much hostility. At the Robert E. Lee statue, we arrived and were met by more than a dozen men in full tactical gear, holding AR-15s (none were park rangers or police). Several others were open carrying. As they surrounded us, many shouted racial slurs at Scott. These people said some of the following, “Go back to Africa!”, “Why don’t you just go back on welfare?”, “F@&k you guys,” “Have you ever picked cotton?”, “You need to forget about slavery,” “you’re one of the dumbest people,” and, to me and my Dad specifically, “You kind of white people make me sick.” There were many more things said, as well as the “N” word.

At the end of our time, about 15 bikers pulled up to our group at the Mississippi statue and began circling our group (you can see this picture below). We decided it was safest to leave. These bikers followed us out of the battlefield, through Gettysburg, all the way until we got to a police barricade. While we were sitting at a red light, the bikers motioned to some guys (who had a confederate flag in the truck) and they came over to my car and told us to “Get the f&%k out of here” and motioned with their finger.

I share this experience because I think it’s important to talk about these issues. That racism is still alive and well in our country. That the story of America has a lot of good parts and some really terrible ones, but we must tell it fully. That the church must be at the center of racial reconciliation. And we must stand up for and with those who have been marginalized and oppressed. It’s a critical part of the gospel and following Jesus.

Gettysburg Race 3

Gettysburg battlefield, July 4, 2020 (photo by Jimmy)

Please don’t tell me that there is not a connection between Donald Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday night (or at the very least his general defense of monuments since the George Floyd protests) and what happened to Jimmy and his friends at Gettysburg this weekend. In fact, Jimmy said in a private exchange that much of the hostility came from self-professed “Christians” with Trump 2020 swag.

Gettysburg Race 2

Gettysburg battlefield, July 4, 2020 (photo by Jimmy)

 

 

Peter Carmichael, the Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, also visited the Gettysburg battlefield this weekend. If I understand things correctly, a member of his group carried a sign that read:”10,000 Black Slaves In Lee’s Army #BlackLivesMatter.”

Carmichael Poster

Carmichael and his group were confronted by what appears to be a white militia organization. Watch:

 

For what it’s worth, I agree with everything Scott Hancock says in this interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish. It is worth your time:

Hancock, a professor of History and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College, is becoming an important voice right now.  Listen to our interview with him in Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

What about the Gettysburg monuments? A local take.

Lee at Gettysburg

Some of you have listened to Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast featuring Gettysburg University historian Scott Hancock. In that episode, I talked with Scott about racial injustice in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

In today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Scott brings the discussion to bear on Confederate monuments at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Here is a taste of Peter Smith’s piece:

Mr. Hancock said he can understand having historical markers for where regiments fought and soldiers died. 

“I would identify myself as a follower of Christ and a Christian,” Mr. Hancock said. “All human life is made in the image of God and valuable, whoever they were fighting for. The loss of life is tragic.

But, he added, “The state monuments fall into a different category.”

Read the entire piece here.

Gettysburg battlefield guides call for the protection of Confederate monuments

monument-gettysburg-P

The York (PA) Daily Record is running an op-ed from Les Fowler, president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides.

Here is a taste of his piece:

We are grateful that the National Park Service has made strong statements in support of all monuments. One statement said this: “Across the country, the NPS maintains and interprets monuments, markers, and plaques that represent painful or controversial chapters in our nation’s history.  We are committed to telling the larger story behind these memorials.”

In discussing Confederate monuments, Gettysburg College professor Scott Hancock a few years ago wrote this: “It is time to consider how to make Gettysburg a space that teaches the values each side fought for.” Every guide agrees with him. We express our agreement not by words or by making banners; rather, licensed guides emulate Professor Hancock’s sentiments in the tours we provide of the battlefield every day.

Read the entire piece here.

What about the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg?

Alabama monument

Confederate statues are coming down all over the United States. But what should we do about these monuments at Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg National Military Park?

Nolan Simmons of PennLive (Harrisburg Patriot-News) talked with some local historians, including two award-winning teachers–Scott Hancock of Gettysburg College and Kevin Wagner of Carlisle Area (PA) High School.

