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Union Army veteran Gilbert Henderson Bates

In the years after the Civil War, Union Army veteran Gilbert Henderson Bates sought, in his own eccentric way, to help heal the sectional wounds of fratricidal bloodletting (although he fought with the First Wisconsin Heavy Artillery Regiment, after the war he made his home in Saybrook, a village in eastern McLean County). Bates' scheme to better unify the nation and demonstrate to skeptical northerners that the South surrendered in good faith, involved walking across six former Confederate states all the while holding aloft the American flag. He began his journey on January 28, 1868, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and after some 1,400 miles arrived in Washington, D.C. on April 14.

In 1872, Bates traveled across the Atlantic, and from the Scottish border he walked 350-plus miles to London, again carrying the Stars and Stripes. The commercially manufactured 4¼ by 6½ inch "cabinet card" seen here was used to promote Bates' patriotic trek through England. He passed away in February 1917 and is buried at Cheney's Grove Township Cemetery in Saybrook.

Happy Independence Day from the Museum board and its staff, volunteers and members!


Written By

Torii Moré

Torii Moré

Torii Moré is the Curator of Digital Humanities at the McLean County Museum of History.

Posted in

July 3rd, 2014

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