An upcoming South Dakota event is generating some controversy online, six weeks before it is scheduled to take place.

The inaugural Canton Civil War Days are set for August 13-14 on a 20-acre plot of land on the western edge of the city, but some are questioning why the event is even happening in an area that wasn't even a city during the Civil War.

In fact, South Dakota wasn't granted statehood until November of 1889, more than 24 years after the fighting ended in April of 1865.

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Tom Lawrence, writing for the website The Daily Beast, says organizers in the home of the Lincoln County seat made the decision to host the event after a similar Civil War reenactment in Pipestone, Minnesota was canceled each of the last two years because of COVID.

And while Canton, South Dakota doesn't seem like a logical choice for a Civil War-related event, there are actually some connections to the area.

Canton Civil War Gravestones

Canton resident Bill Peterson has been chronicling the area's ties to the war, which resulted in more than 650,000 deaths between 1861 and 1865.

On Facebook, he has posted images of some of the 70 gravestones in Canton's Forest Hill Cemetery that represent fallen soldiers from a number of states including Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin.

In his article, Lawrence points out other South Dakota connections to the Civil War:

'In the decades following the war, tens of thousands of veterans headed west in search of land and opportunity. Many of South Dakota’s earliest settlers were veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, the men in blue who won the war.

They left reminders of their service on the map, naming towns for battles, such as Gettysburg, and counties like Lincoln and Grant.

Many Northern veterans became early leaders, such as Arthur Mellette, the last governor of the Dakota Territory and the first governor of South Dakota.'

The event's official website echoes those same sentiments:

'The City of Canton has a rich history of Civil War Veterans who homesteaded in Lincoln County. In the cemeteries, located in the county, there are over 150 markers identifying Soldiers from all across the Union.

Over the past few years, the Sioux Valley News has featured dozens of stories about these men and their contribution to the war and to the establishment of communities in the County. From Brigadier Generals to enlisted individuals, from New York to Dakota Territory, soldiers looking to homestead, through the Land Grant Act found their way to the lush lands east of the Big Sioux River. In honor of these pioneers, the Canton Chamber of Commerce, the City of Canton, and local historians have decided to host an inaugural Civil War Days event.'

And while the location of the event has some people scratching their heads, others are objecting to the event's logo, which features both an American and Confederate flag.

Canton Civil War Days Logo

For his story, Lawrence interviewed Selwyn Jones of Gettysburg, South Dakota - who is the uncle of George Floyd, the African-American man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

“The Confederate flag should literally be like the swastika is,” Jones said. “If you display a swastika in Germany, you are automatically arrested. If you mention Hitler’s name, your ass is obviously arrested.”

Canton Civil Wars Days are being organized by Dave Renli, a Sioux Falls resident and Civil War re-enactor. Over the years, he has since visited several Civil War battlefields and was even an extra in the 1993 film Gettysburg.

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