A taste:

Hancock says he would support removing Confederate monuments from Gettysburg if they continue to exist without context, as they do today. But he would rather see the park teach visitors about the history of the monuments and use them as a tool to educate people about the systems of white supremacy the Confederacy fought to protect.

“In Richmond, if you’re driving by that statue, you’re not going to stop and read signs or listen to an interpreter, but people come to the Gettysburg battlefield to learn,” Hancock said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to instruct people about our history in a more comprehensive way.”

Kevin Wagner, history teacher and program chair for social studies at the Carlisle Area School District, uses these representations of difficult moments in history as tools to teach what he calls “hard history.”

In his class, Wagner has students study the history of statues of Abraham Lincoln, including the Emancipation Memorial on display in Washington, D.C. The statue features Lincoln standing over a freed African-American who is kneeling with broken shackles around his wrists.

The statue is currently the focus of a petition that calls for its removal, citing its “degrading racial undertones.” But Wagner says that people would feel differently if they knew the history of the statue itself.

“That statue was paid for entirely by freed slaves with pennies and nickels and dimes,” Wagner said. “There needs to be a contextualization, or let’s add a marker beside it that explains the backstory. Any piece of art, much like a monument, is open to interpretation unless you know what the real story is.”

Read the entire piece here.

Listen to Hancock talk about race in America in Episode 70 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

The Annual Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment Gives Way to Glenn Beck

2e894-gettysburg10web

According to this article at Penn Live, the 2020 reenactment at the Battle of Gettysburg has been canceled because Glenn Beck is hosting an event called “Restoring the Covenant on the Sacred Land of Gettysburg.”

Beck’s event will “reflect on our spiritual foundations and renew our covenant as one nation, under God.  Over three days, you’ll enjoy keynote addresses, break-out sessions with headliners, special dinners, fireworks, and a Sunday service.”  For a $5 donation you can “keep your place in line.”  Speakers have not yet been announced.  I think it’s safe to say David Barton, the GOP operative who used the past to advance his political agenda, will be there.  He has a long relationship with Beck.

Gettysburg tourism officials seemed thrilled that 20,000 to 30,000 Beck followers will converge on the town over the July 4th holiday to celebrate Christian nationalism.

Here is a taste of Steve Marroni’s piece at Penn Live:

Beck’s organization is hosting the event in Gettysburg from July 3 to 5, the same weekend as most of the major battle-commemoration events in town.

Calls and emails to the organization were not returnedbut its website says, “This special occasion promises to be a chance to join with like-minded people to reflect on the spiritual foundations of the United States of America and renew our covenant as one nation, under God.”

It will feature keynote addresses, breakout sessions, dinners, fireworks and talks by headliners, including Beck. It will be held at a variety of locations in and around Gettysburg.

When the event was announced, potential attendees could make a $5 donation to reserve their spot for when tickets became available.

It was unclear on the website what the cost of the tickets will be, or if the $5 donation covers admission. But the site advertised packages that include lodging and range from $7,500 per person to $200. Some discount passes with no listed pricing options appear to be available, as well. The premier package starts with several days in Boston, taking in some historic sites there before traveling to Gettysburg.

Although the reenactment won’t happen, Beck’s organization is expected to bring plenty of visitors. Estimates range from 20,000 to 30,000 people, and that’s OK by Destination Gettysburg.

“Our core mission is to attract visitors to Adams County each year,” said spokeswoman Natalie Buyny. “We work with many corporations and national groups that want to come to Gettysburg.”

While attendees will be busy with a whole slate of activities -– many of which have not yet been revealed — she said there will be downtime for Beck’s visitors. That’s time when they can stop by Gettysburg’s restaurants, its shops and, of course, the historic sites in town and on the hallowed grounds of the battlefield.

Gettysburg is prepared to handle such an influx of visitors. Restoring the Covenant is expected to be big, but not as big as the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2013, when Buyny said they saw an estimated 150,000 visitors over a 10-day period with no major issues.

She added Restoring the Covenant organizers have been working with the municipalities to alleviate some of the traffic concerns.

