Thursday, February 4, 2010

Southern Hospitality

Who says Southern hospitality doesn't exist? Sergeant Gilbert H. Bates of Wisconsin proved that is does. Four years after the end of the Civil War, he set out to march through the defeated South carrying the Stars and Stripes.

Sergeant Bates, a Union veteran, bet a friend that he could walk from Vicksburg to Washington, and without a cent or a weapon, live on the hospitality of Southerners. His goal was to disprove the common Northern notion that disloyalty to the Union was still predominant below the Mason-Dixon line. He also set out to prove that he could make the march without being murdered!

The march was reported in national headlines. Along the route, Sergeant Bates sold postcards of himself for twenty-five cents, the proceeds of which went to widows and orphans of soldiers, both North and South. After a grand send-out by the mayor of Vicksburg, Bates successfully completed his 1,400 mile march, which took him approximately three months, without one major incident along the way. Ironically, Bates was allowed to raise his flag over numerous official buildings in the South, including the state Capitol in Richmond, but not at the Capitol in Washington! He was, perhaps, the predecessor to the "cause" marches and walks we have today.

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