National News

Gettysburg Battlefield visitors discuss whether Confederate statues should be removed in the U.S.

Posted August 16, 2017 11:25 a.m. EDT

— Days after a Virginia rally over the plan to remove a Confederate statue turned violent, attention has turned towards other monuments.

Protesters knocked down a statue of General Robert E. Lee in North Carolina Monday. It has central Pennsylvania visitors to Gettysburg National Park in Adams County talking about the value of Confederate statues

There are strong opinions on whether to keep or remove memorials such as the one to General Lee.

Many people go to Gettysburg Battlefield to take a look at its monuments to history.

Gettysburg visitor Nancy Blackman said "I've always been a history buff. I had a wonderful teacher when I was in high school who talked a lot about the Civil wwar, so we decided we'd do just a road trip and come to Gettysburg."

There are monuments that remember Civil War soldiers who fought for both the North and the South, but the Virginia Memorial featuring General Robert E. Lee seemed to especially receive a lot of attention.

Gettysburg historian Rick Fulton said "he's probably one of the best generals in American history of the 19th century. The Army studies his tactics and strategies today."

Lee also is remembered for his surrender.

"They were beat by resources. The blockade, and the factories were getting burned and gutted. They were running low, but they were running worse on resources," Fulton said.

"But the irony of Appomattox when Lee surrendered, he of course was opposed to slavery, he surrendered to a general who still had slaves. Grant had slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment," Fulton added.

The question of whether there is a place for General Lee and other Confederate statues in the U.S. was on the minds of many visitors.

"It's part of telling the story. Not whether you liked the outcome of the story, or you like the outcome of the story. It's part of the story. They're like pictures in a book, and you're really censoring history," Fulton said.

Gettysburg visitor Carrie Jaffe said "I understand that they're a part of history, I just think that perhaps they could be used to teach, as opposed to be a shrine to what they represented."

"I'm sure it's very painful to think about that part of our history. There were a lot of things that when you read is very heartbreaking, but it is part of our history," Blackman said.

Some believe the statues don't just tell another chapter of American history, but represent how the story is told.

"This is quite inspiring to the ideals of the confederacy. It doesn't do anything to tell me that this may have represented something that was incredibly dangerous to our sense of freedom," Jaffe said.

Gettysburg visitor Kayla Weber said "you learn stuff from it. It's like a piece of history that you can't really get rid of. And it's just another puzzle piece to America,and how it all came together."

In a statement, Gettysburg National Park senior advisor Katie Lawson said "Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects, and interprets one of the best marked battlefields in the world. Over 1,325 monuments, markers, and plaques, commemorate and memorialize the men who fought and died during the battle of Gettysburg and continue to reflect how that battle has been remembered by different generations of Americans."

"Many of these memorials honor southern states whose men served in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. These memorials, erected predominantly in the early and mid-20th century, are an important part of the cultural landscape," Lawson said.

"The National Park Service is committed to safe guarding these unique and site-specific memorials in perpetuity, while simultaneously interpreting holistically and objectively the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate," Lawson added.