After Trump’s suggestion that he would give his nomination acceptance speech at the White House triggered potential legal objections, his campaign mooted the possibility of giving the speech at the Gettysburg battlefield. This triggered paroxysms of insanity that are remarkable even against the background of repeated paroxysms of insanity that have been playing on a loop for almost 4 years now.
Leading the Stupid Parade was CNN’s Jerry Diamond: “This is a President who has consistently positions himself as a defender of Confederate symbols and monuments to Confederate generals.” He was soon joined by assorted leftists, notably Meathead himself, Rob Reiner, who repeated the theme that going to Gettysburg was a dog whistle to racists and Neo-Confederates.
The clownery here is just too much. Anyone making these statements has no clue about Gettysburg, the history of the battlefield, or the monuments there. No. Clue. Whatsoever.
To start with, Gettysburg was the turning point in the war against slavery. Recognizing this, in November 1863 President Lincoln gave a speech at the dedication of the National Cemetery on the battlefield. This speech just happens to be the most famous oration in American political history, and arguably in the entire English language. For those who have forgotten, or never knew (which, alarmingly, is a very real possibility):
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
“Dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” A paean to Slavocracy if I ever heard one! “A new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The authoritarian’s creed, right?
That is what Gettysburg means. That is what those who speak there pay homage to. That is what politicians who speak there want to be associated with.
Speaking of the National Cemetery, it is the resting place of over 3,500 Union dead. Sure, there are seven Confederates buried there. By accident–they were mistakenly identified as Federals. Except for the remains of Confederate dead undiscovered in the years after the war–whose bones still rest in those lost graves–the bodies of the Johnnies were removed to the South, to places like Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
So honoring the dead there means honoring the Union dead.
As for monuments, according to the National Park Service, there are 1,328 monuments at Gettysburg. Over 1,100 are to Union units.
Anyone who is remotely familiar with the history of the battlefield (which certainly excludes Meathead and other meatheads who bloviate on the subject), the moving political force behind the creation of the park (and other parks at Chickamauga, Shiloh, and Antietam) were Union veterans. Gettysburg in a particular was intended to be a shrine to the Union cause. The most important single figure in this movement was the notorious Dan Sickels, wounded on July 2, 1863.
Many Union veterans were deeply hostile to any recognition of Confederates on the battlefield. This was a monument to their achievement, in the name of Union, and for some the end of slavery.
Virtually every Union regiment and battery that fought at Gettysburg is memorialized there in granite and bronze. The veterans, and sometimes the states their regiments were recruited in, paid to create these sentinels in stone.
Monuments to any Confederates, or any Confederate figures, were placed in the park much later. The 11 states that contributed soldiers to the Army of Northern Virginia have placed monuments there. Some–like Virginia’s and North Carolina’s–are large and impressive. Some–like Texas’–are more modest.
The larger memorials (notably Virginia’s) do have Lost Cause resonance. But for the most part they recognize the bloody toll that the citizens of these states paid on three days in July, 1863.
Interestingly, one of the most recent additions to the monuments at Gettysburg is a statue of James Longstreet. After the war, Longstreet became a Republican. He defended the Reconstruction government in Louisiana, and attempted to defend blacks against the depredations of white supremacists opposed to said government, and to the civil rights of blacks.
For which he was vilified in the South.
I have been to Gettysburg over two dozen times, the first time when I was 9 years old. I have walked every foot of that field from Benner’s Hill to Big Round Top, and probably seen well over one thousand of these monuments, and read the text on most of them. Based on that, I can state definitively that anyone who believes it is Stone Mountain in Pennsylvania is beyond delusional.
Yes, there are monuments there that might warm the cockles of a Lost Causer’s heart, but overwhelmingly it is a massive memorial to the Union cause and Union sacrifice. Indeed, Gettysburg was arguably the singlemost important milestone in making the Cause a Lost one.
Most importantly, it is the site of the Gettysburg Address, which is the seminal speech that framed the cause for which the Union fought, and set the course for the post-war order. A course (according to the Emancipation Proclamation issued six months before the battle and then months before the speech) that included the end of slavery.
But the left (particularly in the media) is totally obsessed with playing Six Degrees From Slavery. In their twisted, fevered brains, if Trump does anything that is at all associated with the Confederacy, he is doing it because it is associated with the Confederacy. But a sensible person, and one who knows the battlefield, the history of the battle, and the history of the battlefield-as I do, and have since I was a boy-knows that the greatest associations are with the fight for freedom and democracy, and the fight against slavery.