Confederate History Month Guest Post
Calvin E. Johnson, Jr. has graciously written a guest post about the Arlington Cemetery in honor of Confederate History Month. I found it a very interesting piece of Confederate history – and our nation’s history. It reminds us of the courage and patriotism of all those who lie at Arlington – and of those who are still defending this great country today.
American heroes not forgotten at Arlington
Let me tell you a story about Arlington National Cemetery where this nation honored the men who fought for the Confederacy, the Union, and those men and women who fought our nation’s wars since the War Between the States.
Did you know 245,000 service men and women, including their families, are buried at Arlington ?
The world famous Arlington National Cemetery is located in the shadow of the Custis-Lee Mansion (Arlington House) that was home to General Robert E. Lee and family until 1861 and the beginning of the War Between the States. This cemetery is on the Virginia side of the Potomac River across from the nation’s capital.
In 1864, Union soldiers were first buried there and by the end of the war the number rose to 16,000. The Union burial site at Arlington National Cemetery is at section 13. Also buried in Arlington are: President John F. Kennedy, General Jonathan M. Wainwright and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Around the start of the 20th century this country also honored the men who fought for the Confederacy. The location of the men who fought for ” Dixie ” is section 16.
There is an inscription on the 32.5 foot high Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery that reads, “An Obedience To Duty As They Understood it; These Men Suffered All; Sacrificed All and Died!”
Some claim this Confederate Monument at Arlington may have been the first to honor black Confederates. Carved on this monument is the depiction of a black Confederate who is marching in step with the white soldiers. Also shown is a white Confederate who gives his child to a black woman for safe keeping.
In 1898, President William McKinley, a former Union soldier spoke in Atlanta and said, “In the spirit of Fraternity it was time for the North to share in the care of the graves of former Confederate soldiers.”
In consequence to his speech, by Act of the United States Congress, a portion of Arlington National Cemetery was set aside for the burial of Confederate soldiers. At this time 267 Confederate remains from and near Washington were removed and re-interred at this new site.
In 1906, the United Daughters of the Confederacy asked permission from William Howard Taft to erect a monument. Taft was at the time serving as the United States Secretary of War and was in charge of National Cemeteries.
With his permission, the Arlington Confederate Memorial Association was formed and the United Daughters of the Confederacy were given authority to oversee work on the monument.
A contract was made with Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate Veteran with a record of his service at the Battle of New Market while he was a Cadet at Virginia Military Institute. Work started at his workshop in Italy in 1910, and upon his death in 1917, the Great Sculptor was brought back home and buried near the base of the Arlington Confederate Monument.
On June 4, 1914, the Arlington monument was unveiled to a crowd of thousands that included former Confederate and Union soldiers. The Memorial Event was presided over by President Woodrow Wilson and the people applauded the stirring speeches given by: General Bennett H. Young – Commander In Chief of the United Confederate Veterans; General Washington Gardner – Commander In Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic and Colonel Robert E. Lee – grandson of General Lee.
The Confederate monument unveiling was concluded by a 21 gun salute. The monument was officially given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and was given back to the U.S. War Department for keeping. It was accepted by President Woodrow Wilson who said:
“I am not so happy as PROUD to participate in this capacity on such an occasion, Proud that I represent such a people.”