While the reenactment may be missed this year, she acknowledged reenactments are not the draw they used to be.

The average, non-anniversary year would see about 15,000 people attending the reenactments, a number that dropped to an estimated 9,000 in 2019, she said. On anniversary years — such as the 150th in 2013 – it’s not unusual to see between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees over three days.

Read the entire piece here.

It appears that a reenactment will take place on a nearby farm.

Battle of Gettysburg Reenactments Are Placed on Hold

150th_Gettysburg_Reenactment_2013_(9181355856)

Here is a taste of Priscilla Liguori‘s article at ABC 27 News (Harrisburg):

The future of Gettysburg battle reenactments is uncertain. The committee that has put together the event for 25 years says it isn’t happening next year.

Organizers say they’re putting a pause on the reenactments as they reevaluate and decide what to do next.

“Due to logistical issues and costs, they needed to postpone next year’s programming and hopefully it’ll be back over the next couple of years,” said Jason Martz, of Gettysburg National Military Park.

The event isn’t put on by the park but by the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee.

Organizers took to Facebook to make the announcement and sent us a statement saying, in part, “doing non-five-year events which are much smaller, increasingly varied visitor interests, a decreasing reenactor base, the risks of totally outdoor weather-related events, and a staff that has done this for 25 years are all factors in the decision.” 

Read the entire article here.

Pennsylvania History: The Final Exam!

PA Hall

The 1838 burning of Pennsylvania Hall, a meeting place for abolitionists

For the past decade I have been teaching a course on Pennsylvania History at Messiah College. The class meets several requirements.  Some history majors take it for a 300-level American history elective.  Other history majors take it as part of their concentration in public history.  Non-history majors take the course to fulfill their general education pluralism requirement.

I have to make this course work for all of these students.  For the public history students, we do a lot of work on the relationship between “history,” “heritage,” and “memory.”  We also feature some training in oral history. Each student is required to do an oral history project in which they interview and interpret someone who can shed light on a particular moment in Pennsylvania history.  As a pluralism course, Pennsylvania History must address questions of religion, race, ethnicity, and social class in some meaningful way.

This year, I split the class into four units:

After several tries, I think I have finally found a pedagogical formula that works.   The students take their two-hour final exam on Friday.  Here are the questions they are preparing:

In preparation for the exam, please prepare an answer to one of the following questions:

QUESTION #1

In each of our four units this semester, we spend considerable time talking about the idea of race and race relations in Pennsylvania History. How do issues related to race play out in the following periods and places in state history:

  • Early 19th-century Philadelphia
  • The Pennsylvania frontier in the 1750s and 1760s.
  • The way the Civil War has been interpreted at Gettysburg
  • The City Beautiful movement in Harrisburg
QUESTION #2
We often use the past to advance particular agendas in the present. Consider this
statement in the following contexts:
  • The Centennial celebration in Philadelphia (1876)
  • The Paxton Boys Riots
  • Gettysburg as a “sacred” site
  • The portrayal of Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward by reformers affiliated with the City Beautiful movement.

Good luck! Or as I like to say to my Calvinist students: “May God providential give you the grade you deserve on this exam.”

Lincoln Impersonators Unite!

Gettysburg 5

On Saturday, during a visit to Gettysburg with my Pennsylvania history class, I met Abraham Lincoln.   It was actually George Buss, a former teacher who has been impersonating Lincoln for over thirty years.

I though about George today when I read Olivia Waxman’s Time article about a gathering of Lincoln impersonators.  Here is a taste:

For Lincoln impersonators like Tom Wright, the work is serious business.

“When you’ve got this outfit on, you’ve got to be proper, and make sure you don’t do anything that would take away from Abraham Lincoln,” says Wright, a 71-year-old from Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Indeed, when it comes to historical second skins, the attitude is as important as the accoutrements. “To me, this guy was important to the country because he saved the Union,” says Wright. He and his wife, Sue Wright, recently joined dozens of other faux-Lincolns for the 25th annual Association of Lincoln Presenters, a conference of reenactors, amateur historians, and other Honest Abe enthusiasts held April 11-14 at the Amicalola State Falls Lodge in Dawsonville, Georgia.

