The trees stand as silent sentinels overlooking the final resting place for more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers at the Confederate Cemetery tucked into a corner on the west campus of the University of Virginia [corner of Alderman and McCormick]. During the war, several buildings housed a large Confederate hospital and most of the men buried in this place died from battle wounds or disease. The Albemarle Chapter #154, United Daughters of the Confederacy asked me to give the keynote address which I was honored to do. The title of the address was “Should We Care?: Honoring the Confederate Dead.” Surprisingly, Georgia has the most dead soldiers buried here. I specifically mentioned several Georgia soldiers in my talk.
One of these soldiers was Private Robert H. Cassels from Company D, 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment. Little did this young man know when he signed up to be a Confederate infantryman in Atlanta on September 23, 1861 that his physical body would wind up here for eternity. At the Battle of Cedar Mountain that took place near Culpeper Court House on August 9, 1862, Cassels received a gunshot wound to the chest. Two days later an ambulance team delivered him to the Confederate General Hospital here. When he died more than two weeks later the only personal effects turned over to the QM were parts of a dirty uniform and $4.00.
Another one of these men was the First Sergeant for Company C, 35th Georgia, a man named Stephen Richards Dailey. He enlisted as a private at Atlanta in 1861. He was promoted to First Sergeant on July 22, 1862. Seventeen days later at the Battle of Cedar Mountain he too was wounded and arrived at the hospital here after two days of painful travel. Two weeks later and he was dead. All that remained of his existence was his name carved into a wooden headboard that rotted long-ago.
Private Charles M. Kimbrough is also buried here. He originally enlisted in 1861 in the 6th Georgia but was discharged 3 months later for a disability. Then in 1863, he enlisted again at Macon, Georgia and joined the 45th Georgia. His path to this spot was quite painful. On May 6, 1864 he was shot in the right breast at the Wilderness. He arrived at the hospital here. Infection had set in on his wound. Then gangrene took over followed by pneumonia. I cannot imagine the agony as he struggled to survive. Only $24.50 were listed as his personal effects after he died.
The weather was perfect despite a forecast that threatened rain. The speaker’s podium stood near the base of a tall bronze statue of a southern infantryman. This sculpture was erected in 1893 and was dedicated by the Ladies’ Confederate Memorial Association. Most of the soldiers buried here lack a permanent headstone because when they first died a crude wooden headboard scrawled with their name was pushed into the freshly turned dirt above their grave. The boards soon rotted. The great ladies from the Albemarle UDC are raising funds to erect permanent markers for each soldier. On this day they dedicated permanent markers for 31 soldiers. Bravo for them! The ceremony closed out with an infantry rifle salute given by members of the 19th Virginia Infantry Camp, Company B, The Albemarle Rifles. Charles Terry then blew taps on his bugle – a moving end to honor the sacrifice by brave Americans!
If you are in Charlottesville make sure to visit this piece of hallowed ground.
I have visited the Charlottesville cemetery many times, first as a student at the University of Virginia in the 1970’s and later when my genealogy research in the early 2000’s revealed my 3rd great grandfather Private Elijah Denby died at the Charlottesville hospital March 1, 1863. He was a poor illiterate farm laborer from Worth County, Georgia who owned no land or slaves. He left behind a wife and eight children, expiring from pneumonia contracted on the battlefield.
My research also uncovered documents in the University of Virginia special collection library recording the locations of each grave as measured from the walls of the cemetery by the women of Charlottesville in the late 1860’s as they realized the wooden grave markers were rotting away and with them the locations and names of the soldiers buried at the site in trenches, shoulder to shoulder. This information, along with the genealogical research proving my status as “next of kin” allowed me to apply for a military grave marker from the Department of Veterans affairs under a depression era law passed by Congress. The application was approved and on Friday, December 11, 2015 I joined several other descendants of Elijah Denby observing the installation of the headstone over 150 years after his body was laid to rest.
I wonder how long this cemetery and graveyard will survive in today’s academic world where serious scholarship is subordinate to political correctness. There is a movement underway to remove Confederate statues from the city of Charlottesville as well as rename Lee Park. In 2017 there was an opinion piece in the Cavalier Daily, the UVA student newspaper, calling for the removal of the memorial bronze plaques from the Rotunda honoring the university students and alumni who died in the Civil War. It isn’t a stretch to believe once those goals are achieved, the focus will shift to removing the infantryman sculpture from the cemetery and ultimately the graves themselves.
Charles- These are sad times when the Left in this country continues to try to destroy and rewrite any history that they disagree with. If they are successful removing all vestiges of the South it will not end – they will then try to have all remembrances of our founding fathers removed: statues to Washington, Jefferson etc because these men owned slaves. By destroying the men who wrote and/or signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution they can then destroy these documents too. It is time that every American recognizes what is happening and speaks up. Also, make sure your kids and grandkids know the truth too!