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Reading 3: Our Dead Honored
Several decades after the Civil War, many different groups--relatives of former POWs, Confederate veteran organizations, Southern women's groups, as well as Columbus residents and Union veterans--took an active interest in Camp Chase Confederate cemetery. Governor Foraker of Ohio helped secure U.S. government funds to erect a stone wall around the cemetery and procure a 16-ton boulder, which would serve as the first monument in the cemetery in the late 1880's. On the boulder was carved: "2,260 confederate soldiers of the war 1861-1865 buried in this enclosure." In 1895 a Union veteran living in Columbus, Colonel W. H. Knauss, took an interest in the cemetery and its care. On his own he organized yearly services at the cemetery. He also led a fund raising campaign that helped erect a statue of a soldier standing on a stone arch with the word "Americans" engraved on it in 1902. President McKinley, who first passed through Camp Chase as a Union soldier on his way to war and later followed the cemetery's plight as Governor of Ohio, would campaign for the care of Confederate graves until his assassination in 1901.
Confederate Veteran magazine, July 1902
CONFEDERATE MONUMENT DONATED AND DEDICATED BY OUR FORMER FOES.
The single word "Americans" is chiseled in a stone arch unveiled at the Confederate burial ground at Camp Chase Saturday afternoon. It has been built to honor the memory of Confederate dead, but all factional feeling has been hidden from sight in the simple inscription it bears. The fact that it stands among graves of only those who followed the Stars and Bars will be the evidence of its character. Its donor fought neither with the blue nor the gray. A spirit of sentiment actuated its giving.
The unveiling of the arch was made the feature of the annual custom of decorating the graves of the 2,260 dead that are buried in the little plot of ground. Six years ago this ceremony was conceived and inaugurated by Col. W. H. Knauss. The first ceremony was of an exceedingly simple character. With each succeeding year it has been made more pretentious, culminating with the unveiling of the monument to day….
One of the wisest acts, certainly the most magnanimous act of President McKinley was his advocacy of a plan for the national government to maintain the Confederate cemeteries at its expense. It was only a reiteration of what he had said twenty years before at Oberlin, Ohio. In a memorial address there, speaking of the duty of the people of Ohio with respect to the graves of the dead Confederates in Camp Chase, he said: "On us, too, rests the responsibilities of caring for their graves. If it was worthwhile to bury each man in a separate grave, or give him and honorable interment, is it not worthwhile to preserve the grave as a sacred trust, as it is, and as it is to us alone? … The line of action for us is fortunately simple. In the office of the Adjutant General of the State is a record of all these dead, with a diagram of the grounds, each grave being numbered. From this it is possible to find the grave of each man and to arrange the grounds in proper manner. Let this be done by the State. Let the Legislature provide for the oversight and care of these graves."
President McKinley made two extended tours through the Southern States. The ex Confederates, by the thousands, attended his meetings and receptions and cheered and applauded him. Nowhere in the South did anarchists assail him. His life was safer than in the North. When it became necessary to make additional major and brigadier generals for the Spanish war, this broad minded President did not hesitate to put the stars upon the shoulders of those old graybacks Generals Wheeler, Lee, Butler, Oates, and Rossiter. When McKinley died, not the North alone, but the North and the South, the whole nation, reborn, reunited, mourned his death and shed tears over his grave. The "Kindly Light" of his magnanimous example and teaching encourages and cheers us on to day in paying tribute to the heroic Confederate dead who sleep in this Confederate cemetery.
Questions for Reading 3
1. What was the first monument at Camp Chase? Why do you think it was an important gesture to add the arch with the simple inscription, "Americans?"
2. What president advocated that the U.S. government maintain Confederate cemeteries? When did he begin this campaign?
3. What is the general tone of this piece? What might the tone have been like if it were written in 1866 right after the Civil War instead of 1902?