History is history? Or tear the monuments down? Locals react to Gettysburg monuments


With recent unrest across the country regarding the validity and necessity of civil war statues, specifically those that commemorate the Confederate Army, we turned to Gettysburg specialists to see how those monuments are being perceived where the war's greatest turning point took place, in favor of the Union Army.

Now, the question is being asked, are the monuments and civil war reenactments justified as a part of history, despite hateful messages they may send, and where do they stand in the colliding realms of political correctness and free speech?

"The vision of America they [the Confederate Army] had, the cause they fought for, was a cause that centered around enslaving black people," says Scott Hancock, an professor of African American history at Gettysburg college. "And there's just no getting around that."

Hancock says the Civil War monuments can serve as teachable moments- if they're correct- stating many monuments claim the Confederate's battle was for state's rights, not slavery. Hancock says that is where the conflict begins.

"These monuments are telling a lie," says Hancock. "They're repeating a perverted, twisted vision of history that began by Southern apologists before the war even ended."

James Zartman, a civil war re-enactor, and Gettysburg native, says his great grandfather fought for the Union Army and that Gettysburg doesn't see much of the racial unrest regarding the monuments as much as the rest of the country.

"Our reaction to the monument thing is this: history is history," says Zartman. "You can pull down the monuments, but that will not erase history."

Zartman says he believes it's out of respect for the 51,000 causalities from the Battle of Gettysburg, from July 1-3, 1863, that protesters have not caused disruption or construction to any standing monuments.

"I think it's hallow ground," says Zartman. "It's like making an uproar in church."

But as a major turning point for the nation's greatest internal war, Gettysburg seems to be the perfect breeding ground for questions surrounding the necessity of Confederate monuments and where they fall in terms of the freedom of speech.

"If we don't learn from it, ya know as the saying goes, we're doomed to repeat it," says Gettysburg visitor, Dianna Stahlman.

"Everyone seems to be so offended by history," says Clarence Stahlman. "I mean, where does it end?"

While Scott Hancock says he understands most of the monuments truthfully dictate a bumpy path that made the U.S. the nation we are today, it's educating people on the truth of what happened that will move us forward.

"If we don't understand why these Confederate monuments went up and what they have signified for such a long time," says Hancock. "Then we're not really going to be able to address the issues of race and racial inequity in any effective way."

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