Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

We Haven’t Learned a Damn Thing, Have We?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 18, 2014

Over at That Devil History, Jarret Ruminski suggests that the United States’ ongoing involvement in the Middle East, and especially Iraq, ignores the big lesson of Reconstruction in the post-Civil-War South — that nation-building is damn nearly impossible if the locals refuse to buy into it; they just have to wait us out:

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When the southern Confederacy surrendered to Union forces in 1865 after four brutal years of combat, American government and military officials were tasked with rebuilding a vast swath of U.S. territory — the South — that had been reduced to ruin during the conflict. This sounds simple enough, right? I mean, the Confederate South wasn’t Afghanistan; in 1861 it was still literally a part of the American nation, and not all of the southern states even seceded from the Union. But the ones that did secede found their world turned upside down in the wake of military defeat: much of their infrastructure was destroyed, tens-of-thousands of their men were dead, and, most significantly, their slaves were freed. And those freed slaves were bound to start agitating for, you know, political rights — and the South would have none of that.
 
In order to deal with the newly freed slaves and “reconstruct” the South back into the Union, the American government divided the South into five military districts occupied by U.S. troops, and it established a federal humanitarian aid agency, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands — better-known as the Freedmen’s Bureau — to help aid the former slaves’ transition to freedom. But American military and civilian forces in the South soon found that the local yokels were restless: white southerners remind defiant in the face U.S. forces attempts to rebuild their society according to rules hammered out in Washington D.C., and they remained especially hostile towards any attempts to integrate newly freed African-Americans into southern society as the political and social equals of whites.
 
So southern whites organized into irregular bands of paramilitary insurgent groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the White Leagues, the Red Shirts and others. These domestic terrorist groups waged a campaign of political intimidation, property destruction, and murder against freed people and northern Republicans across the South. They usually attacked at night using guerilla tactics to burn houses and assault blacks and political opponents of the southern Democratic Party. During the daytime they melted back into the civilian population, which often tacitly, and sometimes openly, supported the white supremacist insurgents.
 
U.S. forces tried to squelch these terrorist groups, and sometimes they succeeded. But in the long run, tamping down on southern insurgent violence and enforcing the rights of freed blacks always meant more violence, more troops, more political will, and more money – with no end in sight. A weary northern government and public eventually soured on this seemingly endless dirty war and gave up on reconstructing the South. By the late 1870s, the old-line white supremacists — many of whom had fought in the Confederate armies — were back in control of Dixie. Thus, after the Civil War, American forces found themselves caught up in a long-running conflict with local and national elements that was driven by ethnic factionalism and power-struggles over how political and economic resources were to be reorganized and controlled following a destructive conflict. The more things change…the more Americans try to nation-build.

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Ruminski’s analysis is as persuasive as it is depressing.

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The U.S.S. Westfield Dahlgren Comes Home to Texas City

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 18, 2014

Dahlgren

Today’s a big day in Texas City, with the arrival of the IX-Inch Dahlgen gun (above, on a reconstructed carriage) from U.S.S. Westfield. From the Houston Chronicle:

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A purpose-built replica carriage will hold it in its new resting place at the Texas City Museum, after it is delivered there by trailer Wednesday morning.
 
“A crane will lift the cannon off the trailer,” said conservator Justin Parkoff, who has been restoring the Dahlgren and the rest of the artifacts at the Texas A&M Conservation Reserach Lab, “It’s going to be placed down onto the sidewalk which will be protected by steel plates … so the weight of the cannon will not crush the concrete.”  At 10,000 pounds, the cannon is as heavy as the average Asian elephant.
 
Parkoff described the cannon as “a beast” when news of the new museum home came out just after Christmas.  He oversaw its 140-mile journey from A&M’s Riverside campus to Texas City on Tuesday.  It will be housed just 6.5 miles from it’s original resting place.
 
“We’re thrilled,” said Billie Powers assistant to the curator at the museum, “absolutely thrilled.”

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Congrats to Justin, who at this point probably knows as much about Union gunboats adapted from ferries as anyone around today.

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GeneralStarsGray

A Quick Note About that Ukranian Separatist Flag

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 16, 2014

SeperatistSouthron hearts have been all a-flutter in recent days because Russian separatists in the Ukraine have adopted a banner (right) that looks a lot like the Confederate Battle Flag. Like so many other “heritage” arguments, though, this one requires a certain ignorance of actual history and a willingness to believe pretty much anything that sounds good.

