Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

     Several hundred Confederate dead were buried at the new national cemetery at Arlington by the end of the war in April 1865. Some were prisoners of war who died in custody, some were executed spies, and some were battlefield dead. The federal government did not permit the decoration of Confederate graves. Families of Confederates buried at Arlington were refused permission to lay flowers on their loved ones' graves.
     In 1868, families of dead Confederates were barred from the cemetery on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day). Union veterans prowled the cemetery ensuring that Confederate graves were not honored in any way.  Cemetery authorities refused to allow monuments to the Confederate dead or allow Confederate veterans to be buried at Arlington.
     Because of the Spanish-American War and the need to end still simmering sectional differences, the federal government's policy toward Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery changed. On December 14, 1898, President McKinley announced that the federal government would begin tending Confederate graves since these dead represented “a tribute to American valor”.  Several hundred Confederate soldiers buried throughout Arlington National Cemetery were disinterred and reburied in a “Confederate section” around the spot designated for the Confederate Memorial.  
    On June 4, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson dedicated the Confederate Memorial at Arlington. The Confederate Memorial was dedicated to peace and reconciliation and to the hope of a united future.  U.S. Presidents have traditionally sent a wreath to be placed at the Confederate Memorial on Memorial Day.

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