We have followed earlier controversies involving the development of Civil War battlefields and historic areas by Disney, Walmart, and other corporations — often with the help of local politicians bent on trading their heritage for short-term gains. We can now add Gettysburg where local politicians have been pushing for a Gettysburg Casino over the objections of preservationists.
The plan to convert Gettysburg’s Eisenhower Conference Center into a gambling casino has the surprising support of the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association. However, the American Legion, historians, and a host of others are opposing the idea as a disgrace. The casino would be located only a half a mile from the park and on land that is part of the large battlefield area where 172,000 Union and Confederate troops fought and nearly 8,000 died.
While proponents claim that the casino could increase visitors to the park, it seems doubtful that people will want to take a break from the one-armed bandits to run over and get some history. Indeed, while this was the sales pitch for a casino near Vicksburg, there has been no increase in visitation to that historic park.
I remain astonished over the willingness for people to dishonor such proud and noble heritage for cheap big box stores and casinos. Perhaps they can offer Pickett’s Charge Cards. Of course, they can claim that it was Union Col. William Gamble who introduced the idea.
Local politicians appear to have forgotten the words of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top: “In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.”
This remains one of the most sacred and shared areas of history for our nation. It should be a source of pride for those people living in this area and bring an added sense of duty to protect this legacy. To dishonor this legacy with a cheap Casino that will commercialize this battle is a national outrage.
They have finally proven Abraham Lincoln wrong when he assured his fellow citizens that “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
Just in case the local planning board would be interested in a slight distraction before degrading our shared heritage, they may want to read the following before their final vote:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.