Officials in Gettysburg, Pa., are altering the parade route for the annual Gettysburg Remembrance Parade and increasing security after receiving a letter threatening violence during the event, which includes hundreds of reenactors and attracts thousands of visitors. It was at least the second threat against a Civil War remembrance event in a month.
The Remembrance Day Parade will go on as scheduled on Saturday, authorities said, but the route is changed and the threat remains under investigation by local law enforcement as well as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The added security measures come after the Gettysburg Times on Nov. 6 received an anonymous letter in the mail, threatening harm at the parade honoring the troops that fought in the bloody 1863 battle that marked the Civil War’s turning point. Gettysburg Times editor Alex Hayes said upon receiving the letter he immediately turned it over to the police in Cumberland Township and the Gettysburg Police Department, who notified the FBI and ATF.
Hayes did not make the threat known publicly until Nov. 11, when the Times ran a story on it, saying the paper “decided to keep it private for a few days so police could begin an investigation. I believe waiting until Saturday to publish a story was a good compromise. It gave the police department time to look into the situation and the newspaper is still informing the public one week before the parade. Parade-goers are aware of the situation and can decide what is in their best interest.”
Hayes would not elaborate on the contents of the letter, including the nature of the threat. Representatives for Gettysburg law enforcement and the FBI could not be reached for comment. Several Gettysburg reenactors and parade goers discussing the threat on Facebook were undaunted, saying they will participate Saturday.
On November 19, 1946, Congress formally designated November 19, the anniversary date of the Gettysburg Address, as “Dedication Day.” Since then, the parade in its honor has grown into one of the largest and oldest Civil War processions in the United States, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The parade is a key boost to the local economy, filling hotels and restaurants each fall as it coincides with the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address.
The threat at Gettysburg comes amid heightened national tensions over the portrayal of the Civil War in public spaces as protestors argue statues and other displays honoring Confederate actions serve only to highlight what they see as a treasonous movement that split the nation in a bloody bid to preserve the practice of slavery. Others contend that monuments to Confederate troops serve to recognize a central event in Southern history and the battle over states’ rights.
An October 15th Civil War remembrance event was canceled last month in Middletown, Va., after authorities there received an anonymous bomb threat and found a suspicious package on site during the planned celebration of the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek. The event was canceled after the package appeared to be a pipe bomb. It was then rendered safe by the Virginia State Police. Law enforcement officials would not say whether there was a link between that threat and the one made against the Gettysburg parade.
For more information about routes and security, follow the Gettysburg Remembrance Day Parade Facebook page.