Many people are calling for the removal of statues, monuments, and other divisive symbols across the United States in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and ongoing racial tensions. The Confederate Flag is one of these controversial symbols and has a connection with South Dakota.
Not long after the end of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers migrated to the Midwest to what were called “Soldier Colonies.”
This is according to Kurt Hackemer, who is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of South Dakota. He’s done extensive research on these post-Civil War soldier colonies.
He says the vast majority of those who settled in Dakota Territory were not only Union Soldiers, but also experienced high trauma when fighting in the war.
“These are guys who were, in much larger number than one would expect, in the Union Army in general in Dakota Territory, much more likely to have been in the bloodiest battles of the Civil War for extended periods of time," Hackamer says.
One of these Soldier Colonies in Dakota Territory was what is now Gettysburg, South Dakota.
The Gettysburg Police Department has come under fire recently because it has a Confederate Flag on its patch.
Gettysburg Mayor Bill Wuttke has said that he’s not in favor of removing the flag from the patches stating that it reflects the history of the Gettysburg.
However, USD provost Kurt Hackemer says the display of the flag on the patch and elsewhere largely has nothing to do with direct heritage. He says it’s likely that there were no Confederate soldiers that settled in Gettysburg.
“The founders of Gettysburg, I’m convinced, would be absolutely appalled that their police force is wearing the Confederate flag," Hackamer says. "because in their minds, when you look at what people like those men were saying during the time of the town’s founding, that flag was the flag of traitors.”
Gettysburg Resident Selwyn Jones is the uncle of George Floyd and has called for the patch to be changed in the wake of his nephew’s killing.