Gettysburg College to "lynch" Confederate battle flag

Avant-garde artist to demonstrate "proper way to hang" Southern flag & H.K. Edgerton marches

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. 3.

The ceremony will occur on the opening night of an exhibit by Florida artist John Sims entitled "Recoloration Proclamation: The Gettysburg Redress."

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.

Edgerton said 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 cities today."

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 shoes.

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.

At 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.

After 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 hostilities.

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 hills.

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 his actions."

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 lynching

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.

The 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 fur.

 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 election.

c.. The artist’s revised version of President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

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 mathematical art.

Images and more information about Sims are available at

By 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 Gallery.

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 in 1832.