​In reenactments, Confederate flag treasured as part of history

GETTYSBURG, Pa.-- Scout Troop 210 out of Springfield, Illinois carried its own flag this week as it re-enacted Pickett's charge at Gettysburg Battlefield.

But the battle flag that the Confederate Army carried 152 years ago today is not hard to find here. In a Gettysburg shop you can even find it on a bikini.

With calls in some parts of the country to ban the flag, here there's been little protest and only modest change.

Katie Lawhon, a spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park. CBS News

"We feel strongly there will always be a role for the Confederate flag at Gettysburg in our museum exhibits, on monuments," said Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park.

There have been changes in what's for sale inside the park. The Confederate flags are gone, leaving only the Stars-and-Stripes. And you can buy a mug or a t-shirt with the rebel flag -- but only if it also displays the American flag.

The Confederate flag, though, is still widely displayed in the museum and on the battlefield itself.

"We've always told both sides of the story here at Gettysburg National Military Park," said Lawhon. "It is our passion to tell the whole story."

Civil war reenactor Lee Houser wears the elaborate uniform of Confederate General Isaac Trimble, a key figure at Gettysburg.

Civil War reenactors Lee Houser, left, and Scott Wilson, right, carry the Confederate flag CBS News

"To me it is heritage and history," said Houser. "I had ancestors on the Confederate side. All that I am doing is honoring them by flying this flag."

Scott Wilson plays a mid-level officer. Both men say they are pained by the fact that some people -- including the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists, such as alleged killer Dylann Roof-- have long used the flag as a symbol of hatred and racism.

"Sometimes people pervert it and use it for other things, which is an injustice," said Wilson.

Houser added: "If I could take the flag away from the KKK I would tomorrow, in a heartbeat. But I can't -- freedom of speech, you know."

But they say here at Gettysburg that flag is an important part of an educational experience intended to inspire Americans to learn about their past.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.