Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Set in Stone

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 19, 2013

The Atlantic has an essay up today that begins with the shrill headline, “You Won’t Believe What the Government Spends on Confederate Graves,” and carries that tone all the way through. The essay includes some useful data on the Veteran Administration’s expenditures on markers for Civil War veterans (about 60% of which goes to Confederate stones), but otherwise contains little new information. Naturally it contains quotes from both Jamie Malanowski, who recently called for the renaming of U.S. military installations named for Confederate generals, and the peripatetic Ed Sebesta, who’s always good for a provocative line or two about “neo-Confederates.”

The article, though, buries what I think is the real scandal here. It’s not the amount of money involved (which is very small by government standards), nor that the federal government is providing the stones, which is codified by federal law. Rather, it’s this foolishness:


Years later, she had assembled a long list of names detailing who had been interred there and wanted to order headstones from the VA to mark their graves. There was one problem, though, she told me in 2003: Hallman knew who was buried in the cemetery, but she didn’t know which bodies were in which graves. Nevertheless, Hallman ordered headstones, and relied on fellow Confederate heritage activists — like Commander Jack Grubb of the Thomaston SCV camp in Southeast Georgia — to place them.
Grubb told me in 2003 that his camp alone had planted more than 1,000 headstones over at least 15 years. But the work came to halt when the VA found out Hallman didn’t actually know the identities of the bodies interred in the graves she was marking with VA-provided headstones.

My emphasis. Placing headstones more-or-less randomly in a cemetery, where they may or may not be within a hundred yards of the actual interment of the person they ostensibly honor, pretty much makes a mockery of the point of a cemetery in the first place. It is effectively creating a fake grave. Given that the whole purpose of the VA headstone program is explicitly to provide markers for otherwise unmarked graves, it amounts to fraud for heritage advocates to obtain these markers, and then place them in whatever convenient, otherwise unoccupied spot they can find.

I suspect this happens quite a bit more often than heritage organizers let on, especially in small cemeteries where detailed interment records are lacking. The goal for folks like Linda Hallman and Jack Grubb really does seem to be less about marking actual graves than to have an opportunity for a ceremony to salute the Confederacy, underwritten by the taxpayers. The individual soldiers being so “honored” merely provide the excuse. How else to explain the SCV/UDC’s creation of a faux cemetery in Pulaski, Tennessee, with granite headstones — in this case, paid for with private funds — inscribed with the names of nineteen “black Confederates,” not a single one of whom is actually buried there?

Both present-day taxpayers and long-dead Civil War veterans  deserve more respect from the “heritage” crowd.



20 Responses

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  1. Jim Schmidt said, on July 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Andy – thank you for sharing and thanks also for pointing to what you feel is the most important part of the matter.

    Two points:

    1) If I’m not mistaken, our cemeteries in Galveston have avoided the “faux cemetery”/misplaced headstone foolishness by asking for new markers, but placing them in a “memorial” area with no presumption that they actually mark the grave…seems like a good compromise…I’m thinking, for example, of the new marker prepared for Pvt. Dudley Ward (who died in the 1864 yellow fever epidemic on the island), etc.

    2) What do you think about the pressure on the VA to loosen restrictions requiring actual descendants to order the replacement markers instead of other interested parties/”heritage” organizations, etc?

    Thanks for the continued great posts.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

      1. You’re right, as far as I can tell the local groups have been more diligent about placing markers than some others apparently are.

      2. I’m glad the VA is apparently going to ease off on their 2009 next-of-kin policy, which is a reasonable idea in principle but very problematic in practice, especially for veterans from prior to WWII.

  2. Clarissa said, on July 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    If your argument is consistent, then the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier is nothing more than a huge fraud perpetrated against the U.S. taxpayers. If thus is the case, we need to remove the 24/365 Honor Guard which protects it. The Tomb, after all, is just a faux cemetary, an insulting mockery, an enormous waste of money, and a disgraceful sham.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Thanks for stopping by Clarissa/Reed/Jennifer Cotton.

  3. Clarissa said, on July 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    It’s understood, of course, that you dedicate assiduous and indefatigable efforts into denigrating your ancestors, and that you genuinely enjoy doing it. I get it, I truly do. But even given that, this particular effort is just so peculiar. After all, and as I said earlier, by the logic you exhibit in your essay, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a mere “faux cemetery” worthy only of contempt and scorn. Nothing, of course, could be more untrue. So it seems fairly obvious that on this occasion, and in your zeal to degrade your ancestry, you have done little more than scribble a meaningless parolgystic diatribe.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Clarissa/Reed/Jennifer Cotton.

      • Reed said, on July 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Hmmm…this won’t do at all.

        I understand “Clarissa” (or one of her allies) has used my name to post comments on another blog.

        Just to set the record straight, from time to time over the last few years I’ve posted comments here at Andy’s site, signing myself “Reed.” This seemed like a fine idea since, in fact, “Reed” is my name.

        So if “Clarissa” (or others of her cohort) is leaving comments under the name “Reed” on other CW sites well, just cut it out. Pick another alias.

        And if “Reed” is, by some rare coincidence, your real name also, I’d appreciate it if you’d change it in some small way so that you (whoever you are) will not be confused with me. I’ve posted here and elsewhere under “Reed” for some years, and I’d like to maintain continuity.

        Thank you.

