Nearly 300 historians, including some Pulitzer Prize winners, are urging Pennsylvania officials to prevent a casino from being built within a half-mile of Gettysburg National Military Park.
According to the Civil War Preservation Trust, "(A)lthough the proposed casino site along the Emmitsburg Road lies outside the current administrative boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park, it would be on land identified as historically sensitive by the American Battlefield Protection Program, an arm of the National Park Service. The application before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board would retrofit an existing family-friendly hotel complex into a gambling resort with an initial 600 slot machines in addition to table games."
“The proposed site of the casino lies athwart the advance of Union cavalry toward what became known as South Cavalry Field, which saw substantial fighting on the afternoon of July 3, 1863," notes James McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom. "This ground is as hallowed as any other part of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the idea of a casino near the fields and woods where men of both North and South gave the last full measure of devotion is simply outrageous.”
Gettysburg was the backdrop for the bloodiest battle in U.S. history. The Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1–3, 1863, involved nearly 160,000 soldiers, and nearly a third of them became casualties, according to the CWPT.
"Historians concur that the engagement was the greatest of Civil War battles, but its place in history was further cemented four months later, when President Abraham Lincoln traveled to the small Pennsylvania farm town to help dedicate a national cemetery for those who died," the trust notes. "Lincoln’s 'few appropriate remarks' for the occasion, popularly known as the Gettysburg Address, have become one of the world’s most recognized speeches."
The letter of protest, signed by 272 historians, was sent to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board chairman Gregory Fajt.
In part, their message states that as professional historians, they “feel strongly that Gettysburg is a unique historic and cultural treasure deserving of our protection. Gettysburg belongs to all Americans equally—future generations no less than those of us alive today,” before concluding that “there are many places in Pennsylvania to build a casino, but there’s only one Gettysburg.”
Support for the letter also came from the American Historical Association, National Coalition for History, National Council on Public History, Organization of American Historians, Society for Military History and Southern Historical Association.