logo Click BACK to return to basecamp
Lost Teachers
Search Info
White beveled edge

Nick Dispatch

Meet Nick

Nick Archive

Cool Links
Another perspective on the march



Think You've Got Guts? Well …

What is the bravest thing you have ever done? Don't answer until the end of this dispatch. See how your bravest moment compares with the crazy march of Sergeant Bates.

After the Civil War there were obviously hard feelings. What happened after the war was very important to the country. How do you repair a country that that has been divided down the middle by a civil war? Is it possible?

Imagine being in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Would you want to forgive all those Union soldiers who burned down your farm and killed your best friend? Or if you were a Northerner, how would you treat the Confederate traitors to the Union? The two sides would have to learn to get along if the country were to survive.


Driving All Night Long - Irene and I were traveling across a stretch of I-90 between Mitchell, SD and Rapid City, SD ...

Enter a man by the name of Gilbert H Bates. Bates was an ex-sergeant for the Union Army and he felt very confident that, "the Southern people had resumed their affection for the flag and the Union." Some people in the North didn't think so. They thought that there was no way that the South could forgive the North so quickly. Maybe even if they forgave the North they would never resume their affection for the Union flag. Bates was very confident on this matter and wanted to prove that the South did accept the flag of the Union. The question was how would he prove it?

Bates came up with a plan that would test the limits of bravery; a 1400 mile trek through the deep south carrying the controversial stars and stripes of the Union. His plan was to get a Union Flag made in Vicksburg, Miss. He would proceed to march through the Confederate states carrying the Union flag proudly. There were two possible reactions; people would either proudly back the newly reunified United States of America or they would beat him to a pulp for entering their town with the symbol of their misery.

The towns in the Deep South were devastated by the war, specifically from the massively destructive tactics of General William T. Sherman. Bates decided to do the 1400-mile trek by himself unarmed. He also chose not to bring any money with him so he would have to depend on the kindness of strangers to make it by (just like us Trekkers). Bates was confident that if anybody could do it he could. He thought that the rich plantation owners had led the poor Southerners into the war. Most people in the South did not own slaves, so that when their houses were burned it was all because the plantation owners wanted to keep their slaves.

The flag was made in Vicksburg, Miss by some local women. Bates' start in Vicksburg was specially chosen because the town had been utterly destroyed by the Union army during the war. He marched on through Georgia and the Carolinas where Union Gen. William T. Sherman and his soldiers devastated the South burning farm after farm during the Civil War. Bates knew that the real test would be walking through the towns with the people left in the wake of Sherman's warpath. A large part of the trek went right though those areas. Bates stated that everywhere he and the flag went people were overly kind to him. They gave him places to stay, food to eat and the encouragement and strength to keep on trekking (just like us Trekkers).

The former capitol of the confederacy
Bates marched for three long, hard months to cover those 1400 miles. He brought the flag with him everywhere he went and received lots of praise and gifts. He decided to end his long trek in Richmond, Virginia the old capital city of the Confederation. When he arrived in April crowds of cheering people and cannons booming through the air greeted him. He walked through downtown Richmond and came to the Capitol building where he climbed to the top as people cheered and cheered. When he got to the top he waved the flag back and fourth. Standing on top of the Richmond capitol Bates ended his trek and proved that in 1868 most of the Southern people indeed did have respect for the Union flag and forgiveness was in their hearts. Even though Bates had proved that most of the people in the south revered the Union flag it would take the radical republicans an additional nine years to recognize and accept that fact.

Nick in Richmond Virginia at the Capitol building where Bates climbed to the top
Just think of how much bravery Bates displayed. I could not even imagine what it would be like to take a three-month trek through an old war zone holding the flag of the victors. That's crazy! Could you do it? Now what was bravest thing you have ever done again? Does it compare to the bravery of Bates? If you have ever done anything braver than that I want to hear about it. E-mail me. And NO stories about how brave you were when you took a pee in the port-o-potty.


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Neda - Assassination, ballot box stuffing, and eating in the bathroom: it's American politicking!
Stephanie - Segregation and how the South kept its evil ways
Teddy - Impeach the President! Andrew Johnson, that is
Making A Difference - Getting mad about hate groups
Neda - This is America. We all have the right to vote…or do we?