        Reed (the one who prefers fact-based history and logical discussions)

    • Jimmy Dick said, on July 22, 2013 at 11:16 am

      I think you are making a major mistake here. You seem to think that one denigrates ones ancestors by telling the truth about what that ancestor did. In the case of the Civil War, those that fought for the Confederacy as well as voluntarily supported it in any way did what they either felt was right or what they were led to believe was right. Some of them were coerced into doing so. The fact is, those that sided with the Confederacy were wrong.

      If you think that one should lie about the past in order to make an ancestor seem heroic then that is a major problem. They did what they did and that cannot be changed. They had their reasons for doing so. As time has shown, sometimes those decisions seem rather poor in hindsight, but to them at the time they made them they seemed right.

      You denigrate your ancestors by obscuring the truth and lying about the past instead of presenting the actual information as it occurred. If you think you are making your ancestors better than what they were by lying about them, then that’s your problem.

  4. H. E. Parmer said, on July 22, 2013 at 2:53 am

    I see Colonel Clarissa Beauregard Lee of the LCC has decided to grace another thread.

    You’re right, though: if someone can’t see the difference between a monument specifically dedicated to all the unknown dead of all this country’s wars and this farcical random planting of individual tombstones by the SCV, there’s no point in trying to explain it. At least the tomb contains an actual body.

    But then, that comment in a previous thread (in which she deliberately refused to capitalize ‘Africa’, and then, when called on it, claimed it was justifiable tit-for-tat because someone else earlier in the thread didn’t capitalize ‘Southerner’) proved, beyond the tiniest shadow of a wisp of a doubt, that she is a very silly person.

    Back on-topic, I followed your link and was frankly gob-smacked at seeing African-Americans at that ceremony, apparently as participants. Were they truly unaware of the history of Pulaski? That, regardless of whether or not these men were in fact the Black Confederate soldiers the SCV claims they were, they came home only to find themselves in the birthplace of the KKK? That the Klan was surely composed of Confederate veterans, and enabled by other Confederate veterans’ willingness to look the other way when atrocities were committed?

    I’d like very much to hear the reasoning behind why they thought taking part in this ceremony was a good idea, because it’s not clear to me why a descendant of slaves would want to take pride in an ancestor who (supposedly) fought for the side which, if it won, would keep his people enslaved. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems more like something I’d want to keep quiet about …

  5. Clarissa said, on July 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

    “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God”. In other words, the dead there rest in a ” faux cemetery”. After all, nobody knows who the hell is buried in there.

  6. Jimmy Dick said, on July 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Telling the truth denigrates your ancestors? Are you saying, Clarissa/Reed/Jennifer Cotton, that you should lie to cover up what your ancestors did? Telling the truth is the right thing to do. If that casts one’s ancestors in a bad light, then so be it. They made their choices in their time for what they felt was what needed to be done. The facts remain that people do make bad decisions. Lying to cover up their bad choices is immoral and only leads to more people making additional bad choices.

    You just end up making so many errors by lying that the whole thing collapses. It is far better to just tell the truth.

  7. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on July 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I like the idea of a memorial area. Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia, S.C., has a larger granite marker with the names, initials or simply the word “unknown” for soldiers who are buried in unmarked graves. It provides recognition but doesn’t imply that the actual burial location is known.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 23, 2013 at 10:50 am

      There are innumerable ways to memorialize someone. You don’t have to put up a headstone in a cemetery, in a way that misleads others.

  8. Clarissa said, on July 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

    If you mean, Jimmy Dick, that telling the whole ugly truth about Union-loyal Missouri slave-owners and slave-traders would be refreshing, then I agree. And if that means telling the truth about Missouri General William Harney ruthlessly beating a helpless slave girl to death, then tell the full story. Reveal the foul Union-loyal Missouri slave-owners to be the cruel, sadistic, inhuman beasts they actually were. And then belittle them in the grave if by chance, there exists some frivolous and meaningless administrative error of the part of cemetery management. So yes, it is far better to tell the whole truth.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      I’m always amused when people make the claim that this or that story is supposedly never told, and then cite a work that, you know, tells it. (Similar to the horrific story you cited from McPherson’s book; apparently it’s an unknown story that you found in a Pulitzer-prize-winning bestseller, the standard history of the conflict that’s been continuously in print for more than 20 years.)

      Thanks for “contributing,” Clarissa/Reed/Jennifer Cotton.

  9. Clarissa said, on July 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I see H.E. Palmer is hiding behind some vacuous politically correct smokescreen again. He evidently believes that he can strike, without being struck in return. Here’s the deal: you don’t capitalize”Southerner”‘, I don’t capitalize “african”. Seems fair enough to me.

  10. Clarissa said, on July 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    No one ever said the accounts of Union soldiers brutally raping and cruelly torturing defenseless slave children was ” never told” or “unknown”. But what is truly amusing is that you casually ignore the fact that misidentified grave markers caused a huge scandal at Arlington National Cemetery, even requiring a Congressional investigation. Yet strangely, you offer bitter criticism and caustic denunciations only when this occurs in a Confederate cemetery.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      You write:

      But what is truly amusing is that you casually ignore the fact that misidentified grave markers caused a huge scandal at Arlington National Cemetery, even requiring a Congressional investigation.

      In fact, I did not ignore it; more than two years ago, when it was currently in the news, I wrote about it as part of a larger post about black veterans’ graves there:

      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.

      I also made a passing reference to it here. Both times I linked to a news story about the investigation.

      I don’t mind civil disagreement from commenters, but you’ve gone from character insults to false accusation. No one’s obligated to put up with that.

      So long, Clarissa/Reed/Jennifer Cotton.

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