There’s a general similarity, certainly. But the design the separatists are using has a much older, and much more relevant, history that most in the West may not be aware of. The diagonal cross, the Cross of St. Andrew, has been used as a symbol of Russia for centuries. (St. Andrew is that country’s patron saint.) It first appeared in proposals for a Russian naval ensign more than 300 years ago, during the reign of Peter the Great, and was formally adopted as early as 1710. On a red background, it was adopted as a jack and as a flag for coastal forts in 1700, remaining in use until the Revolution of 1917. Both the ensign and the jack were brought back in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and remain in use today.

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Flags
Russian ensign, 1712-1917 and 1992-present (left), and the Russian naval jack, 1700-1917, 1992-present (right).
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By adopting the banner that they have, the Новороссия (New Russia) separatists in the Ukraine are making a very public show of their allegiance to Russia — not to some abstract principle of secession, or states’ rights, or anything else. The Hit & Run blog over at the Libertarian magazine Reason cuts through the Confederate nonsense:

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The pro-Russian rebels, known for their dislike of all things American, do not take direct inspiration from the U.S. secession movement or fear the implications of separatist bad luck that their flag entails. . . .
 
Now, there have been a few incidents of Europeans waving the rebel flag as a banner of anti-tyranny, such as at the fall of the Berlin Wall and, in fact, when pro-Western Ukrainians deposed their corrupt, pro-Russian president earlier this year. But, again, this separatist movement is anti-Western.
 
The insurgents, by their own admission, don’t know jack about Dixie and certainly aren’t defending its heritage. A lot of them are just Chechen mercenaries, not history buffs.

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I know that a lot of southern nationalists in this country have a chubby for Vladimir Putin, seeing him as an ally in the culture wars. Fine, whatever. But what’s going on in the Ukraine, and the symbols chosen to define it, has nothing to do with the American South or the Confederacy. It’s about ethnic Russians making an appeal to fellow Russians, using a symbol that other Russians know.

That’s all it is. Move along, folks.

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GeneralStarsGray

 

C.S. Signal Corps Items Donated — Galveston

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 14, 2014

Forgot to post this — it’s a pretty big deal here locally. Galveston County Daily News, June 1, 2014:

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Civil War artifacts telling Galveston’s history donated to Rosenberg Library
 
By PEGGY DILLARD 
 
A number of Civil War-era artifacts have recently been donated to the Galveston & Texas History Center at the Rosenberg Library.
 
Two of these new items describe early Confederate efforts to prevent Union naval activity in Galveston Bay.
 
The Union Navy posed a significant threat to the fledgling Confederate States, which had limited maritime assets.
 
On April 19, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports requiring the closure of 3,500 miles of Atlantic and Gulf coastline and 12 major ports, including Galveston.
Galvestonians immediately responded by organizing their most experienced men to defend the island and banded together in 1861 to form an early warning system against attack.
 
A ticket or souvenir card to Hendley’s Lookout was recently donated by Richard Eisenhour.
 
Situated on the roof of the Hendley Building, the lookout served as a Confederate watchtower during the Civil War.
 
Men stationed in the rooftop observatory closely monitored the movements of Federal gunboats blockading Galveston’s harbor. Newly constructed in 1860, the Hendley Building, 2016 Strand, housed the offices of cotton merchants William and Joseph Hendley. It remains as the oldest commercial building in Galveston.
 
Galveston’s militia leaders officially established the observatory by Special Orders issued on June 4, 1861 by Commandant S. Sherman. It was ordered that “eight men, who shall also be master mariners, and of good repute for skill and experience, be selected from the ranks of enrolled militia of Galveston County.”
 
J.J. (Joseph) Hendley, L.M. Hitchcock, Sydney Scudder, D.C. Healey, Alexander Pitt, John Y. Lawless, Jerry Smith and Charles Fowler were detailed for special service as signal masters and were stationed at the watch tower on the Hendley Building. These men, who ranged in age from 28 to 56, were all experienced seamen and sea captains.
 
Their observations began on April 22, 1861, just days after the firing on Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation establishing a blockade of all southern ports.
 
The men organized themselves into eight watches with each watch covering a 24-hour period. Each watch commenced at 8 a.m. and continued until 8 a.m. the following day.
 
An Observatory Logbook was maintained and the men ordered to submit daily dispatches to the commandant reporting on their observations. One of these logbooks is in the Galveston & Texas History Center and is believed to be one of the few surviving accounts from this observatory.
 
