THE TRUE SPIRIT OF GETTYSBURG'S SOLDIERS – by Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Recently, Mr. H.K. Edgerton of Asheville, North Carolina was
not allowed to hold his Confederate flag at a Confederate
Memorial statue at the University of Texas. Security guards
threatened H. K. with arrest if he did not take his flag and leave.
Was his freedom of speech violated? Our state and federal taxes
go to universities. Should these institutions obey the law and
be available to ALL our people? Should these tax supported
schools be sanctuaries of open-minded inquiry or totalitarian
institutions of close-minded indoctrination?
By the way, Mr. Edgerton is past president of the N.A.A.C.P.
chapter in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a student of
American history and spends much of his time educating the
public. He is a Southerner and a member of the Sons of
Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania now hosts a new art exhibit
by Florida artist John Sims. Like Edgerton, Sims is black. His
exhibit depicts the Confederate flag lynched from a gallows. The
theme is reported to be, "The Proper Way to hang a Confederate
flag" and to contain colors different from the legitimate red,
white and blue.
Some say the art display is freedom of speech. However, when Mr.
Edgerton stood by a Confederate Memorial with his Confederate
flag, he was denied the same freedom of speech. Mr. Sims demeans
a symbol of bravery and sacrifice of soldiers who defended
their homeland against the invasion by a foreign power.
Mr. Edgerton honors the very same symbol.
Which of these two men is the true American? One divides through
hate and deceit. One brings us together through reverence and
respect. Yes, that symbol has been badly misused by those who hate
and divide. That is no reason to demean it for the same reasons.
It's true meaning is not reflected in the "art" of John Sims. If it
were, Mr. Sims would have no funding for his exhibit and Gettysburg
College would not have an exhibit.
When the exhibit opened , a crowd came to protest Sims'
artistic hate. H.K. Edgerton was there. He wore a Confederate
uniform and carried the Confederate flag. He was the true history
at Gettysburg because black Confederates did fight beside their
white compatriots in that 1863 battle.
Northern and Southern veterans of Gettysburg spoke long ago about
this issue. They put down their guns and embraced each other's flags.
General Robert E. Lee told his battle hardened soldiers to go home
and be good Americans. Lee's men were good Americans. There was no
resistance like we see today in Iraq. In all of America's wars
since 1865, both flags have fought side by side and the blood of
Union and Confederate have co-mingled to make this nation. These
flags have become blood brothers.
H. K. Edgerton has kept the spirit of the long departed veterans.
Mr. Sims has not listened to the soldiers nor looked at their
parades and reunions in which they again became American brothers.
He sees profit in division and hate. Mr. Sims has the right to do
that. He has the First Amendment, the support of Gettysburg
College and others. Mr. Sims knows how to play the game.
H. K. is not given the right of the First Amendment nor the
support of the University of Texas, nor of the rich and powerful.
The hypocrisy is obvious.
The hypocrisy will remain. Why? Because those in power are
comfortable with the new segregation.
Come with me to the past when all American flags were respected.
July, 1863 was hot in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. From July 1st to
3rd two armies fought a struggle for the future of America and
thousands died in that battle.
The Federals won, but at a terrible price. It took a long time
to bury the dead. Some were never buried. Some where found
still clutching their battle flags. In the North and South prayers
went up for the dead, wounded and missing. The soldiers who fought
there hallowed Gettysburg's soil and soul.
In 1913 the old veterans met once again, but this time they shook
hands as friends. All were members of either the United Confederate
Veterans or the Grand Army of the Republic. They brought their
families, food, flags and war stories to tell around the campsite.
The flags flew side by side. There were no apologies for past
beliefs and none were demanded. All these veterans, who once
opposed each other, now came together as countrymen. There was
no suppression of Southern symbols, no hateful artwork. These
men, who fought for their countries, did not use cowardly methods
to degrade their opponents in that war. Instead, they had learned
how to again become countrymen.
The Gettysburg veterans said grace to God for the reunion.
That evening more veterans come into camp. The Union hosts were
surprised to see black Confederate veterans. Tents had been set
up for the black Union soldiers, but no one expected these
Southern black men and there was no room.
Immediately these black Southerners were invited to the Confederate
campsite and were given tents for themselves and their families.
Black Confederate veterans were always welcomed at meetings of
the United Confederate Veterans and they attended all such
events. This was the way it was before it became "correct" to
hate the past.
When you visit Gettysburg or other such battlefields, take
time to walk the site. There are spirits out there and they
may just talk to you. You may hear things others do not want
you to know.
It is easy to demean the dead when the living will not defend
their heritage. Mr Sims, Gettysburg College and powerful people
know this. They can get away with it now, but history is not
so "correct." It has often recorded how the moral high ground has
been eroded by the arrogance of the victors who become that which
So, there is an exhibit of art at Gettysburg College. There
will be those who love the work. They will praise the artist.
But the spirit of Gettysburg's soldiers will not be among them.
Can we save our history and our symbols from such hate? I think
we can---and will.
"After all, tomorrow is another day."
Lest We Forget!
A native of Georgia, Calvin Johnson lives near the historic town of Kennesaw, home
of the locomotive "The General" from the War Between the States. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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