Gettysburg’s Confederate Monument Challenge

On July 4 heavily armed right-wing militia arrived at Gettysburg National Military Park to confront an Antifa/Black Lives Matter rally that never materialized. News media reported a few confrontations, but thankfully it never turned violent.

Gettysburg is a quiet town and has largely steered clear of the controversy and demonstrations surrounding Confederate monuments that have occurred elsewhere since the police killing of George Floyd. That is, until last week.

This is certainly not the first time that contemporary politics has found its way to the Gettysburg battlefield, but something has changed in recent weeks. Historian Jennifer Murray recently reminded her friends on Facebook that the Ku Klux Klan gathered at Oak Ridge in 1925 and has provided evidence that there may have been a cross burning at Steven’s Knoll in 1967.

Stephan and Beth Loewentheil Family Photographic Collection, Cornell University

Park officials have announced that their Confederate monuments will remain in place. That will come as no surprise to many given the steps it would take to have them removed. I am not suggesting that they should be removed, but last week’s incident and the current discussion about Confederate monuments raises important questions about the role of the National Park Service in helping visitors understand why they are present on this battlefield and the ways in which their meaning extends beyond the confines of the 1863 battle.

CNN’s Michael Smerconish did a very good job of exploring Gettysburg’s Confederate monument landscape with historian Scott Hancock and NPS spokesman Jason Martz. [Note: This discussion took place before the July 4 demonstration.]

I completely agree with Professor Hancock that the monuments need to be brought in line with the incredible job that the NPS does interpreting the battle in the visitor center. Any number of interpretive approaches might be embraced, including additional wayside markers that explain how some of these monuments reflect the politics of the Lost Cause as well as the Cold War and Civil Rights eras.

Let’s be clear. Gettysburg’s Confederate monuments are not windows to the 1863 battle simply because they are on the battlefield pointing in the direction of “Pickett’s Charge.” Their history is the story of the individuals and organizations responsible for their dedication at a specific time in American history.

The proper contextualization of these monuments, however, must extend far beyond acknowledging the place of slavery in this campaign. Yes, for a brief period in the summer of 1863 the institution of slavery entered the free state of Pennsylvania as part of a Confederate army that included roughly 10,000 enslaved men. The army displaced and kidnapped hundreds of free blacks in south central Pennsylvania and in Gettysburg. This is something that visitors should understand as they are standing at the North Carolina and Virginia monuments.

We also need to appreciate how the dedication of these battlefield monuments–along with those placed in prominent public spaces throughout the South–helped to mythologize and erase the story of African Americans during the Civil War era. In doing so we stand a better chance of understanding the ways that racism has manifested itself at different points in the past.

These are certainly not easy discussions to facilitate. There are land mines at every turn, but the country is currently engaged in this debate and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future.

The Gettysburg battlefield is a wonderful landscape on which to explore the history of a great battle, but it has never been stuck in the past. Each generation imposes a new layer of meaning to the site.

Who will lead us forward?

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

67 comments… add one
  • Matt McKeon Jul 11, 2020 @ 4:15

    Other rightwing mobs have been directed to various towns by hoaxers. This isn’t the first time such a collection of yahoos showed up at Gettysburg, a similar group were there a few years ago, and I remember one of them managing to shoot himself, but I could be wrong.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 4:24

      Yes. As I pointed out in the post this isn’t the first time that such groups have rallied at Gettysburg. I do think, however, that what has happened over the past 6 weeks is different and that the overall conversation about Confederate monuments represents a turning point.

  • John Bell Jul 11, 2020 @ 4:28

    You are an idiot! This is a battlefield and has monuments to the men who fought here, both sides. That’s it!

  • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:19

    Mr. Levin, have you researched the letters sent to the GBMA from Union veterans of the battle on this topic? It is very clear that the Americans who fought at Gettysburg did not want Confederate memorials there. Scott Hartwig did a paper on the High Water Mark monument in 2010. Here’s just a taste.

