GDG- NPs & Slavery

Margaret D. Blough mdblough1 at
Tue Jan 3 13:51:27 CST 2012


Part of the story of the Gettysburg campaign, aside from the cause of the war issue, was the use of the Army of Northern Virginia, especially the cavalry, as a slave-catching patrol (they weren't actually picky about determining whether the black person WAS a runaway slave). It was significant and local whites discussed and wrote about it at the time with considerable shock and distress. Even a racist could be disturbed at the sight of women and children being chased down, as they tried to hide in wheatfields, etc, by mounted Confederates. Many of the Black population of Gettysburg fled for that reason, others went into hiding (including one woman who hid out in the belfry of a church), and others were captured (at least oe escaped). 

There are some subjects about which neutrality is impossible. Ignorance, possibly, but not neutrality. 

As a battle, I'm not sure that Gettysburg was unique enough to merit being walled off from discussion of slavery as you suggest The Overland Campaign, often presented as separate battles, was really one continuous fight for a month and a half from the Wilderness until the offensive stalled as the ANV was forced into siege at Petersburg. Antietam was bloodier in terms of carnage, I'd put the Battles of Franklin & Nashville and Cold Harbor up against it. in terms of carnage In terms of geopolitics, while Gettysburg was crucial in destroying the myth that Lee was invincible, it would not have had the same impact had Vicksburg not fallen the day after the Battle of Gettysburg ended. What makes the Battle of Gettysburg truly unique was that the dedication of the National Cemetery there was the occasion of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address, as moving an enunciation of national war aims as anything Churchill ever issue and the strong indication of the alteration of Union war aims to go beyond preserving the Union. It is impossible to explain the terms of the Address without getting into the issues of slavery and its role in the war. 

The bottom line though, is that the park's enabling statute requires it to put the battle of Gettysburg into context. 



----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Ryan" <pennmardel at> 
To: "GDG" <gettysburg at> 
Sent: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 12:53:51 PM 
Subject: Re: GDG- NPs & Slavery 

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes: 
<<So, just as a state cannot take away your free speech, they cannot exempt 
you from other federal laws, rights, and privileges. "Nullification" 
doesn't work. What the seceding states did in effect was take all of their 
citizens (and especially in the case of the slaves) and kidnap them - 
claiming that they were no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the United 
States, and the protections that come with that citizenship. 

What was Lincoln supposed to do, exactly?>> 


You argue your case well. But, let's keep this in the context of Gettysburg 
and how to present the battle to the public. I do not agree that visitor's 
need to be taught that slavery was evil. Most if not all already understand 
this. Let's argue for Gettysburg to be unique in the context of a great 
battle that helped preserve the Union. 

Once we engage in moralizing of any kind, that IMO reduces the impact and 
understanding of what actually took place over three bloody days on the 

Do you really want people from Kansas or Oklahoma going out on the field 
with the notion that Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet's only thoughts were 
to beat up on those damn Yankees in order to preserve the institution of 

Regards, Tom Ryan 

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