Gettysburg, PA -- Gettysburg College in
Pennsylvania last week announced hostilities will resume in the war against
symbols of the South when it hosts the symbolic "lynching" of a Confederate
battle flag at a specially built 13-foot high gallows on Friday, Sept.
The ceremony will occur on the opening night of an exhibit by Florida
artist John Sims entitled "Recoloration Proclamation: The Gettysburg
The announcement of the event at the Schmucker Art Gallery has
stirred the passions of supporters of the Southern heritage, especially those of
H.K. Edgerton, an Asheville black man who has marched across the South in
support of Southern heritage.
"It's an act of war against Southerners,"
Edgerton said in a recent interview. "They are symbolically killing the symbol
of a nation."
Edgerton once was the chairman of the Asheville office of
the NAACP. In 2002 he marched from Asheville to Austin, TX and earlier this year
he was featured in the funeral procession for members of the crew of the C.S.S.
Hunley in Charleston, SC. The Hunley sank in Charleston harbor. It was the
world's first submarine to engage and sink an enemy ship.
he will be in Gettysburg, "to proudly represent all Southerners who honor the
memory of the old South. There was more love and respect in the South in the
early 1860's between slaves and slave owners than there is in the streets of our
Upon his arrival in Pennsylvania, Edgerton will retrace
the route taken by General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia as
they moved East from Chambersburg into Gettysburg in search of badly needed
The battle was joined on July 1, 1863, when Lee sent two divisions
into the town to drive out a group of Pennsylvania militia cavalrymen. Lee's own
cavalry, who served as scouts for the main armies, was out of contact with their
infantry forces. It was one of the rare mistakes made by the South's legendary
cavalry leader, General J.E. B. Stewart.
The main battles were held the
next day, after Union General George Meade's Army of the Potomac had arrived and
taken positions on high ground to the South of Gettysburg. Derived of scouting
information, Lee did not initially realize he was facing the main body of the
Army of the Potomac.
The largest battle ever fought on U.S. soil came to
a terrible conclusion on July 3rd, when Lee ordered General James Longstreet
into action with 18,000 troops. The single largest cause of casualties in the
battle came when 12,000 of Major General George Pickett's troops began a long
advance across open terrain towards Union positions on Cemetery Ridge.
the end of the three days of combat more than 51,000 Union and Confederate
soldiers had been killed and wounded.
The fields of battle were covered
with bodies of the dead, and those who were dying.
Gettysburg was called
the high-water mark for the Confederacy but it marked the beginning of a long
series of victories for the Union armies that culminated in Lee's surrender to
General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va., in 1865.
the battle the Gettysburg National Cemetery was established to be the burial
ground for the 3,512 Union soldiers who died during and after the battle. It was
dedicated on the 19th of November, 1863, with speeches by local dignitaries and
most notably from President Abraham Lincoln.
The citizens of Gettysburg
did not think highly of the invaders from the south in 1863, or for many years
thereafter. While the National Cemetery was established and Union soldiers were
reburied there with honor, the bodies of Southern soldiers were not moved from
the fields where they had fallen. It wasn't until 1872 that several Southern
ladies' memorial societies successfully raised enough money to begin the process
of repatriating the bodies of Southern soldiers to their home states. The task
was completed in 1877.
After the war, Gettysburg became a symbol of
strength and courage for both sides. Northerners remember that the Southern army
was stopped and forced to retreat due to the new-found leadership and courage of
the Army of the Potomac.
Southerners honor the courage and valiant
efforts of Lee's men in a battle where, for a brief moment, it looked as though
the South might win
decisively and force Washington to end
More importantly, perhaps, the battlefield became a meeting
place for old soldiers from both sides who often brought their families to show
where they had fought, and to walk arm in arm across the rolling
As for H.K. Edgerton's march, he may be the first man in a
Confederate uniform to march uninvited to the center of Gettysburg since Jubal
T. Early's troops arrived on the last day of June, 1863.
Edgerton will be
accompanied by supporters of Southern heritage from across the south, according
the Southern Legal Resource Center in Black Mountain.
"We concede the
right to artistic expression," Edgerton said. "Sims is an avant-garde artist and
this is how he promotes himself and gets free
publicity for his art. But the
lynching thing is a hate crime, pure and simple. It is a mean-spirited, vicious,
deliberate piece of propaganda and
Sims knows it. He has an agenda. He has a
right to create what he wants but he is also answerable for the consequences of
Thursday night, after his arrival in town from
Chambersburg, Edgerton plans to have a candlelight reading of the names of all
Confederate soldiers who died in the three-day battle.Story
filed for the Tribune by Bill Fishburne
|Sidebar: What Gettysburg College has to say about the
The lynching will
occur on the opening night of an exhibition called “Recoloration
Proclamation: The Gettysburg Redress” by artist John Sims. The lynching,
entitled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag,” will also be the
subject of an exhibition closing ceremony on Sept. 26.
exhibition in the college’s Schmucker Art Gallery will also include:
a.. Confederate flags that the Sims has rendered in alternate
colors, such as the black, red, and green of the African liberation
movement. Two “drag flags” will be in lavender and pink with sparkles and
b.. Sims’s “ReVote” installation, which includes his
re-colored “Floridian Rebel Flag” surrounded by three of the actual voting
booths used in Florida’s controversial 2000 presidential
c.. The artist’s revised version of President Lincoln’s
d.. The artist’s “Dixie Remix Project,” an
interactive experience centering on the famous song that begins “Way down
south in the land of
e.. A lecture on Sims, “Razing the
Flag: Nationalism and Dissent in Contemporary Art,” by Gwendolyn DuBois
Shaw, assistant professor of art history and Afro-American studies at
Harvard University at Schmucker Hall, at 5:15 p.m. Sept. 16. “The
‘Recoloration Proclamation’ project is about visual terrorism, respect,
and collective self-esteem issues,” Sims said.
In addition to his
work as an artist, Sims is coordinator of mathematics at Ringling School
of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla. A native of Detroit, he is completing
a Ph.D. in mathematics at Wesleyan University, and holds a B.S. in
mathematics from Antioch College in Ohio. He is co-curator of
“MathArt/ArtMath,” a nationally touring exhibition of contemporary
Images and more information about Sims are
available at http://www.johnsimsprojects.com/.
co-opting the image of the Confederate flag and changing the well-known
color scheme to one antithetical to the flag’s historical and cultural
function, Sims is able to interrogate and re-direct the symbol’s power,
perhaps altering the viewer’s sense of place and belonging,” said Dr.
Molly S. Hutton, who directs Gettysburg College’s Schmucker Art
Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year
residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With a student body of
approximately 2,500, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the
Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded