That Confederate Flag Would Have Offended Your Great-Great Grandfather

By Dr. Paul C. Kemeny and Dr. Gillis J. Harp

That Flag Would Have Offended Your Great-Great Grandfather
As the nation celebrates the Fourth of July & the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, citizens of southern states are rightly debating the appropriateness of flying the Confederate flag.
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA –-( Recently, while waiting in line at a store in Grove City, Pennsylvania, we saw a young man several customers in front of us wearing a sweatshirt with the Confederate battle flag on its back and a caption that read, “If This Flag Offends You, You Need a History Lesson!”

An hour or so later, we saw the same teenager hop into a pickup truck with Pennsylvania tags.

While the citizens of South Carolina are rightly debating the appropriateness of flying the Confederate flag on state grounds, it struck us as pretty ironic that here in western Pennsylvania a teenager would venerate the Confederacy.

As the nation celebrates both the Fourth of July and the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, perhaps this Pennsylvania youth and other confused northern neo-Confederates need a brief history lesson.

Although the Republican Party now finds its strength in Old Dixie, when the party of Lincoln was formed, western Pennsylvanians were among its most enthusiastic supporters. When the newly created party nominated its first presidential ticket in 1856, candidate John C. Fremont won only 33 percent of the national vote. But the citizens of Mercer County cast 57 percent of their ballots for Fremont—the candidate pledged to oppose the further expansion of slavery into the territories. In 1860, western Pennsylvanians were among the strongest supporters of Abraham Lincoln. At the party’s national convention, Pennsylvania delegates cast 52 out of their 54 votes for Lincoln; many Pittsburghers celebrated Honest Abe’s nomination firing cannons from Boyd’s Hill. Predictably, in November, 60 percent of Mercer County voters went for the Rail-splitter; Lincoln’s total in nearby Lawrence County was nearly 78 percent. Nor did western Pennsylvanians change their voting habits after Appomattox.

Grand Army of the Republic
Grand Army of the Republic

Vets continued to “vote the way they shot” well after the war. Former Union soldiers joined the main veterans’ organization called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), virtually an arm of the Republican Party in some parts of the north. Visit a local cemetery sometime and you’ll be struck by the number of metal GAR badges adorning the graves.

Nor were most citizens of Mercer County prepared to just let bygones be bygones when the war ended. As the editors of the Mercer “Whig & Dispatch” newspaper declared:

“Treason is the natural fruit of the doctrine of state rights as expounded by the traitors of the south and the leaders of the Democratic Party north. It was the school in which the traitorous elements of the South were shaped for the fearful war which was launched against the nation’s life.”

Not only did many Pennsylvanians oppose secession on political grounds but they also viewed slavery as the reason for what they called the “Great Rebellion.” Many western Pennsylvanians embraced Lincoln’s anti-slavery views for both political and religious reasons. These convictions had been fermenting for decades. At the 1835 organization of an abolitionist society in Mercer County, for instance, supporters passed a resolution which declared slavery “a gross violation of the fundamental principles of our government, and incompatible with the laws of God and the requirements of the Gospel.”

These sentiments reached a fever pitch as one southern state after another seceded from the union in the aftermath Lincoln’s election. At a rally held at the Mercer County Court House in January 1861, the Reverend W.T. McAdam, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Mercer, whose manse was a stop on the Underground Railroad, declared, “It is no time for unholy compromises. Sure that we are right, we should stand as inflexible as justice, and trust the issue to Almighty God.”

Such convictions led many Pennsylvanians to make the ultimate sacrifice to abolish slavery and to preserve the union. More than two million served in the Union Army, including more than 400,000 from Pennsylvania. Over 33,000 Pennsylvanians were listed among the Union casualties from the war. Nowhere was that sacrifice more evident than when Pennsylvanian regiments rushed to the small hamlet of Gettysburg on July 1. These troops saw themselves defending the north from an invading army.

One officer said as much as he led the 154th Pennsylvania Regiment into battle: “Don’t forget to-day that you are fighting in your own state,” he shouted in encouragement, “and give them the best you have.”

The mixture of Napoleonic military tactics with modern weapons produced horrific carnage. Although no states’ soldiers escaped the brutality, with more than 51,000 casualties in the three-day battle, Pennsylvania volunteer regiments suffered terrible loses. When the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment arrived at Gettysburg, it experienced a “whirling vortex” of death, as one observer described it. More than half of the regiment was killed or wounded stopping a Confederate advance. The 141st Pennsylvania suffered even worse casualties, losing more than 75 percent of the regiment.

If This Flag Offends You, You Need a History Lesson
We saw a young man several customers in front of us wearing a sweatshirt with the Confederate battle flag on its back and a caption that read, “If This Flag Offends You, You Need a History Lesson!”

