On July 9, 1914, nearly 500 people gathered at the edge of the Best Farm to dedicate a monument to Confederate soldiers who fought and died at the Battle of Monocacy. The ceremony followed the United Daughters of the Confederacy's (UDC) well established formula for dedication ceremonies. There were Confederate veterans, prayers, speeches, music, and children. All orchestrated as part of the UDC's effort to reframe the narrative of the war from one of a southern fight to preserve slavery to a "Lost Cause" effort to protect southern honor and states' rights.
Founded in 1894, the UDC brought together thousands of southern women in a common cause: preservation of Confederate culture and vindication of Confederate veterans. Building upon the traditions of Ladies Memorial Associations that built funerary markers in the years following the war, the UDC expanded their focus beyond cemetaries. In addition building memorials, the UDC focused their efforts on caring for Confederate veterans and widows, preserving and documenting the Confederacy, educating white southerners on the "true history of the war," and providing social opportunities. A dedication ceremony for a UDC monument was more than a simple ceremony, it was an event designed reclaim a mantle of patriotism for Confederate veterans and indoctrinate young, white Southerners in Confederate culture. Newspaper accounts describe the pagentry of automobiles and teams of horses carrying crowds from Frederick to Monocacy Junction. Once crowds and dignitaries were in in place, the ceremony opened with a bugle blasts and prayers. The first speaker, a Confederate veteran, began with a history of the events that led to the battle at Monocacy.
In accordance with the UDC standard monument dedication program, children performed the job of unveiling the monument. Historian Karen Cox notes that "the Daughters envisioned each monument as a gift that connected past generations with future generations. It was culturally significant, therefore, that a child symbollically open the gift." At Monocacy, 13-year old Grafton Wallis and 9-year old John Wood did the honors. An honor court of girls accompanied the boys. Included in the court was 10-year old Eleanor Potts Williams, the grandniece of Confederate Capt. Alexander Young who was killed at Antietam.
After the monument was revealed, Colonel Robert E. Lee, Jr., the grandson of General Robert E. Lee, delivered the main address. After noting that the Battle of Monocacy was the only Confederate victory on Northern soil, Lee went on to deliver a speech brimming with Lost Cause propaganda. A contemporary newspaper stated, "He showed how the South feared the consequences of slavery with which she was being saddled and referred to the efforts of the South to prevent the importation of African slaves. Col. Lee declared the slaves were freed by the South, saying that the fight was not to break the American Union, which her sons had done so much to establish." Lee closed by focusing on reconciliation and mutual respect.
Last updated: October 23, 2020