    “T. D. Cunningham, who had served in the 56th Pennsylvania, expressed. “Simply mark the Rebel lines of battle in the Gettysburg fight – But not one word of commiseration – not once sentence in praise of heroic deeds done in a bad cause.” J. L. Shook, writing from G.A.R. Post 88 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, wrote to Bachelder, “We are heartily in favor of marking the Rebel lines but we want the Government to do that work not Rebels. You know that they do not care for History when they erect their monuments it is to honor their dead and vaunt their Rebellious acts. We don’t propose to have that.” A. W. Fenton, who served in the 6th Ohio Cavalry, advised Bachelder that while he sympathized with the Confederate soldiers who had fought so bravely and could accept marking the positions held by their regiments, brigades and divisions, “but I trust that we shall never see a Confederate monument ever along their line.”

    When Confederate monuments do indeed come down at Gettysburg (as they no doubt should and some day will) the first one to go should be that ridiculous Bible thing (the fraudulent “High Water Mark”).

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:27

      Hi Tim,

      Yes, I have read extensively about how the battlefield evolved after the war. Your comment is a reminder that the NPS is well prepared to do the necessary contextualization of the monuments on the battlefield itself and to facilitate the kinds of discussions that are now needed.

      • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:32

        Seems to me Union veterans who fought on that ground need their intentions for it honored, which does not mean “contextualization of the monuments on the battlefield itself” or “discussions” about them, but removal. If you asked a D-Day veteran should there be a statue of Rommel on Omaha beach, and 160 years later there was one, I think you’d get a very clear answer.

        • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:36

          Union veterans expressed a range of views on the introduction of Confederate monuments to the battlefield. It is important to remember that they didn’t speak with one voice.

          • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:40

            Let’s try it this way – you find me one single Union veteran of Gettysburg who said at any point in any context on any document that Confederate monuments should be on that ground, and I’ll buy you a bottle of the single malt scotch of your choice. Vice versa, of course.

            • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 6:12

              This is not very difficult for the reasons I expressed above. Like I said, Union veterans did not speak with one voice.

              I recommend picking up a copy of Caroline Janney’s book REMEMBERING THE CIVIL WAR and Bradley Keefer’s CONFLICTING MEMORIES OF THE “RIVER OF DEATH”: THE CHICKAMAUGA BATTLEFIELD AND THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR.

              • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 6:21

                McClure was not a Union veteran of Gettysburg, in fact, McClure was a politician at the time. I’ll take Laphroiag. Email me for the address to ship to.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 6:24

                No, he was not a veteran of the battle and yes he was a politician. Again, Union veterans assumed a wide range of positions on all kinds of commemorations that involved Confederate veterans from reunions to monument dedications. Why he has to be a veteran of the battle itself and not a politician escapes me. This is one of the reasons I recommend reading the book about Chickamauga given that Union and Confederate veterans were both heavily involved in its organization.

              • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 6:55

                “Why he has to be a veteran of the battle itself and not a politician escapes me.”

                Because that was the bet – which you thought was “not very difficult” to win, announced by you as you lost it. Cough it up. Laphroiag 15 year old will do. More importantly, the men who bled on that ground to defend America are the most important voices regarding whether nor not their enemies trying to destroy America should be memorialized there. Not some politician who did not bleed there. One would think this is self-explanatory.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:06

                What’s so sad about this response is that you are imposing conditions on the veterans that they did not impose on themselves.

              • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:09

                No, Mr. Levin, I am imposing conditions on you, which you immediately agreed to, which you are now avoiding because why….maybe you don’t like Laphroiag? Well, I do, you lost this bet, now cough it up. I’ve always wanted to sample the 15 year old, and now that someone else has to pay for it, huzzah! I’m happily willing to let you off the hook if you do find one single Union veteran of Gettysburg who said at any point Confederate memorials should be at Gettysburg. Take all the time you need.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:18

                If you must have a Gettysburg veteran than I suggest you read about John Nicholson, who served as chairman of the Gettysburg National Park Commission. Nicholson served in the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry and was a veteran of the battle. As chairman he negotiated the inscription that appeared on the Virginia monument on the Gettysburg battlefield. It sounds like his position on the monument was complicated, but he clearly did not outright reject it.

              • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:25

                Close. Not quite. I’ll compromise and accept the Laphroiag 10 year, which will do very nicely.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:26

                Run along.

              • CM Gwinn Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:01

                “I should feel no objection to the erection of a monument to the honor of a regiment that pushed its way so far around the flank of the Union line and made so gallant an attack; but I should expect it placed on ground where it actually stood at some time during the battle, – at the extreme point of its advance, if desired, – so that it might not only represent the valor of a regiment but the truth of its history.”

                Joshua Chamberlain to John P. Nicholas, Aug. 14, 1903 on the proposal to place a monument to the 15th Alabama on Vincent’s Spur. Original in the collection of Gettysburg NMP.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:04

                Thanks for sharing this one. I should have remembered to reference Chamberlain. I don’t think we will be hearing from Mr. Russo any time soon.

        • paineite Jul 11, 2020 @ 12:33

          Mr. Russo, thanks very much for the insights and information regarding the wishes of veterans of Gettysburg. I wasn’t there : ) but a great many of my direct ancestors were and at various other battlefields fighting and in one case dying for the Union. I find it offensive as hell that homicidal traitors were allowed to erect ANY monument at Gettysburg or on any public land whatsoever.

          • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 12:40

            It is certainly true that many Union veterans opposed the dedication of Confederate monuments, but as I said before they certainly did not speak with one voice.

    • Diane Hyra Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:47

      Thank you. I had not previously read anything like this and will be sure to research this further.

      • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:59

        You’re welcome! I had never known this information either until I started researching the charge of the First Minnesota, studied every inch of the ground they charged across, and learned it. It is high time America learned the right and wrong of the Civil War, and these monuments are a stain on that, which Union veterans knew at the time they would be.

        • Robin Jul 12, 2020 @ 8:52

          Problem, sir. It’s not just the Confederate monuments at stake. The anarchist, Marxist whakos trying to take control of our government will want the Union monuments down as well. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. In 1963, anarchists tried to take down Gouvenor Warren’s statue and doing a lot of other damage. You people need to wake up. My favorite “Kit” Carson statue was just taken down in Denver, where I grew up. This is more about a Bolshevik kind of revolution happening in our country and as a Moderate Democrat, I’m worried about Biden and his Party. Disgusting stuff going on every day. Wake up to what’s really important.

          • Kevin Levin Jul 12, 2020 @ 11:15

            Hi Robin,

            Do you have a reference to follow up on the Warren statue damage. I would really love to see that. Thanks.

          • paineite Jul 12, 2020 @ 11:23

            How about, let’s take down all the monuments to homicidal traitors (Confederates) and them worry about the domino effect on a case-by-case basis. FIRST, down with all traitors to the USA. Then we’ll discuss the rest.

            • Elizabeth R Farnham Jul 14, 2020 @ 3:57

              Exactly. People need to keep to the central point.

  • Buck Buchanan Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:35

    Kevin,

    Do we know how many Free Blacks were taken and by what units?

    Perhaps if we knew a useful part of the interpretation at each state marker would be “X number of Free Blacks were taken by Soldiers of Y State during the campaign.” Thanks

    Buck

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:38

      I have seen different numbers, but it might be as high as 200. Much of this work was carried out by General Albert Jenkins’s cavalry.

  • Diane Hyra Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:51

    Let me start by saying I am pleased so many Civil War monuments are being removed across the country. I am astonished that those on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA where I currently live have come down. I never thought I’d live to see that happen. And I agree that the “righteous cause” mentioned in the Mississippi monument needs contextualization on the battlefield. Of that, there can be no doubt if the monuments to Confederates remain. What I do want to address is this idea that so many of these monuments, both on battlefields and in towns across the South, were put up decades after the war. There is a very simple explanation for this that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: the southern states were bankrupt after the war and couldn’t have afforded statuary of this kind immediately after the end of the rebellion. Their being erected during Jim Crow or during the modern Civil Rights Era happened because the South could afford them at that time and the white southerners were sending very clear messages.

    Am I wrong or missing something?

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 5:55

      Certainly the vast majority of Confederate monuments that have been removed or under review were dedicated in the period roughly between 1890 and 1930, but there were a number of monuments dedicated in the immediate postwar period. Many of them were located in cemeteries. Certainly the limited funds shaped the number dedicated and their scale, but all too often the history of the monuments has been reduced to the Jim Crow era.

    • Tim Russo Jul 11, 2020 @ 6:04

      The “High Water Mark” monument was likely paid for by people other than Confederates, in fact, most likely by wealthy northerners. Bachelder raised money for it himself, through a committee that would include none other than Dan Sickles the year after it was built. I have been unable to find online the funding sources for the High Water Mark; my guess is that documentation does exist somewhere, probably at the park. Once that funding is documented, I would not be surprised, at all, if Bachelder used his position at the GBMA to auction off board seats on the GBMA via donations to his baby, that high water mark monument. That’s how these things usually go.