What would the ancestors of these modern neo-Confederates think of their descendants? Surely they would be dismayed by their affiliation with secession and slavery.

Wearing the Confederate flag is hardly an appropriate way for Pennsylvanians to honor their sacrifice. In light of our past, it isn’t just ironic—it’s historically ill-informed.


Gillis J. Harp is a professor of history at Grove City College and member of the faith & politics working group with The Center for Vision & Values.

Paul C. Kemeny is professor of religion and humanities at Grove City College and assistant dean of the Calderwood School of Arts and Letters.

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Jim Potter

I feel that the current teachings of history are wrong in that they say that the Civil War 0f the U.S. was about slavery. This is only one point. The main point is how oppressive the Federal Government was becoming – does this sound familiar? The government was dictating to the states what they (the states) could and could not do. Refer to the line in the Declaration of Independence about usurpations and oppressive governments. It was the states’ right to “throw off such governments and establish a new one. The idea that a country separated was easily defeated was… Read more »


If Penn. is so freedom loving what is the reason for voting for the same democrats you went to war against? 53% Obama 2012 54.7 Obama 2008 Just wondering why you people in Penn keep voting for the democrat boot on your throat. Just wondering. Mr. Rmclean there are a lot of things that black people do everyday that offends me and that lets me and others know how to treat you also sir. Just saying. I don’t give a damn about the flag one way or the other but I do know that the carpetbaggers have been on our… Read more »


So some dimbulb white supremacist that killed a bunch of black people had adopted the Confederate flag as one of his icons and suddenly Confederate flags are out of style everywhere. It is, they say, a symbol of racism — an unfortunate byproduct of the fact that History Is Written By The Victors. Thus, instead of the Confederate flag simply being the symbol of states’ rights, symbol of a short-lived country called the Confederate States of America, it’s everybody’s whipping boy. Retailers, reacting to the SC shootings are dropping Confederate flag merchandise as a wave of political correctness sweeps the… Read more »


I’ve seen and read a lot about the war between north and south–I learned it as the “Civil War”–and it seems to me that, whatever you call it, it has its base in the pursuit of money. The basis of the southern economy was cotton. Plantation sized farms were needed to grow profitable sized crops of cotton and slavery was needed to maximize the profit. All slave owners comprised perhaps 25 percent of the southern white population, and 90 percent of those owned fewer than a dozen or two. The ten percent who owned more, especially on the cotton plantations,… Read more »


I noticed the Dr. in front of their names, and it seems the more education one has, the less common sense they have. I know its not true to all people, but a lot of them get brainwashed going through school and collage. Thank God two of my kids graduated from a University without becoming little Socialists. Most all wars are fought over two things, Religion or economics. The Civil War was fought over economics. The North was treating the South like the British treated the Colonialists. The South could get a better deal economically from Europe that they could… Read more »

roy p.

this nation has more problems to worry about than a part history where men from both sides died for what they thought was right!


The two most recognizable hate symbols are the Nazi Swastika and the Confederate Battle Flag. Folks who say that the “Battle Flag” is a symbol honoring the men who fought on the side of the South, would you also say that the Nazi flag should be flown in honor of the men and women who fought on the side of the Third Reich? As an African American, I associate the Confederate flag with the cowardly men and women who, wearing hoods and sheets to hide behind, burned, lynched, raped, and stole from African AMERICANS using that flag as their symbol… Read more »


I don’t think that you realize that those men and women that hijacked that flag for their hate and wore those pointed white hoods and sheets that burned, lynched, raped, and stole from African AMERICANS were Democrats and remained loyal Democrats until the day that they died…. and the American Flag ALSO flew in their protests and marches….. it is not hard to find, IF you would only do a little research…. so, are you going to condemn the American Flag as well, because it was part of their hate as well….

Robert G Petersen

Check your history again. The war was over taxes on cotton that the federal government enforced. Not slavery! It was later on after the war started that the issue of slavery was brought up. The “Battle Flag” is not the confederate flag people! It is just that—-a battle flag!!!!

What is happening here? Slowly the America I knew and I love is falling away. And in it”s place is what?