There were 22 Abrahams, 12 Mary Todds, one Robert Todd, one Jefferson Davis, and even one George Perkins Marsh (Lincoln’s ambassador to Italy) present at the event, which began in 1990. The Abrahams, of course, always steal the show.

Read the entire piece here.  I wonder if George was there.

Gettysburg 6

 

A Saturday Morning in Gettysburg

Gettysburg 6

We got to hang our with Abe! 

It is a beautiful today in south-central Pennsylvania–a perfect day to spend some time on the Gettysburg battlefield.  This morning we took ten students from my Pennsylvania history class to Gettysburg.  We have been reading Jim Weeks’s book Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine and exploring the way the battlefield has evolved since July 4, 1863.  I have given a lot tours of Gettysburg focused on military history, but until today I had never done a Gettysburg “memory” tour.

We have been focusing on how Gettysburg became a shrine of American civil religion–a destination for patriotic pilgrims.  We arrived at 7:30am for “devotions” at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  I read Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and stressed the religious nature of the speech.  We talked about what Lincoln meant by the use of words such as “consecrate,” “hallow,” “devotion,”  and “new birth.”  We discussed the blood sacrifice necessary to the consecration of such sacred ground.  And, since I teach at a Christian college, we talked about the difference between civil religion and Christian faith.

After our devotion in civil religion we headed to the Visitor Center.  Most of the students ended up in the bookstore.  Some of them bought souvenirs to remember their pilgrimage to this sacred site of American nationalism.  Others noted the way this sacred site is connected with the marketplace.  We even got our pictures taken with Lincoln, the great prophet of U.S. civil religion.

We spent the rest of the tour on these topics: race and the 1913 and 1938 reunions of Gettysburg veterans, with an assist from David Blight (at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial); the meaning of the Robert E. Lee statue (on Confederate Avenue); the Eisenhower Farm and Gettysburg as a Cold War site; the tension between battlefield authenticity and environmental concerns; the influence of popular culture (Jeff Schaara and Ted Turner) on the battlefield (at the monument to the 20th Maine on Little Round Top); and the role of Daniel Sickles in promoting the bill that brought the battlefield under control of the U.S. War Department.

Here are some pics:

Gettysburg 1

Students at the Lincoln Gettysburg Address memorial after “devotions” at the Gettysburg National Cemetery

Gettysburg 2

The “Ike” section of the Gettysburg Visitor Center store

Gettysbyurg 3

Anyone want to be buy me a Christmas present?  🙂

Gettysburg 5

Speaking of Abe… (photo by Joy Fea)

Gettysburg 7

Messiah College Pennsylvania History students at the Pennsylvania monument (Photo by Joy Fea)

Gettysburg 9

The “loyal women” of HIST 345: Pennsylvania History

Gettysburg 10

I was an official Gettysburg tour guide for the day!

Out of the Zoo: “Gettysburg”

Ice covered gettysburg statue

My first visit to Gettysburg

Annie Thorn is a first-year history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she will be writing a weekly column for us titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It will focus on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. This week she writes about a recent trip to Gettysburg.  Enjoy! –JF

When I first heard about Messiah in the spring of my junior year, I was thrilled to find out that Gettysburg National Military Park is about a thirty minute drive from campus. The first time I visited Gettysburg was in early February last year; my Dad and I had traveled to Pennsylvania so I could interview for Messiah’s honors program and stay overnight on campus. We flew into Baltimore on a Wednesday and anticipated a full morning exploring Gettysburg the next day before he dropped me off at Messiah that evening.

Little did we know, Central Pennsylvania had just been hit by a bout of freezing rain, and most of Gettysburg was not open to the public. What we could see, though, was stunning. Icicles dripped from Confederate and Union soldiers immortalized in bronze–they hung lazily from the brims of their hats and pointed earthward from their outstretched arms. Simple objects like cannons, zig-zag fences, and tree trunks were made all the more beautiful from a thin layer of glistening ice. Even though we couldn’t see most of the battlefield, visiting it that day was still an incredible experience. It almost seemed as if time itself was frozen.

