Gettysburg’s Confederate Monuments and a Taoist Ceremony
I planned to spend most of today writing, but the weather is so nice here in Gettysburg that I decided to spend a couple of hours on the battlefield. I spent most of my time along Confederate Avenue.
Our first stop is the North Carolina Monument:
Mandatory stop at the Virginia Monument:
The Florida Monuments gets so little attention:
The Louisiana Monument is impressive:
…That’s OK because African Americans largely stayed away from Gettysburg. They continue to do so today. Ever wonder why?
And then there is South Carolina. Too small…
That was to be the end of my little tour until I drove by the Pennsylvania monument, where I witnessed an incredibly moving ceremony. This group of Daoists came all the way from Taiwan to perform one of their most sacred ceremonies in commemoration of the dead. I struck up a conversation with a Chinese-American woman who just happened to be touring the battlefield for the first time with her family. She explained some of the details of the ceremony, though it was clear that she was both visibly surprised and moved by the ceremony.
Unfortunately, not all of the visitors were pleased to see this particular group. I overheard a number of people express shock and disappointment that the National Park Service would allow this sacred ground to be desecrated. One man in particular asked if they had a permit. They did not, but I shared what I learned that this particular ceremony was intended to honor the dead. He would have none of it. He responded “the law is the law” and proceeded to call the NPS headquarters.
Within about 15 minutes security arrived. A few of us were concerned that we were about to witness an unfortunate case of cultural misunderstanding, but the officer did a great job of handling the situation. He requested that the group cover the alcohol that was used for the ceremony and gave the group another 20 minutes to conclude their service. I applaud the NPS’s security team for the way this was handled.
I have to say that this was one of the most beautiful and moving ceremonies that I have ever witnessed on any Civil War battlefield. What a great day.