U.S. House orders Confederate monuments removed from Gettysburg and elsewhere

Chris Swartz of Kentucky studies the Tennessee monument during a Gettysburg visit. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an appropriations bill ordering that all things Confederate be removed from federally owned Civil War battlefields and sites. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

The assault continues against the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg. This time the attack originated in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill that orders the National Park Service to remove “statues, monuments,” and all other things Confederate from 25 Civil War sites within 180 days of the bill being signed into law.

Maine representatives Chellie Pingree (D-1st District) and Jared Golden (D-2nd District) voted in favor of the bill.

The Mississippi monument is one of the more striking monuments at Gettysburg. (BFS)

Among the battlefields covered by this mandate are Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Petersburg, and every other NPS-managed battlefield where “physical Confederate commemorative works” exist, according to Section 442 of the 727-page H.R. 7608. Sponsored by Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), the bill is titled the “State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2021.”

Chris Mackowski, editor-in-chief at Emerging Civil War, reported on August 7 that the House approved the bill on July 24 and that the Senate received it on July 30.

The bill contains three sections pertaining to the Confederate presence on NPS-controlled land:

Section 441 forbids the National Park Service from buying or displaying “a Confederate flag” except for “specific circumstances where the flags provide historical context” as defined in a NPS “Confederate Flags” memorandum dated June 24, 2015.

Section 442 orders the NPS to “remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques” no more than 180 days after the appropriations bill becomes law.

The James Longstreet statue at Gettysburg would be removed if a House-approved appropriations bill becomes law. (BFS)

This section means what it says: Every Confederate statue and monument will vanish from every federal battlefield park within no more than six months once the president signs the bill. The term “plaques” will probably apply to the metal plaques, ubiquitous along West Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg, identifying the locations of Confederate artillery batteries and infantry formations and detailing who was doing what and when during a particular point in the battle.

Section 443 requires that the Secretary of the Interior “shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations an inventory of all [departmental] assets … with Confederate names” no more than 90 days after the bill becomes law.

And Section 130 forbids the Defense Department from using FY 2021 construction funds on any project “on a military installation bearing the name of a confederate officer,” except at bases where the names are being changed.

The bill’s passage raised hackles at Gettysburg, where in early August the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides issued a press release detailing the threat.

The monuments representing all of the soldiers who fought here are a critical component of interpreting these sacred grounds,” wrote Les Fowler, the association president.

If you’ve seen the Alabama monument at Gettysburg, you’ve seen the same monument at other federal battlefields (such as Vicksburg). This monument and its accompanying statue will disappear if the U.S. Senate does not strike certain sections from a House-approved appropriations bill before passing it. (BFS)

We urge the U.S. Senate to strip out this provision that would destroy the unequaled collection of monuments, Union and Confederate, that set Gettysburg apart as a great battlefield park and a top visitor destination,” he wrote.

We will do what we can to convince all members of Congress to address and to oppose this removal provision,” Fowler stated..”We encourage all advocates for Gettysburg to join our effort and reach out to their representatives.”

Mackowski, a former journalist, spoke with “my contacts on Capitol Hill” and learned from sources speaking “on the condition of anonymity” that “the bill as it now stands is DOA in the Senate, which has been the case” for all appropriations bills passed this year by the House.

The Georgia monument at Gettysburg is similar to other Peach State monuments on other battlefields. (BFS)

For the first time in 35 years, the Senate hasn’t marked up a single appropriations bill,” Mackowski pointed out. Expectations are that with “the legislative year heading into the home stretch, and an election looming … Congress will pass a series of continuing resolutions to fund the government at its current levels rather than descend into political wrangling over specific appropriations.

As a result, HR-7608 would not get passed,” he wrote.

“‘This isn’t going anywhere this year,’” one source told me,” Mackowski noted. “‘We are more worried about this coming up again next year, than it going anywhere this year.’”

The text for H.R. 7608 can be found here. Once the page opens, press CTRL and F. A search box will open in the lower left corner of the page. Type “Confederate” in the search box and use the up-and-down arrows to find specific Confederate citations in the bill.

Mainers concerned about H.R. 7608 should contact Senator Susan Collins at 202-224-2523 (Washington, D.C.) and Senator Angus King at 202-224-5344 (Washington, D.C.).

If you enjoy reading the adventures of Mainers caught up in the Civil War, be sure to like Maine at War on Facebook and get a copy of the new Maine at War Volume 1: Bladensburg to Sharpsburg, available online at Amazon and all major book retailers, including Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. —————————————————————————————————————–

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.