Gettysburg with the Fraazas

My second visit to Gettysburg

It took a little over a year for me to get back to Gettysburg after my first visit. This time I went with my boyfriend Nolan and his family, who all came to see me at school on their way south from Michigan for spring break. The weather was beautiful, and the park was a lot busier (and much more accessible) than it had been when I toured it with my Dad. First we walked through the museum, took a break for lunch, and then made our way through all sixteen stops on the driving tour through the battlefield–stopping to look at monuments, climb up a couple observation towers, and clamber around the massive boulders tumbling down from Little Round Top. We finished the day with a solemn walk through the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and got to see the very spot from which Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

I’ve visited my fair share of National Parks and historic sites throughout life, but Gettysburg still manages to stand out among them. While still visually grand like the rest, with its impressive monuments and picturesque overlooks, Pennsylvania’s notorious Civil War battlefield is beautiful in a different way. Namely, because today in the United States we live in a time when discord seems to drown out even the simplest conversations. In the midst of all the noise, Gettysburg reminds us that we aren’t as different as we fear.

As I’ve grown up and studied history, I’ve learned that there are a scarce few things that all Americans agree on. Nonetheless, I do think most of us can agree that the Civil War remains a part of our narrative that we never want to see replayed. Walking through Gettysburg reminds us of this; it’s a place where, at least for a brief moment, we can all look back, set aside our differences, sit in the middle of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, and grieve.

“Sometimes Unity Kills”

Unity Parl

Plaque at Unity Park, Gettysburg

Scott Hancock, a professor of history and African American studies at Gettysburg College, reflects on “unity” in the wake of the Civil War, “unity” as memorialized at the newest designated space on the Gettysburg battlefield, and “unity” in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste of his piece at Philly.com:

The Unity Park monument mourns the “many young people from both the North and the South who sacrificed and endured so much for our country.” However, those who sacrificed and endured for the Confederacy did not do it for “our country” but for their country — a country that wrote into its constitution that there could be no “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves” and that slavery “shall be recognized and protected by Congress.”

Those who sacrificed and endured for the Union did so to end the Confederacy. A sign in Unity Park describes how a Confederate officer told 12-year-old Union musician Johnny Clem to surrender, but Clem wasn’t interested in “unity.” He shot the officer, and was promoted to sergeant. Apparently, young Johnny Clem knew that some differences aren’t trivial.

Lies that try to cover serious differences under the banner of unity mean somebody will get kicked to the curb. When this country pushed for unity after the Civil War, putting differences aside meant putting “problems” aside. And the problems were people: black people. Unity meant ignoring those white Southerners who lynched 4,000 people, burned Black Tulsa to the ground, robbed and murdered the black residents of Rosewood, and enshrined 100 years of racial terrorism across the South. Today, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions says stemming violent crime is a priority, using a one-year increase in crime to justify policies that produced decades of high incarceration rates, while ignoring decreases in crime in 22 of the last 26 years, we had better pay attention.

Read the entire piece here.

Pickett’s Charge: History and Memory

The Fourth of July holiday is a time for historians to take to twitter! Since Saturday AM we have been wrestling historically with the question “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?”  Get a tweet every 30 minutes at #ChristianAmerica?

Yoni Appelbaum, the Washington Bureau Chief at The Atlantic, has turned to twitter to offer some perspective on the 154th anniversary of the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg and its signature moment: “Pickett’s Charge.” Here are his tweets:

Check out our interview with Yoni in Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Another Battle at Gettysburg?

monument-gettysburg-P

Next weekend marks the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It looks like Gettysburg will once again be a battleground, but this time the “war” is a cultural one, focused on modern debates about free speech, the Trump presidency, and Confederate monuments.

Read Dustin Levy’s piece at the York Daily Record.  Here is a taste:

The Gettysburg National Military Park has issued three special use permits for first amendment activities on July 1, according to a Thursday news release.

“As custodians of land owned by the American people, the National Park Service has a responsibility to make that land available for exercising those rights,” Bill Justice, acting park superintendent, said in the release.