    • Joshism Jul 19, 2020 @ 16:54

      Purportedly the first monument to Confederate soldiers was placed in 1867 paid for with donations, not by the government – somewhat ironically in West Virginia. It was placed in the local cemetery. Hampshire County (which in 1860 included modern Keyser County as well) had a population of just under 14,000. The 1860 slave schedules list 263 owners with 1,278 slaves.

      The inscription is coy, but not inaccurate: “The Daughters of Old Hampshire Erect This Tribute of Affection to Her Heroic Sons Who Fell in Defence of Southern Rights.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_Memorial_(Romney,_West_Virginia)

  • Jacqueline Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:27

    (Out of ignorance)– Were any Confederate servicemen buried at Arlington?

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 7:29

      Yes, there were a few scattered throughout the cemetery after the war, but the largest number–roughly 350–were re-interred from area cemeteries for the dedication of the Confederate monument in 1914.

  • Elizabeth R Farnham Jul 11, 2020 @ 8:52

    Thank you for beginning to have this conversation.

    As you know, I am all for the removal of these shrines to white supremacy around which the Ku Klux Klan, Boogaloo Bois, and other racists rally while intimidating any Americans who disagree with them in expressing their First Amendment rights. However, I respect Dr. Hancock very much and will concede their presence on the battlefield in only one way – that these relics of the Jim Crow era and Civil Rights Movement backlash be sunk down in the ground with a panel of glass for visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park to look through to see them.

    As you have so correctly pointed out in the past, no amount of signage could change objects meant to be venerated into a classroom, but I do believe looking down upon them, instead of up to them, might provide the major amount of contextualization that would be required. Of course, additional signage would also be needed to explain their presence, as well as provide the current missing history like disgraced Lee’s orders to capture and enslave free Black people, as well as his traumatic separations of American families whom he enslaved on his own property, besides his regular brutality he inflicted on them. I highly recommend this article, if you haven’t read it already.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 8:55

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I am familiar with Adam’s piece. As you no doubt understand your suggestion will never be adopted at Gettysburg and other battlefields. For now NPS staff and others need to figure out how to properly interpret these monuments in situ. It’s going to take a good deal of creative thought.

  • Meg Groeling Jul 11, 2020 @ 9:06

    In the midst of all these erudite comments, I am still stuck with my personal experiences–statues like these are how I found out what anyone looked like. I know this seems very elementary, but my first images of war horses, battle scenarios, facial features–they came from statues and old images–and unless one owned a copy of the Brady book, those were hard to come by until the 100th. Now, a million years later, I still have those images in my head. They gave face & form to the words I read. To destroy them completely would be a large loss.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 9:54

      I highly recommend Thomas J. Brown’s new book CIVIL WAR MONUMENTS AND THE MILITARIZATION OF AMERICA. He explores the choices made in how to portray Civil War soldiers on the monument landscape.

  • Elizabeth R Farnham Jul 11, 2020 @ 9:16

    Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.

    Hold fast to dreams
    For when dreams go
    Life is a barren field
    Frozen with snow.

    Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

  • Wayne Robinson Jul 11, 2020 @ 9:18

    All monuments should stay undisturbed at Gettysburg and throughout the U.S. You are forgetting one major point which is represented by the “Peace Memorial” on Oak Ridge. This is all part of “The Reconciliation” between the North & South. What you propose is to destroy that very reconciliation. It is one reason the country is being divided. Another are the Educators, which are espousing the Marxist view of American history. Represented by “Zinn’s” textbook being used in many classrooms. I have read it. Did you know that Columbus was a “Capitalist”, in an age where capitalism didn’t exist? The same for other famous explorers. It is about time we teach “American” history in the classroom. It is not perfect but it has contributed more good to mankind than any Marxist regime.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 9:51

      Sectional reconciliation was much more complicated than what the Peace Memorial represents. I highly recommend reading Caroline Janney’s book REMEMBERING THE CIVIL WAR and Keith Harris’s ACROSS THE BLOODY CHASM.