The men served as officers of the watch and were assisted by detachments from various Home Guard units with details coming from the Island City Rifles, the Independent Rifles, the German Citizens Guard, Galveston Guards and Sherman Guards to name a few.
 
The men organized the watches so that each man worked every seventh or eighth day.
 
Some of these men captained their own boats and on their off days, traveled between New Orleans and Galveston bringing newspapers and supplies.
 
In the first few months of watching the movements in Galveston Bay, the night’s watch battled boredom, mosquitoes and men who showed up unfit for duty.
 
Some of these detailed men proved unreliable and were often times found asleep at their post. The officers submitted a letter of protest about this behavior to the commandant when several of the detailed men had reported under the influence of drink and then proceeded to break one of their best telescopes.
 
The letter reads: “The officers of the watch would call attention of the commandant to portions of several reports lately, as to unfitness for duty of many detailed to stand guard during the night at the tower. … The drunken scamps reported last week, seriously injured one of our best telescopes, and we are now compelled to remove the best glasses at night to protect them from injury.”
 
The problem must have been resolved since no more instances of drunkenness or sleeping on duty were recorded.
 
After several months of little to no activity and complaints that the “War Flags” were becoming mildewed for want of use and wondering why Lincoln “declines presenting himself,” the U.S.S. South Carolina appeared off the coast on July 1, 1861, and lay at anchor off Galveston Bar.
 
Just a couple of days previously the watch played host to several young ladies visiting the observation tower.
 
Even as Galveston prepared its defenses and readied for war, visitors still wanted to see the view of the harbor for themselves.
 
The Galveston Civilian Extra of July 3, 1861 noted: “Yesterday forenoon the lookout on Hendley’s Buildings run up the red flag, signalizing war vessels … bringing groups of curious observers to the observatories with which Galveston is so well provided.”
 
The last entry in this logbook is dated Dec. 27, 1861, but it is believed the watch continued and other logbooks recorded.
 
The Galveston & Texas History Center has one of the surviving logbooks in its collection.
 
The ticket or souvenir card to Hendley’s Lookout lends credence to the belief that the men of the night’s watch hosted frequent visitors to the cupola atop the Hendley Building and issued tickets or souvenir cards.
 
The Observatory Logbook contains several entries of ladies visiting and bringing pies and bouquets of flowers. The coordinates on the card roughly plot to Mechanic and 14th Street, which is not the location of the Hendley Building, so it is a mystery why these coordinates were used.
 
The placement of the Stars and Stripes on the card does not definitively place the ticket in the postwar era since a printer would have used whatever patriotic advertising he had on hand.
 
The Descriptive Roll for Signal Corps in District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, donated by Ed Cotham, is a roll book that lists 39 privates detailed in the Signal Corps in the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona from 1863 to 1865. An additional 19 are listed as “Guard in the Observatory” at Galveston.
 
The U.S. Army established the Signal Corps as a new branch and appointed its first signal officer in 1860. Shortly after the war started, the Confederate Army followed suit when it became apparent that the ability to send coded messages about the enemy’s movements was an extremely valuable service.
 
The Descriptive Roll for Signal Corps is believed to be the work of Lt. Albert Loftus Lindsay, who was assigned to the unit in April 1862.
 
Lindsay was born in Old Point Comfort, Va., in 1832 and lived in Richmond. He joined the 15th Virginia Regiment on April 27, 1861, at the rank of second lieutenant.
 
Soon after, he was detached for signal duty under the command of Maj. William Norris of Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder’s staff. Lindsay transferred to Texas in 1862 along with Magruder and eventually became chief signal officer for the entire state of Texas. Headquartered in Galveston, Lindsay established signal stations in Galveston, on Bolivar Point and on Pelican Spit. This network covered a distance of six miles and effectively covered the entrance to Galveston Bay.
 
Operators used flags during the day and torches at night to communicate with each other. The observatory atop the Hendley Building was probably incorporated into this network.
 
These items are on display at the Galveston & Texas History Center in the Rosenberg Library along with other Civil War items from the collections.
 
The Galveston and Texas History Center relies primarily on donated materials to build its collections and would like to thank its donors for their continued support.
 

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GeneralStarsGray

Canister!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 9, 2014

Posts have been spare ’round these parts lately, in large part because I’ve been distracted by other things over the last few months. In addition to wrapping up the blockade running book, I’ve got some other projects going on that I’ve been focused on. One of the minor ones is reconstructing the sidewheel from the British paddle steamer Cornubia (above), that was a notable blockade runner on the Atlantic coast before being taken into the U.S. Navy and used as a gunboat on the blockade off Galveston. Cornubia was part of what Commodore Sands called “the closing act of the great rebellion.​” More images of the wheel here. Hopefully this will end up with a digital model of the entire ship sometime down the road. Past projects include the runners Denbigh and Will o’ the Wisp, and the blockader Hatteras. More items that don’t warrant a full post:

Got anything else? Put it in the comments below.

