This was the last day of this year’s CWI conference. We started with our Gettysburg tours. I took the tour following Schimmelfennig’s Brigade of the 11th Corps, led by Supervisory Ranger Chris Gwinn, Chief of Interpretation at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. It was an outstanding tour, loaded with terrific information. Chris did a great job of putting the 11th Corps in context, putting German immigrants in context, and especially putting Alexander Schimmelfennig in context.
Professor Stephen Engle of Florida Atlantic University spoke on “The North’s Wartime Governors.” This was a very full presentation. We found the war gave the war governors more power, but the citizens kept them accountable. As the states’ commanders-in-chief they could issue proclamations and command the militia, as well as appoint officers and mobilize support for the war. Lincoln needed the governors to preserver the Union.
Next, John Coski of the American Civil War Museum gave a fact-filled presentation on the confederate flag. He told us “Heritage vs. Hate” is a false dichotomy. He showed this meme to illustrate one view:
In talking about how the battle flag, i.e., the “soldiers’ flag,” got to represent the proslavery politics of the confederacy, he started with the development of the Second National Flag and the Third National Flag:
With the confederate battle flag in the ensign, he said the confederacy itself used the soldiers’ flag as the political flag, which means you cannot make the distinction and separate the “soldiers’ flag” from the political goals of the confederacy. He also said the confederate generation helped make the battle flag representative of the proslavery and pro-white supremacy confederacy by elevating that flag above all others. He talked about the current Georgia State Flag, which is the likeness of the confederate First National Flag:
He said the NAACP is fine with it, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans and confederate flaggers protested it because to them it was not confederate enough. Go figure.
He also made the point that the less the flag is used, the more you can protect it from misuse, so if the flag is being “misused” by white supremacists, the best way to protect it from that misuse is to not display it unless in specific situations.
This was an excellent presentation. It was balanced and thoughtful.
We ended with a final panel featuring Timothy Orr, Andrew Bledsoe, Lorien Foote, John Coski, Jennifer Murray, Lisa Frank, and Brooks Simpson, moderated by Pete Carmichael. They answered questions from the audience and had a great discussion ranging from R. E. Lee’s strategic choices to racism among the Virginia Flaggers.
This was yet another fantastic CWI conference, and I’m already salivating in thinking about next year’s conference. See the schedule here.