As Walmart lowers Mississippi’s state flag from storefronts, learn why the infamous “rebel flag” isn’t even historically accurate.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has sent a letter to its sister city in South Dakota explaining why it doesn’t display the Confederate flag “on its police uniforms, patrol cars, stationary or from official Borough flag poles.”
The letter, dated June 29, was sent just before the anniversary of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg and days before the Gettysburg, S.D., City Council will consider the fate of its police logo that features the Confederate flag.
This police patch, taken from a 2015 Facebook post on Gettysburg, South Dakota’s page, shows the police department’s logo with the American and Confederate flags overlapped with a cannon from the battle the city is named for.
Emblem for the Gettysburg Police Department. (Photo: AP file photo)
Gettysburg, S.D., known as “Where the Battle Wasn’t” on the city website, has come under fire for its police logo in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
Copies of the letter were sent to the town’s council, Mayor Bill Wuttke and George Floyd’s uncle, Selwyn Jones. Jones lives in Gettysburg and has spoken out against the police department’s use of the Confederate flag.
The mayor and police department defend the logo, stating it is a part of the town’s history even though local historians have said that only one Confederate soldier homesteaded there among dozens of Union soldiers.
The patch, which shows the American and Confederate flags overlapping and a cannon to represent the battle that the town was named for, was created in 2009 by Scott Barksdale, a South Carolinan, after he learned of the history of the town.
Jones has said that he’s since spoken with Wuttke about the patch, telling him over the phone “Man, that’s got to go.” Jones said Wuttke responded with “we’ll see about it.”
“We’re not wanting the liberals and the press telling us we have to change it,” Wuttke also has said. “People here do not feel it’s racism.”
What the letter says
The correspondence from the site of the Battle of Gettysburg is not intended to compel the South Dakota town to change its police logo, the letter states, but to explain how the city of around 7,800 people views the use of the Confederate flag and symbols in the town.
“Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, supports inclusion, diversity, and acceptance in the community and in fact has a radical intolerance for inequality,” the letter states. “While our Borough does not have an official policy on the use of the Confederate flag, we are keenly aware of what it represented during the Civil War and today remains associated with white supremacist groups.”
Charles Gable, borough manager for the Pennsylvania town, said the letter was sent “in the hope to foster a productive exchange of perspectives that recognizes our nation’s original sin: slavery.”
Oglala Sioux President says Mount Rushmore should be ‘removed’: What’s behind the site’s controversial history
A debate about the use of the Confederate flag exists in the Pennsylvania borough, Gable writes, as local tourist shops sell and display the flag “to the consternation of many.” Yet, the city itself doesn’t display the flag on police uniforms, patrol cars, stationery or city flag poles.
In the minutes from a special June 12 city council meeting, Gettysburg Police Chief Dave Mogard said he’s not in favor of the patch he wears every day but not against it either.
“Would you put the Confederate flag on your business or your home? If you are not willing to put the Confederate flag on your business or your home, then why is it being forced upon our agency?” Mogard asked at the meeting, noting that he’s willing to use a different patch for the department.
The June 12 meeting minutes also reveal that the only media notified of the meeting were the Potter County News and Dakota News Now.
Justin Cronin, a former Republican state senator from District 23, said during the public comment portion of the meeting that he was concerned at how quickly the meeting had been called. He also said the Council’s discussion of the meeting was handled in a group text, which violates the state’s open meeting laws.
“I think the citizens of this community deserve a lot better opportunity to gather their thoughts,” Cronin said. “At this point after having heard this from the members of this community, I would advise you for your own good to cease this and seek legal counsel pursuant to Chapter 1-25 of the South Dakota Codified Law Open Meeting Rules conducting public business on private cell phones via text.”
According to the town’s website, the next Gettysburg City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, July 6. It will be a Zoom meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The story continues below.
Where history was made
The Battle of Gettysburg is considered the most important engagement of the American Civil War. It began on July 1, 1863, as Confederate troops led by Gen. Robert E. Lee were advancing through the Union state of Pennsylvania where it clashed with the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Gen. George Meade.
The three-day battle took a heavy toll on both armies. The Union had 23,000 casualties — killed, wounded or missing. The Confederates suffered 28,000 casualties and withdrew from Pennsylvania after the battle, according to history.com.
Today, Gettysburg does not display Confederate flags on its city poles or police cars, but statues, markers and monuments in and around the borough associated with the Confederacy remain.
More: Cheyenne Sioux River Tribe chairman joins fellow tribe in call to remove Mount Rushmore
“These markers must be used to teach future generations our history, if for no other purpose, so that we collectively can acknowledge the strides we’ve achieved as a Nation toward that ‘more perfect union’ and that we fought a war to help get there,” Gable writes.
Wuttke previously told the Journal he’s worried that people will tear down the Civil War memorial in front of the Potter County Courthouse if future protests occur in Gettysburg, a town of around 1,100 people in north-central South Dakota.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that retires the last state flag bearing the Confederate battle emblem. Amid international protests over racial injustice, Mississippi was under pressure to lose a symbol that many see as racist. (July 1)
Calls to remove Confederate symbols have rung out across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police. As part of many demonstrations, protesters in other states have torn down Confederate memorials.
While some believe the presence of the monuments is a reminder of the nation’s history, others argue that removing Confederate statues and flags helps dismantle monuments that glorify white supremacy and memorialize a rebel government whose founding principle was to continue the enslavement of people of color.
Gable writes in his letter that these statues and monuments are displayed “in historical context with an educational perspective,” and that the borough’s stance, as well as the Gettysburg National Military Park’s stance, is that the statues and monuments should remain for historical, contextual and educational reasons.
“After all, the battle happened here,” Gable wrote, noting that the symbols recognized the troubled past of the borough but doesn’t honor that past — “rather, they now exist to teach the wrongs of that past.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2020/07/01/pennsylvania-city-weighs-gettysburg-south-dakotas-reckoning-confederate-symbols/5357326002/