With the anniversery of Antietam just past and the premier of The Civil War and Death on PBS tonight it is fitting to also mention a post made by Richard Williams over on the Old Virginia Blog dealing with the ongoing struggle of the Oakwook Cemetery Restoration Committe and the Federal Government. All three items bring death to the forefront of our thoughts of the war and the past. Antietam was the bloodiest day in our collective history…more men fell during the twenty-four hours of September 17th than on anyother day. PBS will air starting tonight a new documentary based on Drew Gilpen Faust’s new book, The Republic of Suffering on how Americans dealt with the enourmous death toll of the war.
Richard Williams in his post on the fight between the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee and the Veterans Administration brings the debate about the Civil War dead into the 21st Century. It appears that the VA has changed the process it has for replacing missing and damaged stones for veterans. According to Civil War News article:
“A Confederate soldier’s grave, if it has no grave marker, is considered unmarked and is eligible for a VA headstone, Erbe said, provided the NOK or descendant signs the application.
If the Confederate grave already has a marker, even an illegible or broken one, it is considered marked, and is not eligible for a VA replacement unless it was originally provided by the federal government.
A Union soldier’s grave with a government headstone is marked, but is eligible for replacement if damaged or illegible because it was originally provided by the federal government, he said.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the federal government buried Union soldiers in national cemeteries but left the burial of Confederate soldiers to the states and private groups like the Ladies’ Memorial Associations which sprang up across the South.
Since virtually all grave markers in Confederate cemeteries were provided by non-U.S. government sources, this excludes broken or illegible ones being replaced by the VA.”
This has angered those trying to restore Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. But it appears that the struggle with the VA is not the only struggle they have dealt with on the long road to restoring Oakwood. The city of Richmond and the State of Virginia have also declined to spend the money to erect permanent headstones for the some nearly 17,000 Confederates in the cemetery.
Richard Williams made this commet about the situation:
I have an ancestor buried there whose grave is marked only by a number. It is a national disgrace. But, since these men are Confederate soldiers, they have few supporters.
Here is the question I have…Should the Federal Government, despite its past practices dating as far back as 1906, continue to pay for and maintain the graves of those men who fought against the government? From the short history of the cemetery given on the Restore Oakwood page the state of affairs in Oakwood is anything but the fault of the Federal Government. The situation at Oakwood is a direct result of the tremendous number of dead from the war, the decentralized nature of the Southern Confederacy and theh failure of Richmond citizens to keep the Confederate graves in proper condition. From the short history:
“Despite the claims of beauty in 1862, Oakwood bore a seedy and disheveled appearance by war’s end. Visitors “found the plots most unsightly. Many of the graves had settled badly; handmade, wooden headboards were missing or damaged [and] names obliterated…”
The history contiues:
“By 1877 the wooden headboards erected in 1866 and 1867 had rotted to such an extent that the “City Council Committee on Cemeteries” asked permission to remove all the headboards. The Oakwood Association resisted that suggestion fro a few months, but finally consented in the autumn of 1887, “as there was no means of having them renewed and it was an inevitable fact that they could not remain in their decayed condition.” The city promised to replace the wooden headboards with more permanent markers, but apparently did not do so. For approximately 15 years the Confederate graves at Oakwood remained unmarked.”
Richard Williams ends his post with this question…a good question, but one I suspect he would like to blame Obama for or any academic for that matter:
My question: Is this “new interpretation” simply due to budget constraints or an attitude of disrespect for America’s soldiers?
What is the answer to this question and the question I pose earlier? In my opinion the Federal Government should have never agreed to treat Confederate Soldiers/Veterans as equal to Union Veterans. They were never equal in the first place. One fought to preserve the Union, the other to rip it apart…to refuse the Constitutional election of Lincoln to the Presidency and to expand and support slavery.
However not all is lost. If the policy of the Federal Government will not allow for the marking of Confederate graves in Oakwood then the SCV’s and SHPG have a once in a lifetime opportunity falling right in their hands. What better way to express the “State’s Rights” mentality than paying for those stones out of the pockets of those who support Southern Heritage? Susan Hathaway, Tripp Lewis, David Tatum and their friends could be freed from the twice weekly trips to the VMFA to flag the museums decision not to fly Confederate flags on the Pelham Chapel to using their considerable social networks to garner the money needed for the 17,200 dead Confederates in Oakwood.
Heck, this is even a cause I would back…preserving the memory of the men who actually fought the war not some preceived wrong committed against a flag or someones “heritage”. The men in Oakwood should be remembered for the sacrifices they gave in the line of duty…however don’t burden the pockets of all Americans…just Southerners. That is how they wanted it…now they can have it.
Here are a few pictures for you to discuss or simply admire…
If the UDC is concerned over their tax exempt status concerning the Virginia Flaggers, does CIC Given’s support on the sidewalks of Richmond effect the 501 c 3 tax exempt status of the SCV’s?
And last, but not least, my good friend David Tatum hard at work doing what he does best…for goodness sake David…smile…
From the Southern Heritage Preservation Group Facebook site…
It seems that Mrs. Martha Van Scheck, President General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, filed a Trespassing Enforcement Authorization Letter with the Richmond Police just days after the incident in which the UDC called the police on the Va Flaggers for standing on the edge of their curb to take a photo. As you can clearly hear in the audio, the Richmond Police informed the Va Flaggers that, according to the instructions they received from the UDC, “You are welcome…your person…but they don’t want the flags on there,…so just don’t take the flags on there.” They told us that the letter was filed specifically for the Flaggers, to prevent us from carrying Confederate flags on the grounds of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They further stated that by the authority the UDC has granted, Flaggers will be arrested if they are caught carrying a Confederate flag on the UDC grounds. This is in direct contradiction to earlier claims by UDC officials that the issues with trespassing had nothing to do with the Va Flaggers, or our flags. For those who may not be aware of what has occurred over the past few months, I have posted links to the correspondence between the Va Flaggers and the UDC.
Here is the first communication, requesting Battle Flags to be raised in support of the Confederate War Memorial and the Va Flaggers: http://www.vaflaggers.com/udc1.pdf
This is the response we received: http://www.vaflaggers.com/udc1.5.pdf
Here is our initial report from the March 10 incident: http://www.vaflaggers.com/udc3.pdf
The statement issued by the President General, UDC: http://hqudc.org/about/pg_statement/index.html …
and our response: http://www.vaflaggers.com/udc2.pdf
Once again the Va. Flaggers get a dose of what private property means. It also appears that they will have a “massive…maybe another turnout of 400 people…demonstration on June 2nd according to their ring leader Susan Frise Hathaway…
For those who choose to defend our heritage, OUR TIME IS NOW.! The line in the sand has been drawn. NO MORE will we sit idly by as our flags are removed and our ancestors are attacked. We are calling on every Southerner to join us in standing against those who would DARE to remove Confederate Battle Flags from the portico of a Memorial Chapel, and, sadly, those whose words and deeds prove them complicit with their efforts.
Saturday, June 2nd, we will be gathering for a mass Flagging on the Boulevard, immediately following the Memorial Service honoring Jefferson Davis’ birthday at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. We invite you to attend the 9:00 a.m. ceremony and then join us on the Boulevard and be part of those who are changing hearts and minds, and forwarding the colors with honor.
We shall see…