You ought to read the book Apostles of Disunion. I was taught for a long time that the Civil War was fought over states’s rights or economics. This book tracks commissioners sent to the remaining southern states from the first 7 states to secede. It gives their speeches word for word as they try to convince the other states to join their confederacy. And they are totally open about it being over slavery and about the inferiority of blacks. Most of them bring in the threat that if they remain in the Union, blacks will be able to run around… Read more »


This whole controversy over the confederate battle flag is nonsense as it a part of this countries history good or bad and should be preserved regardless of personnel opinions or feeling of oppression as there are no living slaves in this country that have any right to retribution or any other form of sympathy. Lets remember one very important point that it was not the white man that loaded black people onto boats in Africa and sailed to America to sell them to the white man into slavery it was the black man himself that sold his own brothers and… Read more »


The author of this story needs a History lesson himself…. I am NOT saying that slavery was right, because it WASN’T, but our History has been white-wash and cleansed over the years, to make it PC, and it will get WORSE before it gets better… How many of you knew that prior to the attack on Fort Sumter that it had been empty for YEARS until Lincoln sent troops to occupied it in order to BLOCKADE the Port of Charleston PRIOR to the war…. remember that the “so called” first shots of the war were fired here… Charleston had been… Read more »


Typical of modern-day professors of the non-education process going on in our country. Too busy admiring themselves in the mirror and believing the revisionist history they promote. It seems they don’t have time — or perhaps they don’t have the interest — to actually study the true history of the Civil War. It wasn’t about slavery. It was about politics, economics, state’s rights, and the ability to be free from the oppression of the filthy rich & greedy jerks in some of the northern states (who also had slaves, by the way). Doesn’t anybody actually study history anymore? Of course… Read more »

Drew Dilly

“ironic that here in western Pennsylvania a teenager would venerate the Confederacy” … because he got into a truck with Pennsylvania tags, right? Was it his truck? Was it borrowed? Could it have been a rental while he was traveling away from home? If it was his truck, he must have lived there long enough to get plates. Has he also lived there long enough to change all of his previous social influences? To make matters worse, I bet that young man hasn’t even converted to a Penn State fan yet! How can you live in an area and not… Read more »


The Japanese got to keep their rising sun flag and the Germans still have their Iron Cross on the side of their fighters.

Anonymous Patriot

The stupidity of the comments to this article (indeed the article’s own premise and conclusion are stupid) solidifies my belief that this country is dead already. Because if people that subscribe to Ammoland are as stupid or worse than people who probably subscribe to Hillary Clinton’s Message of the day……we’re doomed. The position of Pennsylvania in the Civil War and the chosen location a person now chooses to reside have no bearing whatsoever on the meaning of the Confederate Battle flag or the accurate statement that if the symbol offends you, you need a lesson (and maybe a ticket out… Read more »

Les Williamson

I feel an apology and retraction is in order.

Les Williamson

REALLY? Where was the EDITOR’s head when this article was reviewed for inclusion in this edition. Did you intentionally desire to perturb a large number of your readers. I imagine his head was in his dark smelly place.

Les Williamson

I wonder how many folks in the Southern States who spend serious money on their outdoor shooting and hunting lifestyles just got really perturbed at this article and just choose not to comment?

Les Williamson

Maybe we should write letters to the advertisers complaining about this offensive article and how they should pull their advertising?

Les Williamson

I hear enough about this issue outside of this forum an don’t care for politics here unless it deals with the 2nd amendment and the wins we have to preserve. it. There are as many opinion’s and versions of history about this flag as there are people who subscribe to this channel so don’t have articles that really offend and slap the face of a percentage of your readers. I considered unsubscribing but remembered I do stupid stuff too on occasion.


I’m a Yankee that believes if someone wants to fly the CSA flag then fly the damn thing, it’s part of our history. We have too many bleeding heart liberals in this country and the POS in the WH is the biggest.


The young man in question could actually be referring to the fact that the flag shown was NOT the flag of the Confederacy. Digging a little shows that the actual flag looked nothing like it and there is, in fact, a short video on YouTube on this. Regardless, under our Constitution you have the right to be offended.

Jon Aronson

Times change and so do the thoughts and opinions of people , who look back and see the errors of the thinking of prior generations. Today, the Battle Flag Of The Confederacy is being taken up by many, who rightly believe that the Civil War was fought for the wrong reasons and that the outcome of that war, begun and fostered by The Lincoln Administration, at a cost of between 800,000 and 1,000,000 American lives, brought about a terrible plague of crime that is destroying the fabric of almost every American city today. So, when the author seeks to take… Read more »

Thomas Fowler

Thank you for those comments. I find the article snooty, and ill-informed. I do not think that this article well-serves the firearms-oriented format. More than that, it divides us into different camps, which is not helpful. I love the federal flag, but make no mistake…I love all of the Confederate flags, including the Bonnie Blue. Now, knock this crap off, and let us get back to firearms issues, OK?

Les Williamson



The author needs a history lesson. The war was about much more than the slavery issue which played only a very minor role, despite what the revisionists would have you believe. Many from the north went to fight with the south and vice versa. States rights and an overreaching federal government were the biggest problem then, and are our biggest problem now.

