Our bus took us back to our hotel, but not before stopping briefly at the edge of the battlefield facing Pickett's Charge, and the area since called the High Water Mark of the Confederacy near where General Armistead fell wounded. We could not get off the bus, and I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a picture, but the large monument to Pennsylvania's fallen was on my side, and pwharbord took a better shot, so here it is. According to Mr. Prosperi, the name of every Pennsylvanian who fell during the battle is inscribed there.
At the Gettysburg National Cemetery, at the edge of town just west of the Battlefield, where many of the Union dead rest, near the site where Lincoln gave his famous address, another monument sits: The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial.
Paul and I went to see this place the day we left the convention. It depicts the "Armistead-Bingham Incident" after Pickett's Charge in which Union Army Captain Henry H. Bingham assisted mortally-wounded Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, both Freemasons. Armistead is seen entrusting personal effects (his watch and spurs, I think) with Bingham after Armistead was shot in his right arm and below his left knee. En route to a Union field hospital where he would die two days later, Armistead learned that Bingham was on the staff of General Winfield Scott Hancock, a Freemason as well as Armistead's close friend. He asked Bingham to pass along the items with a message to Hancock, after learning that Hancock had also been wounded. A record of this incident was first written in 1870. That record gives us the text of a message that is much too verbal and flowery to have been said on a battlefield, even by 19th century standards: "Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and you all an injury which I shall regret the longest day I live."
The place were Armistead fell has a marker near what is now called the High Water Mark of the Confederacy since 1887, and Gettysburg, the 1993 film based on The Killer Angels, dramatized the meeting, also near the spot where Armistead fell, but used this dialog which I think might be more believable:
The film has him shot in the chest, but he was actually shot in the right arm and left knee. Of course, Confederate sympathizers were quick to say that the entire incident was a fabrication, but there are enough records of Armistead telling Hancock before they went their separate ways in 1861 that he hoped God would strike him dead before he was put in a position to kill his best friend. I'll leave this second picture as a parting shot to those sympathizers, pun much intended.
These memorials to victor and vanquished alike serve to tell posterity what took place there. They serve that specific purpose. Among the people of our bus group were two young men, one from Alabama, one from Florida. They were polite and quiet during our ride, and those of us whose backgrounds were Northern were equally respectful. We were all fans of the show whose creator had drawn inspiration from a Civil War novel.
Joss Whedon had created his series Firefly about a group of people going about their lives after a devastating war. Some of the main characters had been on the losing side, but were "still not convinced it was the wrong one." There was also a book panel talk about The Killer Angels. A handout of a memo by Whedon was also there, titled "The 'Verse of 2517." The last sentence of that memo has some bearing here, about a group of soldiers who fought for two weeks after their high command had surrendered:
"The stain of criminality never left those few thousand--but in quieter circles, the legend of their tenacity made them heroes."
The statues of our real history reflect admiration for that kind of tenacity, however flawed the men or their causes; on a battlefield those statues have a place. If a statue of a Confederate officer graces that officer's home town, I would advocate its remaining there, to serve as a teaching point if nothing else. However, if a town council votes 3-2 to take it down, that is their pregrogative. Those protesting the statue's eventual removal should be equally free to voice their displeasure, but their freedom to do so ends where the health and wellbeing of others begins.
If you show up to a protest in riot gear and wielding clubs when you are not in law enforcement yourselves, this speaks to malicious intent. If words come to blows, those who first throw those punches should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, certainly those who run people down with cars should be met with the same, and those who kill with those cars should be charged with murder.