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GeneralStarsGray

D-Day, Sixth of June

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 6, 2014

News item:

 

 Jordan
 
An 89-year-old World War II veteran reported missing Thursday evening actually fled his nursing home in England to attend the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy on Friday.
 
The Pines care home in Hove, England, where Bernard Jordan has been living with his wife since January, telephoned police Thursday after realizing Jordan hadn’t returned from his morning walk, according to local media. Police said the veteran, who was also a former mayor of Hove, left wearing his war medals concealed beneath a gray jacket.
 
A younger veteran eventually telephoned Jordan’s nursing home to report Bernard was safe and they were staying together in a hotel in Ouistreham, Normandy. The two had met on a bus en route to the ceremonies in northern France.
 
A police spokesman told reporters: “We have spoken to the veteran who called the home today and are satisfied that the pensioner is fine and that his friends are going to ensure he gets back to Hove safely over the next couple of days after the D-Day celebrations finish.”
 
“Once the pensioner is home we will go and have a chat with him to check he is OK,” the spokesman said, according to the BBC.
 
Earlier reports said the veteran was banned from traveling to Normandy to attend the ceremonies, but a representative for the nursing home said that was “definitely not the case,” according the Press Association.

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GeneralStarsGray

Blockade Running Available for Kindle

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 5, 2014

Civil War Blockade Running on the Texas Coast won’t be officially released for a few more days, but Amazon now has it available for order on Kindle, as well. Even more gooder, you can download a free sample immediately or use the “look inside” feature and read the e-edition of the first chapter and part of the second.

Too bad they cut off Chapter 2 just before the part where Seward makes an ugly, sloshy scene at the British ambassador’s dinner party. That was fun to write.

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GeneralStarsGray

Texas Navy Day, Surfside, Texas, September 19-20, 2014

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 2, 2014

texas_navy_coffee_mug-r421a75e80efb437d89919b778b40a81d_x7jg9_8byvr_324I’ve been asked to participate in the annual Texas Navy Day celebration at Surfside, Texas (just down the coast from Galveston) on Friday/Saturday, September 19-20. There will be a dinner at Stahlman Park on Friday evening, where I will tell the story of “The Steamboat Laura and the Coming of the Texas Revolution.” The venue is approximately perfect, given that those events happened at the mouth of the Brazos River, spittin’ distance from Surfside. There will be door prizes, live entertainment, and live and silent auctions. Proceeds go to the Fort Velasco Restoration Project. For tickets and information, call 979-233-7330 or e-mail dortha-at-fortvelasco-dot-org.

The main celebration takes place on Saturday, September 20, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. There will be costumed interpreters, heritage groups, vendors, period artillery and (maybe) things that go boom! Great fun will be had by all, and if you don’t have a good time, there’s probably something wrong with you.

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Image: Coffee mug by Zazzle user esmaxwell.

GeneralStarsGray

 

 

Frederick Douglass on Decoration Day, 1871

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 26, 2014

On Decoration Day, 1871, Frederick Douglass gave the following address at the monument to the Unknown Dead of the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a short speech, but one of the best of its type I’ve ever encountered. I’ve posted it before, but it think it’s something worth re-reading and contemplating every Memorial Day.

The Unknown Loyal Dead
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to hat terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.

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Image: Graves of nine unknown Federal soldiers in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. Photo by Flickr user NatalieMaynor, used under Creative Commons license. Text of Douglass speech from Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.

Decoration Day at Arlington, 1871

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on May 25, 2014

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As many readers will know, the practice of setting aside a specific day to honor fallen soldiers sprung up spontaneously across the country, North and South, in the years following the Civil War. Over the years, “Decoration Day” events gradually coalesced around late May,  particularly after 1868, when General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a day of remembrance on May 30 of that year. It was a date chosen specifically not to coincide with the anniversary of any major action of the war, to be an occasion in its own right. While Memorial Day is now observed nationwide, parallel observances throughout the South honor the Confederate dead, and still hold official or semi-official recognition by the former states of the Confederacy.