      What you propose is to destroy that very reconciliation.

      Did you even bother to read the post? I never said anything close to this.

    • Diane Hyra Jul 11, 2020 @ 11:19

      Unfortunately Mr. Robinson, the Peace Memorial and it’s message of reconciliation was at the expense of African Americans. That might have been fine considering the sensibilities of the time it was erected. African American concerns were always ignored. But our sensibilities today are different and need to be represented in some way on the battlefield. If that means taking monuments down as some would suggest or added signage as others espouse, something must change.

    • Ken Noe Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:43

      Yes, let’s blame the teachers for society’s ills, and at the same time force them back into small classrooms next month where thousands will catch COVID and some will die. That makes perfect sense.

      By the way, I’ve been teaching for three decades and I’ve never seen Zinn assigned once. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good Facebook meme.

      • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:46

        I don’t know anyone who uses Zinn.

        • Ken Noe Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:54

          We’ve had this conversation for two decades, and the answer is always the same. And yet….

      • Robin Jul 12, 2020 @ 8:58

        They are actually used in a lot of community colleges. I was provided with Zinn’s text when taking US history class requirement at such a college before transferring to UW, Seattle.

        • paineite Jul 12, 2020 @ 11:21

          Disclosure: I’m a professional historian, credentialed and published, us US history is my area of focus. No book of history is perfect, but Zinn’s book is a GREAT deal better than the transparently lying and misleading texts I was treated to in classes during the 50s and 60s. At college level, students are assumed to be able to read a text critically. Zinn is a LONG WAY from being the problem.

          • Wayne Robinson Jul 12, 2020 @ 12:47

            First, Howard Zinn is not a historian by profession. He is a devote Marxist. Zinn’s whole world in history blame Capitalism. He says Columbus was a Capitalist, when Capitalism didn’t exist. He forgets about the Conquest era, Mercantilism, Colonialism which predated Capitalism. In History, they have distorted the motivations and completely overlooked the Great strides Capitalism has given to the world. Socialism sure hasn’t. Hiltler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc. all devout Socialists of one sort or another.

            • paineite Jul 12, 2020 @ 13:07

              Howard Zinn was chair of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College and a political science professor at Boston University. Zinn attended New York University on the GI Bill, graduating with a B.A. in 1951. At Columbia University, he earned an M.A. (1952) and a Ph.D. in history with a minor in political science (1958).

              He was an actual historian (unlike you) and a demonstrably better writer than you.

              Thanks for the entertainment, though. Could you try to post something even MORE ignorant to entertain us all further ?

              • Kevin Levin Jul 12, 2020 @ 13:09

                Thanks for the responses, but I am calling a halt to this thread on Howard Zinn. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the content of the post. Thanks for your understanding.

        • Joshism Jul 19, 2020 @ 17:09

          I’m legitimately surprised that a community college wouldn’t use a run-of-the-mill history textbook. Mine certainly did.

    • Joshism Jul 19, 2020 @ 17:07

      If any monument/memorial is removed from the Gettysburg battlefield it should be the Peace Memorial, which is a relic of naive pacifism from the interwar period of the 20th century and mars the interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg.

      The postbellum spirit of reconciliation seems now like a mistake, because that reconciliation allowed the South to continue ‘business as usual’ in spite of Reconstruction and the end of chattel slavery.

      Marxism is largely a boogie man. Back in the 1950s, conservatives decried racial integration as Marxism. Universal Health Care, something offered by almost every other country in the Western world, is decried as Marxism.

      But I agree that the Marxist interpretation of history (all history is a struggle between Labor and Capital) is hogwash, just as the Libertarian interpretation (all history is the struggle between freedom and tyranny) is likewise bunk.

      Was Columbus a capitalist? Depends how broadly you define the term. Colonialism and slavery are arguably proto-capitalism, wherein the workers have less freedom and income than in a typical free market capitalist system.

  • CM Gwinn Jul 11, 2020 @ 13:57

    The National Park Service would do well to re-frame this challenge as the opportunity it is. For the current generation of NPS public historians, this should be viewed as a moment of interpretive liberation. I’d encourage the Park Service at Gettysburg to continue the programmatic efforts they’ve been working on the past four years, work with the local community and park partners to expand the current comprehensive wayside project to include all of the state monuments / memorials, finish the rehabilitation of the historic James Warfield House, and consider relocating the official tour stop from the Mississippi and Louisiana Memorials to that new location, making it the first stop on the official tour route specifically intended to interpret the civilian and African American perspective. These would be good first steps, with the understanding that there is always more to do.

