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Fredericksburg's Ladies Memorial Association is one of only a few left
Date published: 5/27/2012
They then went to work, hiring crews to move remains of 3,535 soldiers from area battlefields to the property at the end of Amelia Street.
The dead were from 14 Southern states, many of which later donated money for a cemetery wall, gated entrance and engraved headstones.
There was Pvt. Matthew Bennett Cotton of Georgia, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg and originally buried on a nearby farm.
And 1st Lt. Oscar Ewing Stuart of Mississippi, killed five months later at Marye's Heights.
And Pvt. William Harris of Texas, whose body was first buried near Plank Road after the Battle of the Wilderness.
If they could be identified--only one-third of them were--they received wooden grave markers, later replaced with Georgia marble.
The unknown soldiers were laid to rest under a monument to the Confederate dead.
"I can't even imagine how it must've been to take that job," said Roy Perry of Matthew Fontaine Maury Camp 1722 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "We, today, cannot even come close to understanding how and what these ladies went through in that time."
By constructing monuments and holding Memorial Day ceremonies, the ladies were also able to do something the men of that time could not: Give Southerners a chance to mourn "the lost cause" publicly.
A large gathering of Confederate veterans might have been seen as rebellious or even treasonous. But women were seen as apolitical, and the events they organized were often given a pass.
"They were able to pull strings," said Perry. "You've got to tip your hat."
FUTURE IS ROOTED IN PAST
Nationwide, interest in Ladies Memorial Associations waned in the late 1800s, as early members died, moved away or developed interests in fresh causes.
In the ensuing decades, many remaining groups handed off their grave-tending responsibilities to churches or the newer United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In Virginia, only two Ladies Memorial Associations remain, in Fredericksburg and Petersburg, according to Janney.
"People's interests change," Silvey said, "and one generation doesn't always appreciate what's gone ahead. I think it's just remarkable we're still in existence."
Here, membership is limited to 20 women. Some can trace their family's local presence back generations, while others are more recent arrivals.
Virginia Johnson's mother, Barbara Crookshanks, was a longtime president of the organization, despite being a West Virginia native.
A LONG TRADITION
The Fredericksburg Ladies Memorial Association was founded in 1866 to reinter the Confederate dead and care for their graves. For more information about the nonprofit, visit cemetery
Fredericksburg resident William Freehling, historian and author of "The Road to Disunion" and other works, will deliver the keynote speech at the Confederate Cemetery at 10 a.m. Monday.
Visitors are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets to the free event, which is hosted by the Ladies Memorial Association.
A separate ceremony will take place at the Confederate Cemetery in Spotsylvania, off State Route 208 near the courthouse, at 2 p.m.