Civil War battlefields, magnets for tourists and the media, are a new target
of the Ku Klux Klan.
The white supremacist organization will demonstrate Sept. 2 at Gettysburg
National Military Park in Pennsylvania, site of the Civil War’s bloodiest
It will be the second event of its type in three months. About 30 Klansmen
and members of like-minded groups rallied June 10 at Antietam National
Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md.
Gordon Young, a Sharpsburg resident and imperial wizard of the World Knights
of the KKK, obtained the permits for both demonstrations.
“The Klan is the ghost of the Confederacy,” Young said yesterday in
explaining his interest in battlefields where Southern soldiers fought and died.
He has another reason for staging rallies at Civil War sites.
“The battle-fields protect my constitutional rights a lot better than the
cities do,” said Young, 40, a Klan member for 16 years.
Gettysburg, in south central Pennsylvania, is the nation’s most-visited Civil
War site, drawing 1.7 million people a year.
John A. Latschar, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, said
he is obligated to accommodate the Klan. He called the organization’s claim of
racial superiority “inflammatory,” but said it nonetheless is protected by the
“The United States Constitution guarantees everyone the right to speak freely
and to assemble peaceably, regardless of the content of their message,” Latschar
The staff at Antietam took an identical position. “The Supreme Court has
ruled consistently that national parks in particular are places of freedom of
expression,” said Antietam Superintendent John Howard.
Some 30 people went to Antietam to counter the Klan. Both groups were dwarfed
by police, who numbered about 200.
Ben Wagner, human resources manager of Antietam, said the Klan received more
publicity for its appearance at the battlefield than it did when it rallied a
few miles away in the town of Sharpsburg.
Antietam and Gettysburg remain in the public eye because of their wartime
significance. The battle at Antietam Creek on Sept. 17, 1862, left 23,000 Union
and Confederate soldiers dead, wounded or missing. That was the single most
destructive day of the Civil War. One soldier who died was only 12 years old.
Fighting at Gettysburg lasted July 1-3, 1863. It left 51,000 soldiers dead,
injured or missing.
(E-mail Milan Simonich at msimonich(at)post-gazette.com.)