    I’d also add that while it is often in the spotlight, this challenge / opportunity is not unique to Gettysburg, and needs to be considered by the NPS more holistically. Only a few years ago the Park Service managed a site marketed as “The Stonewall Jackson Shrine” and as late as 2012 added Confederate memorials to the commemorative landscape. Citing policy is important to help Americans understand what the NPS legally can and can not do, but these larger questions of public history on Civil War battlefields are the critical ones.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 14:04

      Thank you for this comment. I completely agree. There are some incredibly talented historians and rangers throughout the NPS system that I am sure would embrace this challenge. Perhaps a Rally on the High Ground Symposium 2.0 is in order.

  • Ellen Auchter Jul 11, 2020 @ 14:58

    Thank you so much for your voice. I thank you for helping me sort my thoughts on the Civil War. I am so glad that peace prevailed inGettysburg. As a lifelong PA resident, I have visited many of the monuments and also other sites in Gettysburg. I am just so thankful there safe so that I can visit once more.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2020 @ 15:03

      Hi Ellen,

      Glad to hear this post resonated with you.

  • Steve Taylor Jul 12, 2020 @ 8:12

    Complete and accurate “contextualization” concerning Confederate monuments fits the bill…as long as the Union monuments “contextualize” those troops’ (from racist States and holding racist sentiments, themselves) presence on the battlefield. That those Union troops did not fight to end slavery, but to force the seceding States back into the Union.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 12, 2020 @ 8:20

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the comment. You are certainly correct that the vast majority of white Northerners did not see the war as an opportunity to make Blacks equal to whites, but many did believe that slavery needed to end. That’s a distinction that is often difficult to acknowledge today, but it was one that many acknowledged in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • John Parrish Jul 12, 2020 @ 15:20

    Careful Kevin, Cancel Culture is knocking on the door…

  • mischling2nd Jul 12, 2020 @ 19:45

    Historians have found no evidence that Confederate President Jefferson Davis or his secretary of war, James A. Seddon, directly ordered Confederate troops to seize African-Americans. But the practice was so widespread — as attested to in newspaper articles, diaries, soldiers’ letters — that some historians say it is hard to argue that the kidnappings were the work of rogue units in the Army of Northern Virginia.

    https://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2013/06/30/Confederates-slave-hunt-in-North-a-military-disgrace/stories/201306300221

    • Andy Hall Jul 14, 2020 @ 18:16

      At the beginning of May 1863, just weeks before Lee’s army stepped off on the Gettysburg campaign, the Confederate Congress passed a resolution encouraging “full and ample retaliation” for the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, that the Confederates viewed as encouraging “servile insurrection.” It called for the harshest possible measures against Black U.S. troops, including the execution of white officers and turning over the African American enlisted soldiers to be dealt with according to Confederate state law. It did not say anything specific about seizing African American civilians by the C.S. Army, but it certainly helped to establish the general atmosphere and and official rationalization that allowed it to happen.

      Also recall that Moxley Sorrel, Assistant Adjutant General to Longstreet’s First Corps, issued instructions to George Pickett on July 1 that “the captured contrabands had better be brought along with you for further disposition,” that likely meant imprisonment, auction, enslavement, and (often) severe punishment at the hands of a former-and-once-again master if that person could be identified. Seizing runaways was the official excuse for capturing and kidnapping hundreds of African Americans during the course of that campaign, a great many of whom had been born free. Jeff Davis and James Seddon may not have explicitly ordered it, but it was about as close to an official policy as one can imagine.

      • Kevin Levin Jul 15, 2020 @ 1:01

        Thanks, Andy. Forgot to respond to this comment.

  • William Neill Jul 14, 2020 @ 9:21

    Sounds like another jackass has now been heard from. Let’s just pretend the Civil War never happened. Let pretend that more then 600,000 died in that war. Let’s pretend that the slaves were never freed. Leave the monuments alone. Get back to much more important issues in the YSA.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 14, 2020 @ 9:54

      If it’s so unimportant, why did you bother to leave a comment?

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.