Recently while researching the life of a particular Union soldier, I came across a story from a black newspaper, the New Orleans Semi-Weekly Louisianan dated June 15, 1871. It describes an event that occurred at the then-newly-established Arlington National Cemetery. Like the U.S. Colored Troops who’d been denied a place in the grand victory parade in Washington in May 1865, the black veterans discovered that segregation and exclusion within the military continued even after death:

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DECORATION DAY AND HYPOCRISY.
 
The custom of decorating the graves of soldiers who fell in the late war, seems to be doing more harm to the living than it does to honor the dead. In every Southern State there are not only separate localities where the respective defendants of Unionism and Secession lie buried, but there are different days of observance, a rivalry in the ostentatious parade for floral wealth and variety, and a competition in extravagant eulogy, more calculated to inflame the passions than to soften and purify the affections, which ought to be the result of all funeral rights.
 
Besides this bad effect among the whites there comes a still more evil influence from the dastardly discriminations made by the professedly union [sic.] people themselves.
 
Read this extract from the Washington Chronicle:
 
AT THE COLORED CEMETERY
 
While services were in progress at the tomb of the “Unknown” Comrade Charles Guthridge, John S. Brent, and Beverly Tucker, of Thomas R. Hawkins Post, No. 14 G.A.R., followed by Greene’s Brass Band, Colonel Perry Carson’s Pioneer Corps of the 17th District, Butler Zouaves, under the command of Charles B. Fisher, and a large number of colored persons proceeded to the cemetery on the colored soldiers to the north of the mansion, and on arriving there they found no stand erected, no orator or speaker selected, not a single flag placed on high, not even a paper flag at the head boards of these loyal but ignored dead, not even a drop of water to quench the thirst of the humble patriots after their toilsome march from the beautifully decorated grand stand above to this barren neglected spot below. At 2 ½ o’clock P.M., no flowers or other articles coming for decorative purposes, messengers were dispatched to the officers of the day for them; they in time returned with a half dozen (perhaps more) rosettes, and a basket of flower leaves. Deep was the indignation and disappointment of the people. A volley of musketry was fired over the graves by Col. Fisher’s company. An indignation meeting was improvised, Col. Fisher acting president. A short but eloquent address was made by George Hatton, who was followed by F. G. Barbadoes, who concluded his remarks by offering the followign resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
 
Resolved, that the colored citizens of the District of Columbia hereby respectfully request the proper authorities to remove the remains of all loyal soldiers now interred at the north end of the Arlington cemetery, among paupers and rebels, to the main body of the grounds at the earliest possible moment.
 
Resolved, that the following named gentlemen are hereby created a committee to proffer our request and to take such further action in the matter as may be deemed necessary to a successful accomplishment of our wishes: Frederick Douglass, John M. Langston, Rev. Dr. Anderson, William J. Wilson, Col. Charles B. Fisher, William Wormley, Perry Carson, Dr. A. T. Augusta, F. G. Barbadoes.
 
If any event in the whole history of our connection with the late war embodied more features of disgraceful neglect, or exhibited more clearly the necessity of protecting ourselves from insult, than this behavior at Arlington heights, we at least acknowledge ignorance of it.
 
We say again that no good, but only harm can result from keeping up the recollection of the bitter strife and bloodshed between North and South, and worse still, in furnishing occasion to white Unionists of proving their hypocrisy towards the negro in the very presence of our dead.

 

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The black soldiers’ graves were never moved; rather, the boundaries of Arlington were gradually expanded to encompass them, in what is now known as Section 27.  Most of the graves, originally marked with simple wooden boards, were subsequently marked with proper headstones, though many are listed as “unknown.” In addition to the black Union soldiers interred there, roughly 3,800 civilians, mostly freedmen, lie there as well, many under stones with the simple, but profoundly important, designation of “citizen.” The remains of Confederate prisoners buried there were removed in the early 1900s to a new plot on the western edge of the cemetery complex, where the Confederate Monument would be dedicated in 1914.

Unfortunately, the more things change, the more. . . well, you know. In part because that segment of the cemetery began as a burial ground for blacks, prisoners and others of lesser status, the records for Section 27 are fragmentary. Further, Section 27 has — whether by design or happenstance — suffered an alarming amount of negligence and lack of attention over the years. The Army has promised, and continues to promise, that these problems will be corrected.

As Americans, North and South, we should all expect nothing less.

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Images of Section 27, Arlington National Cemetery, © Scott Holter, all rights reserved. Used with permission. Thanks to Coatesian commenter KewHall (no relation) for the research tip. This post originally appeared here in December 2010.

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