GDG- NPs & Slavery

Tom Ryan pennmardel at
Tue Jan 3 14:44:42 CST 2012

Hi Margaret,

I am not arguing against placing Gettysburg in its proper context regarding
the CW's causes and implications.  I was one of the first people to write
about the ANV capturing blacks during the campaign in an article for the
Washington Times in 2002.  My sense is that the VC film over-dramatized the
slavery issue to the detriment of what went on at Gettysburg from a military
point of view.

As I mentioned earlier,from my perspective it is a matter of degree to which
the slavery issue seems to take precedence in the film.

I am totally in tune with the evils of slavery, and have read extensively
about its horrors in this country that, among other things, caused uprisings
against the slaveowners.  I have researched, written about, and given talks
about slavery and its impact on society here in Delaware -- especially the
black codes that were imposed on the African-American population.

However, the argument that some have been making here that it is the job of
the NPS to provide a tutorial on slavery to the visitors at Gettysburg seems
out of place.  As bad as slavery was as an institution, the fact is that the
Union army was not fighting do away with slavery.  Its primary and perhaps
sole objective was to prevent the Southern states from separating from the
United States permanently.

Next time I see the film, I will check to see how much of a balance is
presented on the slavery vs. Union issues.  However, my sense is the
emphasis is on the former and not the latter.

Regards, Tom

-----Original Message-----
From: gettysburg-bounces at
[mailto:gettysburg-bounces at]On Behalf Of Margaret D. Blough
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 2:51 PM
Subject: Re: GDG- NPs & Slavery

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:

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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