“As with any First Amendment activities, Gettysburg National Military Park’s objectives are to provide for public safety, minimize impacts on historic resources of this park, and afford visitors an enjoyable experience.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Mechanized Cavalry and Real 3% Risen will gather north of Meade’s Headquarters near 160 Taneytown Road from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The park expects 250 to 500 participants with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and 500 to 1,500 participants with Real 3% Risen, a Facebook group dedicated to protecting American freedoms.

Ski Bischof, of Allentown, helped organize the events with a Facebook event called “Support America and Her History.” Together, they are joining up with the other groups to form a united front against a group that might be there to protest against President Trump and/or the Confederate flag, according to the Facebook event page.

A third group, Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans, consisting of about 20 people, is planning to march in formation from the North Carolina Memorial to the Virginia Memorial, with small ceremonies along the way, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The events came about, in part, because of unsubstantiated reports of an activist group coming to the battlefield on July 1. The allegations of this group’s intended activities have spread on social media the past couple weeks, infuriating many.

Read the entire article here.

Settling for Zachary Taylor

Last month the “Hall of Presidents,” a wax museum of American presidents in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, went out of business and auctioned-off everything in the museum.  I live about thirty miles from Gettysburg and I was tempted to drive down for the auction. I thought I might be able to land a life-size wax POTUS for my Messiah College office.  When I told my 15-year-old daughter about my plans she thought it was a little creepy.

Sadly I had a schedule conflict that day and could not go.  But I am glad that Late Night with Stephen Colbert was there:

The Author’s Corner with Steve Longenecker

Steve Longenecker is Professor of American History at Bridgewater College. This interview is based on his new book, Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North (Fordham University Press, 2014).

JF: What led you to write Gettysburg Religion?

SL: I noticed that a map of the election of 1856 depicted a stark divide between the northern North, which voted for Fremont, and the southern North, which went for Buchanan. It looked like a straight latitude line through the middle of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and I determined that a border North must have existed as a counterpoint to the border South. The border North went on my list of questions to investigate.

Years later I began the project at Gettysburg. I was on sabbatical and just for fun spent a few days investigating Dunkers/Church of the Brethren (my faith tradition) who lived on the battlefield. I found a great story and was hooked.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Gettysburg Religion

SL: The religion of Gettysburg and the surrounding region, the Border North, reveals much about larger American society and about how trends in the Border North mirrored national developments. In many ways, the Border North belonged to the future and signaled a coming pattern for modern American.

JF: Why do we need to read Gettysburg Religion

SL: I believe in my thesis and intend to contribute to scholarship, but mostly I hope that people read the book for fun. Gettysburg Religion has interesting detail and a new perspective on one of America’s most famous small towns. Gettysburg, for example, was surprisingly diverse with African Americans, Catholics, Dunkers, Scottish Dissenters, and recent immigrants in addition to the mainline fellowships. Additionally, the Border North was on the edge of bondage—Gettysburg was only seven miles from slave territory—and the region had surprisingly complex race relations. Gettysburg Religion also resurrects small town religion, including peculiarities that make human behavior so fascinating and congregational life, which was sometimes inspiring and other times irrational. The book, then, is unique not just for its point about the Border North but also for bringing back to life average persons in the small-town mid-nineteenth century.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? 

SL: I committed to teaching history when I was in the fourth grade. I realized that I really loved history and that it came easily for me, and teaching felt like the natural path to pursue this talent.

JF: What is your next project? 

SL: I am examining the religion of Confederate chaplains after the war. Chaplains are legendary for their very public advocacy of the Lost Cause, but their personal faith and congregational life are less well-known. I have found that sometimes the religion of Lost Cause chaplains was more complex and more progressive than the simplistic, very conservative public faith they espoused as celebrants of the Cause of Lee and Jackson. Although the project is too new to speak definitively about the organization of the book, at this point the doctrine of the two kingdoms comes to mind: some chaplains (but not all) had one set of beliefs in God’s kingdom and another in the worldly kingdom. The project will interpret the Lost Cause as communal balm to justify the devastating cost and mistake of the Civil War rather than civil religion or a romantic, anti-modernist rant.
JF: Thanks Steve, sounds good!

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author’s Corner