Les Williamson



The author missed one point in his diatribe on that young Pennsylvanian’s free speech statement, did he ask the young man if his ancestors were transplanted southerners? That could color, so to speak, his out look on this unfortunately media driven frenzy.

Les Williamson


Dr. Jester

I am northern born but a southern by choice. Anyone who had the same values of our founding fathers would have defended his hearth and home against the crony capitalism of the despot Lincoln and his barbarian hordes. It is for the ill educated to ignore the fact that the ratification of the Constitution required the approval of three states demand that they could leave the union, for any reason. When their demands were approved all 13 states acknowledged that right. But our ignorant doctors and their ministry of truth likes to rewrite history. They depend on the ill educated… Read more »

Hamster P. Thurmond

These snooty college professors don’t understand that the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of rebellion, and the spirit of rebellion is alive and doing very well in rural portions of this country these days. This is not just limited to the South, but rural areas across this once-great country. Political and Cultural Marxism may fly in the big cities on each coast, but it doesn’t play well in the heartland.

Les Williamson




Clark Kent

Since when is homosexual ‘marriage’ a trivial issue?


People are offensive, politicians especially . Race baiting media is offensive. Paying taxes to fund drug using people is offensive. Allowing a woman to do 3 years in prison for possessing 27 stolen weapons , including a sawed off shotgun , machine gun , and suppressed rifle, really offensive.

Sam McGowan

The GAR was not limited to the Northern states. My family cemetery in Tennessee has about half a dozen to a dozen graves marked with GAR tombstones. There are also former Confederates buried in the same cemetery. Yes, somebody needs a history lesson and some of those who do are history professors.


I really think Republicans need to move on from all these trivial issues such as gay marriage and whether a flag is racist or not. We have a catastrophic threat coming soon from Marxist like Hillary and Sanders. Everything possible must be done to defeat them. Arguing about a flag just divides people and sends more gullible voters to vote for evil people like Hillary.


Oh Johnny, you have that so right . . .


So, in other words RETREAT…..

I see that you agree with what Republicans have been doing to the last 6+years….


The kid with the shirt from PA is damn sure right about one thing,…if his Confederate Battle Flag shirt offends you,get that history lesson !


Those who wave the confederate flag are the biggest traders to america. The are losers who got their ass whipped by american forces


I find the willfully ignorant to be the biggest traitors to America.


I find the willfully ignorant to be the biggest traitors to America!


Jay — YOU need to go back to school and not only learn about History, but also retake your English and Spelling classes…..


Jay — You really need to go back to school and not only retake History, but also English and Spelling as well….


Your comment betrays not only your intelligence but your education as well.


Since my great-great grandfathers wore the Gray, I am dead certain that they would not be ashamed of the flag that they fought and bled for. They were small farmers, who left their young wives and children to defend their country, against invaders that were determined to force their brand of politics at the point of a bayonet.


You may not like the flag or what it stands for but once you go down the path of censoring symbols that others find offensive you no longer have freedom. You just lost the first amendment. One person may believe the flag stands for racism and another person may believe that it stands for heritage. Maybe they both have the freedom to determine that for themselves.


It’s obvious that YOU have been indoctrinated with libturd history.


It’s traitors, not traders. Different words, different meanings.

Furthermore, both the CSA military and the USA military were “American” since they both were stationed in North America.

Charles Farley

I find the flag offensive and I don’t need a history lesson. I was born and lived in South Carolina for 18 dreadful years. I consider that state to be “Apartheid South Carolina”. I fled Apartheid South Carolina in the 1970s.


Get a clue Chuck. If you lived in a dreadful place for so long, you have only yourself to blame! I live here in Coastal South Carolina and it’s a wonderful place to live. In fact, I am surrounded by people from the NE, Midwest, and NorthWest that share this belief. Good Riddance Chuck!


These progressives really need to move on. They’re such bigoted and hate filled people. There is nothing they value and nothing they are prepared to sacrifice for. Much like the author of this tripe.


I’m another Pennsylvanian who wears that same T shirt, as well as other pro-Confederate T shirts. I spent 12 years in Philly public schools being LIED TO about the real causes for the War of Northern Aggression. I spent 6 months studying the issue on my own after high school and became a convinced Southern nationalist supporter. BTW that was almost 40 years ago. I bet that kid you saw did the same thing I did. You can brainwash us in your government schools but some of us end up seeing the truth. 🙂


Thats Right Ann!
Some of the Pennsylvania born like myself have Confederate Blood…
Who do you think moved into the mountains of Northern and Western PA to mine?
My ancestors fought against an invading army of rapists and criminals sent there by the tyrant Lincoln…
Read the first hand accounts and you too will find out you that you have been lied to!