Re-enactors defend flag use

They said they use the Confederate battle flag only to be true to history.
For the Daily Record/Sunday News
Article Launched: 08/20/2007

Aug 20, 2007 — The Confederate flag represents different things to different people.

For the 200 re-enactors at this weekend’s Battle of Hanover, the Stars and Bars is a threatened piece of history.

"It’s a battle flag and a battle flag only," said Union re-enactor Larry Rita of Chambersburg on Saturday. "It didn’t represent any hate except hate for the Yankees."

So, after Sunday’s re-enactment, a Confederate re-enactor carrying the Confederate Flag led the Union troops, and a Union re-enactor carrying the American flag led the Confederate troops.

"What we’re trying to present here is a unity type aspect of battle and mutual respect for each other’s flags," said Bruce Yealy, narrator for the battle re-enactment. "The Stars and Bars are a piece of Civil War history, and we want to keep that as re-enactors."

Rita said the recent debate about today’s use of the Confederate flag is unnecessary.

"It’s history," Rita said. "They want to erase history. Well, it happened."

He added that the 5-foot square Confederate battle flag is used only by re-enactors.

"It’s never been flown on a building," Rita said. "The flags you see today are 5-by-7-foot flags. That’s the standard size."

Just such a flag has come under fire for being flown on the South Carolina capitol building. A similar flag is also used by the Ku Klux Klan, which especially irks re-enactors such as Joe Posinski of Glen Rock, who portrays Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
"The American people in the South didn’t have that flag for slavery," Posinski said. "People in the different states in the Confederacy like Virginia thought you were a Virginian first, an American second. That’s why they fought."

Posinski added that Stuart himself freed his slaves when the Civil War started, and in his time as a re-enactor, Posinski has never encountered someone who was angry that he flew the Confederate flag.

Posinski recalled a specific incident in Windham, N.Y., in which a woman came up to him all smiles with a tintype photograph of her great-great-great-grandfather, a black man, in a Confederate uniform.

"He was in the New Orleans guard," Posinski said, "and she was so happy to show me that picture."

The re-enactors at the Battle of Hanover this weekend said they do what they do for one reason: to bring awareness of what happened during the Civil War and why it was fought.

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