|My Ancestor's |
Final Resting Place
I've posted before about the ongoing battle over Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. (See here and here) Oakwood has more (17,000) combat-related Confederate graves than any cemetery in the United States. But the current U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administration doesn't want to honor these veterans with any proper V.A. issued headstones. I think they're playing politics. What an absolute disgrace.
As Lee Hart of the SCV noted in a recent Richmond Times piece about the ongoing battle:
"This is total, total discrimination," said F. Lee Hart III of Suffolk, chairman of the SCV Oakwood Restoration Committee. "I don't think they want to see an Arlington of Richmond, with all of the positive media and tourism that this cemetery will draw, this being the largest combat casualty Confederate cemetery."
Virginia Senator James Webb to the rescue. As the Richmond Times Dispatch piece notes, James Webb recently reminded the V.A. that "Confederate and Union soldiers have the same legal status."
Steve Muro, acting undersecretary for (V.A.) memorial affairs, said that "the existing markers are appropriate." Really Mr. Muro? A stone with no name, no birth date, no death date, no unit noted and which is shared with two other men is "appropriate" in marking the burial place of a deceased soldier who died as a result of combat? I find that statement to be either a.) extremely insensitive, b.) a display of gross ignorance, c.) and most likely, a political calculation. This man, whose salary I help to pay, should be made to apologize or fired. Here's some of what I wrote a couple of years ago about my great-great grandfather who happens to be buried at Oakwood:
|Oakwood Cemetery ~ 1865|
Number 91 on a weathered, lonely, blank headstone; a shared grave with two other men. Not much of a tribute for someone who was a POW and died for his country. For 140 years my family knew nothing of what happened to my great-great grandfather, John Meredith Crutchfield. We did know that Grandpa Crutchfield left the family farm, walked to Gauley Bridge, Virginia (West VA today) and enlisted with the 60th Virginia Infantry, Company F at the beginning of the war. He owned no slaves. He simply wanted to defend his home. He was wounded at the Battle of Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley (just a few minutes from my home here in Augusta County), taken prisoner by the Federals and transported to the infamous POW Camp Morton in Indiana where prisoners received cruel treatment at the hands of Union soldiers.
Transferred to Chimborazo Hospital in March of 1865 in a prisoner exchange, my grandfather died there on March 28. There, the story ended – or so the family thought. John Crutchfield’s widow died years later not knowing what had become of him. Had he deserted? Had he run off with another woman? Had he been killed in battle? No one knew until the 1950’s when my great aunt discovered the information about the Battle of Piedmont and Chimborazo. But the family still did not know what became of his body. Where was he buried or was he buried? Then I wrote this piece for the Washington Times’ Civil War column detailing some of my grandfather’s story. (This story refers to a "James" Crutchfield. That was my mistake, John is the correct name. John had a son named James that was born in 1861.) The story was read by a gentleman in Richmond; a fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans member. This man was working on the restoration of Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. This cemetery, where many Confederate veterans are buried, had fallen into shameful neglect in recent years. I was contacted by this gentleman and he told me that he knew for a fact that John Meredith Crutchfield was buried at Oakwood – family mystery solved! The photograph of Oakwood shown here was taken in April of 1865, just after my grandfather would have been buried. Almost exactly 140 years after the fact, John Meredith Crutchfield’s family now knows where his grave is. Grandpa Crutchfield has never before had someone from his family visit his grave, weep over his death, honor his sacrifice, or place flowers upon his final resting place. That is about to change. I love history. And I love the God of history who providentially shows us what we need to know to honor our fathers.
Senator Webb is to be commended for his efforts to intervene. May the God of History bless his efforts. If you agree that these men deserve better, I urge you to contact the V.A., Senator Webb's office, or your own Congressmen and Senators. You may read the complete RTD piece here.