GDG- NPs & Slavery
pennmardel at mchsi.com
Tue Jan 3 09:42:57 CST 2012
I agree that the CW timeline at the VC is an excellent idea, since it places
the Battle of Gettysburg in perspective. However, the argument here seems
to be a necessity to inform visitors about the slavery issue related to the
CW -- as if slavery was the central focus of the war.
The reason the war was fought was not over slavery, but over secession.
Lincoln's first inaugural address made this abundantly clear. While the
Southern states seceded over the slavery issue, the North went to war to
preserve the Union -- and for no other reason.
Even when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863, the
purpose was to make slavery a war-related issue not a moral or political
In a nutshell, the heavy focus of the introductory film at the Gettysburg VC
tends IMO to distort these important facts, and to emphasize slavery beyond
its true significance regarding the war itself. While slavery was the key
factor for secession, it played virtually no role in the decision of the
North to invade the South in retaliation for firing on Fort Sumter.
Therefore, the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg and the campaign
should be placed in the context of preserving the Union, since it had no
direct bearing on the slavery issue whatsoever.
One of my initial impressions of the new VC the first time I was there (back
when the museum was free) was that I LOVED the approach of walking through
the entire timeline of the war - they didn't just include Gettysburg. My
thoughts then (and now) echo yours - Gettysburg will probably be the first
(if not only) exposure that many people get to the Civil War, and people
travel from all over the country - from all over the world, in fact - to
visit. The inclusion of more information will not only lead to better
contextual understanding in the grand scheme of where the war fits in US
history, but also where Gettysburg fits in Civil War history (i.e. it was
not the ONLY battle).
Someone visiting from Tennessee might learn of Chattanooga, Franklin, or
Nashville and go see the battles that happened closer to home. A family
from Mississippi might decide to check out Vicksburg as a day trip. Someone
from Kansas may leave with an appreciation for the events of "Bleeding
Kansas." Heck, even British visitors may acquire some understanding of how
their country's dependence on cotton factored into the events leading up to
the Gettysburg campaign.
We all know that the more personal a connection you can make to something,
the more it will stick. The more information included at the most-visited
battlefield park in the country, the more chance that new interests will
form, and that new historians will be born.
More information about the Gettysburg