Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Virginia SCV Improves Oakwood Cemetery

Sons of Confederate Veterans add fence around Oakwood monument

Contributions: Oakwood Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 114, Beaverdam, VA 23015
By Katherine Calos
Published: December 29, 2009

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have made their first major improvement to Richmond's Oakwood Cemetery under an agreement with the city to maintain the Confederate portion of the property.

A $35,000 iron fence was installed yesterday around the Soldiers' Monument by Colonial Iron Works of Petersburg, with meticulous oversight by F. Lee Hart III of Suffolk, chairman of the SCV Oakwood Restoration Committee. The fence reproduces a feature that disappeared about 1916.

The reproduction fence stands on top of 5,200 pounds of granite block. Its design is based on a photo that shows what the monument looked like in the early 1900s.
A smaller section of identical fencing was replaced in 2008 around the grave of Lt. Duncan Campbell Stafford of South Carolina.

About 4,000 Virginia SCV members are paying $6 extra in dues each year to maintain the grounds "to higher standards befitting a National Military Cemetery," according to a statement of restoration goals.

The SCV also plans to place individual granite markers supplied by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the graves of about 16,000 Confederate soldiers buried at Oakwood. Currently, a succession of small blocks identify the graves of three people apiece.

Three officers of the national SCV, which has donated $50,000 to the restoration, braved a biting wind to watch yesterday's fencing project. Brag Bowling, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, said he considered Oakwood to be comparable to Arlington National Cemetery in terms of its significance as a Confederate military cemetery.

"Arlington is row after row of properly dressed markers. That is what we want here," Bowling said. "People come here all the time looking for ancestors," but the small numerical blocks make it difficult to identify who's where. "People will hear about this after it's finished. It will help the Richmond economy. . . . Richmond has neglected its Confederate history. It's important to our shared heritage."