The Confederate Presence at Gettysburg


The Confederate States of America holds a prominent place on the Gettysburg battlefield. In terms of statuary, there are only a few state monuments and a scattering of markers to individuals...and, a very bizarre James Longstreet equestrian statue; the Union presence far outweighs the Rebels in this respect. Still...there is a real Confederate presence on the battlefield and in the neighboring town. Seminary Ridge, of course is dominated by the memory of the Army of Northern Virginia. But beyond that - there are would-be secesh everywhere. I mean everywhere. And these guys will be sure to impart an earful to anyone who will listen (and to some who won't) about their glorious cause. 

Gettyburg, the battlefield and the town, seems to be some sort of Mecca for Lost Causers and they gather there regularly to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors or just to peruse the local gift shops for Confederate flags, tee-shirts, and other geegaws. Locals of the entrepreneurial spirit have certainly cashed in. 


But I wonder...why? Oh sure I get that there would be some sort of historical markers here and there and even the monuments sort of make sense when analyzed from the reconciliationist perspective of the late-19th and early-20th century and the centennial. But Confederate apologists these days seem to really embrace the place, which to me is a little more than confounding. I mean - the Rebs lost at Gettysburg, big time. You would think they would be more likely to latch on to Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville with this level of gusto. But no. 


For what it's worth - I'll be asking my students to try and figure it out. What does this place mean to the defeated? What does that say about our collective memory? What can we learn about the national historical consciousness from visiting this battlefield? If you think the answer entirely revolves around some abstract reconciliationist devotion...have a quick look at this Pickett-Pettigrew Assault micro-reenactment featuring the gallant sons of North Carolina. I shot this myself on the anniversary of the battle back in 2015. 

With compliments,