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 Gilbert Henderson Bates

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Gilbert Henderson Bates

  • Birth 13 Feb 1836 Springwater, Livingston County, New York, USA
  • Death 17 Feb 1917 Saybrook, McLean County, Illinois, USA
  • Burial Saybrook, McLean County, Illinois, USA
  • Memorial ID 28320774

Folk Figure, Author. During the Civil War he was a Sergeant in the 1st Wisconsin Heavy Artillery. In 1868 his radical Republican neighbor told him anti-Union feeling meant no representative of the United States was safe in the former Confederacy. Bates, a Democrat, wagered he could walk unscathed through the southern states while carrying an American flag. He agreed to start in Mississippi, march without weapons or money, and arrive in Washington, DC before July 4th, and his neighbor agreed to pay Bates a dollar a day. When Bates arrived in Vicksburg in January, citizens provided him with a uniform and an American flag. He accomplished his 1,400 mile trek in April, and was met throughout by former Confederates who saluted his flag, provided hospitality, and demonstrated a desire for reconciliation. He also flew his flag over several buildings, including the Virginia State Capitol, which had been the seat of the Confederacy. Though radical Republicans disapproved, Bates's walk received favorable publicity. In 1872 he again walked while carrying a US flag, marching across England to demonstrate that Great Britain and the United States were friendly despite Britain's former support of the Confederacy. Bates wrote well-received books about his walks, became a famed public speaker, and appeared in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In his later years, he authored letters to the editor critical of what he termed threats to America, including immigration and labor unions.

Bio by: Bill McKern


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bill McKern
  • Added: 16 Jul 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 28320774
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Gilbert Henderson Bates (13 Feb 1836–17 Feb 1917), Find A Grave Memorial no. 28320774, citing Cheney Grove Township Cemetery, Saybrook, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .