Monday, September 10, 2007

Confederates buried at Arlington

Few who visit Arlington National Cemetery know of a spectalur monument to the enemies of the Union. Yes, the Confederacy has a monument in their honor at the place where so many American heroes are buried. The memorial is located in Section 16 of the cemetary and is a great part of the tour. When I visited Arlington in 1986 I was unaware of such a memorial and it has only recently come to me attention.Arlington National Cemetery rests on the grounds that Mary Custis Lee inherited from her father and was the home of both her and Robert E. Lee. The North started to bury their dead at Arlington in 1864 after the Federal government aquired the land because the Lee's failed to pay back taxes.

As of 2006, more than 320,000 people are buried at Lee's former estate. Ironically, the first soldier buried at Arlington was a Confederate prisoner of war! The overwhelming number of military deaths in 1864 caused many Confederates to be buried at Arlington not far from their former enemies. After the war the family members of these troops were not permitted to visit the graves of their loved ones or to decorate them. By 1900 the ill feeling that followed the war had died away as the reunited country fought Spain and the government opened to doors of Arlington to the former Confederates. By the end of June Congress authorized that a section of Arlington National Cemetery be set aside for the burial of Confederate dead. Southern dead was transferred from cemeteries around Washington and buried in a special section of Arlington National Cemetery. It was hoped that a Confederate memorial would finalize the peace between both North and South.Around 482 soldiers from the south are buried at this famed resting place. Among the persons buried there are 46 officers, 351 enlisted men, 58 wives, 15 southern civilians, and 12 unknowns. This pretty much represents the fighting force of the Confederacy on the battlefield and the homefront. They are buried in concentric circles and their graves are marked with headstones that are distinct for their pointed tops. Some resentment never dies and legend has it that the pointed tops were created so "the yankees can't sit on them".
Southern leadership led by the United Daughters of the Confederacy petitioned to erect a major monument to the Confederate dead. On March 4, 1906 Secretary of War William Howard Taft signed the necessary documents to allow the construction of a Confederate monmument at Arlington. The memorial was placed in the center of the concentric circle with the rebel gravestones stretching in every direction. The Confederate Monument was unveiled before a large crowd of northerners and southerners on June 4, 1914, which was the 104th birthday of Jefferson Davis. President Woodrow Wilson addressed the huge gathering and veterans of both the Union and Confederacy placed wreaths on the graves of their former foes. This symbolizes the feelings of reconciliation between the North and South, the memorial's central theme. Also, Bennett H. Young (1843-1919) who was a Confederate officer who led forces in the St Albans raid was present at the dedication.
The monument was sculpted by Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran who is now buried at the base of his marvelous piece of craftsmenship. Moses resembles me a lot and I find that really fascinating. Exekiel's creation is 32 feet high with the statue of a woman at the top that symbolizes the south. Her head is crowned with olive leaves, her left hand extends a laurel wreath toward the South, acknowledging the sacrifice of her fallen sons. Her right hand holds a pruning hook resting on a plow stock. These symbols bring to life the biblical passage inscribed at her feet: "And they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks." The plinth on which she stands is embossed with four cinerary urns symbolizing the four years of the Civil War. A frieze of 14 inclined shields represents all 13 states of the Confederacy including Maryland which supported the Southern cause. Other pictures on the monument show the woman (the south) being held up by Minerva, Goddess of War and Wisdom. Also, the good that came out of the war is also depicted. A soldier kissing his baby as she is held by a mammy, a young officer standing alone, a former slave following his former master and a young lady binding the sword and sash of her soldier.The inscription on the memorial reads:Not for fame or reward,Not for place or for rank,Not lured by ambition,Or goaded by necessity,But in SimpleObedience to DutyAs they understood it,These men suffered all,Sacrificed all,Dared all--and died. Later three final Confederates were brought to the cemetary and are buried at the base of the monument with Ezekiel. They are Lt. Harry C. Marmaduke who served in the Confederate Navy, Capt. John M. Hickey of the Second Missouri Infantry and Brig. Gen. Marcus J. Wright who commanded brigades at Shiloh and Chickamauga. The Confederate Memorial at Arlington is open for the public to visit today. I urge you to take a peek at it if you are in the area or planning a trip to Washington D.C. because it was a token of peace and respect between two sections of the country that still don't see eye to eye on many things. Perhaps it can help everyone heal and foster good feelings for years to come.

Sources and further infomation:

Peters, James Edward. Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. Woodbine House, 1986.


RoadDog said...

I sure didn't know that Confederates were buried at Arlington. Next time there, I'll have to visit Section 16. Imagine Lee not paying his back taxes?

I am a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans here in Illinois, Camp Douglas Memorial Camp.

We've put up markers in memory of Confederates in several state US Cemeteries: Mound City (Cairo), Rock Island, and Camp Butler (Springfield).

Good site.

graham said...

Actually, Lee tried to pay the taxes through a relative, but there was some kind of glitch. (hmmm...) Custis Lee inherited the estate from his mother, sued the govt, and got the property back--just to sell it to the govt and half its appraised value. Robert E. Lee never owned the estate, and only lived there sporatically, the largest time being while he was the executor of his father-in-law's will. Lee took about two years leave of absence from the army to accomplish that!

Two of James Longstreet's sons, Robert Lee and James, Jr are buried in Arlington, as is J.E.B. Stuart, Jr. (I believe they are not in the Confederate section)

Mike said...

That is true the sons of longstreet and stuart are buried there. I never visited that part of the cemetary but I am planning on going. IT was a peace offering by the U.S. government to finalize the results of the war.