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Confederate Day Ceremonies This Weekend

It's not too late to attend a Confederate Memorial Day ceremony. The dates for these events are confusing because each locale picks the day meaningful to that community, beginning with Texas in January. This weekend there are two on Saturday, one in Baltimore at 10:30 a.m. and the other in Winchester at 7 p.m. On Sunday there are services at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Confederate Memorial in Arlington Cemetery.

I have attended each of these ceremonies and am always impressed with the passion brought to the effort to memorialize those soldiers who died so long ago that there is no one living to remember the events.

Two of the three cemeteries are national burial grounds; only the Stonewall Cemetery that is within Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester is privately owned. All these events are sponsored by heritage groups that usually include local camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the area division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
You can expect to see re-enactors dressed in period clothing, hear at least one speaker and usually listen to a period band. They end with a rifle or cannon salute.

My favorite service is the one in Winchester because it has been held every year since 1866 on June 6, a date chosen because it was the day Brig. Gen. Ashby Turner died in 1862. The much revered "Black Knight of the Confederacy" was a favorite of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. He led the Ashby Brigade and died outside Harrisonburg after his horse was killed under him and he then led a charge on foot.

Turner is buried with his brother, Richard, who was killed a year earlier. They rest beneath an impressive block of granite with the inscription, "The Brothers Ashby."

The Stonewall cemetery was established by a women's group that formed at the end of the war to gather all the bodies of Confederate soldiers in the area and re-inter them in a proper burial ground. These were not local boys, but those who had died far from home during battle or at a hospital. When they finished, there were 2,575 graves. On Saturday, each stone will have a Confederate flag.

Also on Saturday is the annual ceremony at Loudon Park Cemetery in southwestern Baltimore. At this one, both Confederate and Union re-enactment units are expected. The date was chosen as a weekend day closest to the June 3rd birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The Confederate Section of Arlington Cemetery was in the news recently when President Obama ignored requests from some historians to end the presidential custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial on Memorial Day. For the first time, the courtesy was also extended to the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington.

This impressive monument, the work of world-famous sculptor Moses Ezekiel, was dedicated in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. At the time, there was a real interest in healing the divisions caused by the Civil War and recognizing the Confederate war dead at Arlington Cemetery was a part of the effort. Wilson began the tradition of laying a presidential wreath at that monument.

This date was also chosen because it is near Davis' birth date. For the first time, there will be two ceremonies. The 11 a.m. ceremony will be conducted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with a military chaplain giving the address, followed by a capella music. At the 3 p.m. service, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are hosting the event with a speaker, band and cannon salute.

By Linda Wheeler  |  June 2, 2009; 10:39 PM ET
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We used to be able to tour civil war sites, but now due to health concerns it is impossible. We do like to read the postings on the civil war and find them very interesting.

Posted by: cwmt | June 5, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze and to gall me that some misguided Americans continue to memorialize and honor people who fought against the United States, tried to break up the Union, hoped to maintain the institution of slavery and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of both Southern and Northern Americans. Get real people! How about a memorial day for the followers of Bin Laden? Or maybe World War II Japanese POW guards or all those hard fighting SS supermen of Nazi Germany! They thought they were fighting for the right side too! Maybe we should have a memorial day for all of our past and present enemies! That would make just about as much sense. It is time to cast aside this business that this is part of "our Southern heritage" and look hard at what they were really fighting for. As for Woodrow Wilson starting the presidential tradition, let's not forget the fact that he was easily our most racist president and a staunch supporter of segregation and the goals of the KKK. Rather than honor these Confederate veterans, we should forget them and bury them deeply and anonymously in history where they belong.

Posted by: yankeebob | June 5, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

This "misguided" American is interested in all aspects of our countrys history, even Wars that I don't believe we should have been a part of. Linda Wheeler is a journalist who reports events in a nonjudgemental way & for those of us interested in the subject matter she does a darn good job. Keep up the good work! Some people are just grumpy.

Posted by: drw-593 | June 8, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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