Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tribute to Moses Ezekiel

"...These men sacrificed all, dared all....and died."
A Hispanic Month Tribute to Moses Ezekiel

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
Sunday, October 4, 2009

September 15th -October 15th is Hispanic History Month and the Educational Committee of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a national-historical and educational organization, has included an informative Hispanic History Month fact sheet about those who served in the Confederate and Union Armies.

Some say, Americans know more about sports then they do about their nation’s past. Sports are a wonderful past-time of family fun but there can also be fun in reading stories about great Americans like; George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Booker T. Washington, Florence Nightingale and Moses Ezekiel, with your children and grandchildren.

Please share this story of America’s forgotten past with teachers, young people, family and friends.

Moses J. Ezekiel was born in Richmond, Virginia on October 28, 1844. He was one of fourteen children born to Jacob and Catherine De Castro Ezekiel. His grandparents came to America from Holland in 1808, and were of Jewish-Spanish Heritage.

At the age of 16, and the beginning of the War Between the States, Moses begged his father and mother to allow him to enroll at Virginia Military Institute.

Three years after his enrollment at (VMI) the cadets of the school marched to the aid of Confederate General John C. Breckinridge. Moses Ezekiel joined his fellow cadets in a charge against the Union lines at the “Battle of New Market.”

When the War Between the States ended, Moses went back to Virginia Military Institute to finish his studies where he graduated in 1866. According to his letters, which are now preserved by the American Jewish Historical Society, Ezekiel met with Robert E. Lee during this time. Lee encouraged him by saying, “I hope you will be an artist… earn a reputation in whatever profession you undertake.”

The world famous Arlington National Cemetery is located in Virginia and overlooks the Potomac River. At section 16, of the cemetery, is a beautiful Confederate Monument that towers over the graves of 450 Southern soldiers, wives and civilians. These words are inscribed on the memorial:

“Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, Not lured by ambition, or goaded by necessity, But in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it, These men sacrificed all, dared all….and died.”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy entered into a contract with Moses J. Ezekiel to build this Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery. It is written that he based his work on the words of Prophet Isaiah, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

This Confederate Memorial towers 32 and 1/2 feet and is said to be the tallest bronze sculpture at Arlington National Cemetery. On top is a figure of a woman, with olive leaves covering her head, representing the South. She also holds a laurel wreath in her left hand, remembering the Sons of Dixie. On the side of the monument is also a depiction of a Black Confederate marching in step with white soldiers.

Ezekiel was not able to come to the dedication of the monument held on June 4, 1914, with President Woodrow Wilson presiding. Union and Confederate soldiers were present among a crowd of thousands at this historic event.

Moses Jacob Ezekiel studied to be an artist in Italy. As a tribute to his great works, he was knighted by Emperor William I of Germany and King’s Humbert I and Victor Emmanuel, II of Italy—-thus the title of “Sir.”

Among the works of Sir Moses J. Ezekiel are: “Christ Bound for the Cross”, “The Martyr”, “David singing his song of Glory”, “Moses Receiving the Law on Mount Sinai” and “Stonewall Jackson” located at VMI.

Upon his death in 1917, Moses Ezekiel left behind his request to be buried with his Confederates at Arlington. A burial ceremony was conducted on March 31, 1921, at the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. It was presided over by the United States Secretary of War John W. Weeks. He was laid to rest at the foot of the memorial that he had sculptured. Six VMI cadets flanked his casket that was covered with an American flag. Lest We Forget!