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.
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