Our Confederate Dead

Blandford Cemetery

Update: Just received a private email stating that I am “incapable of feeling anything but hate for Confederate soldiers.” As always, thanks for taking the time to comment.

This weekend I was in Petersburg, where I gave a talk to a group of educators as part of teachers conference sponsored by the Civil War Trust.  I had a great time. It’s always nice to be able to catch up with my good friend, Garry Adelman, and meet new teachers.  Yesterday morning I had a chance to walk the Crater battlefield, where I got to see the incredible new view shed from the Crater back toward the guns at Fort Morton and the staging area for the battle.  After that, I headed on over to Blandford Cemetery for a quiet stroll.

I am a sucker for Blandford.  It’s not the cemetery’s importance to the battle or the fact that I can identify many of the names on the markers or even the beautiful Tiffany Windows in the church that I find so impressive.  When I walk through the arch to the Confederate section I am truly moved by what I see.  It’s a bit deceptive, especially if you have already visited the Confederate section at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.  Blandford doesn’t have the grandeur or sophistication of Hollywood and that is probably why I prefer this place.  You won’t find a pyramid at Blandford.  In fact, there are relatively few markers in the Confederate section, but it doesn’t take long to realize that those markers outline row upon row of unidentified Confederate soldiers buried by their respective states.  This section of the cemetery is a testament to the profound sense of grief and loss experienced by the community in the years following the war.  So many young men buried without any identification and far from home.  The monument to the unknown Confederate is perfectly positioned at the top of the ridge overlooking these men.  How can you not be touched on a deeply emotional level?

I understand the significance of Blandford to the burgeoning Lost Cause narrative of the war and I can easily fit it into other scholarly discussions/debates as well, but when I am on the ground very little of that matters to me.  There are lessons to be learned about war, sacrifice, duty, and loss.

The only item in that cemetery that can send me into a tailspin is that ridiculous marker to Richard Poplar that the SCV dedicated a few years ago and which they gather around each year to commemorate.  On a landscape littered with unidentified Confederates the very people who claim ownership of their memory found nothing wrong with placing a marker with a fabricated identity in a place that does not even include a body.  I can’t think of anything more disrespectful both to Poplar and to the unknown soldiers.

In the end, however, it’s only a temporary distraction.  Within a few minutes my mind is quiet again as I pay my respects to the unknown.

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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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8 comments… add one
  • Brian John Coughlan Nov 1, 2017 @ 15:27

    I am 71, an Englishman, living in Staffordshire, England. I have never even been to the USA, yet all my life I have been fascinated by the American Civil War. Like many, many people over here, we cannot understand why you are pulling down statues of Confederate heroes and burning the Confederate battle flag. Do you think that these wanton acts of destruction will somehow change your country’s history? To us over here it seems like the usual story that always happens in the United States – the Blacks and all the other minority groups always overide the majority. They seem to think that whatever they say or do must be given priority over the white majority – because that is their civil right.
    I personally side with the Confederacy and would personally shoot dead any of these whining liberals who put one finger on a confederate statue or put a match to that wonderful old flag. It is your history, dammit! It would be like us British pulling down statues of Winston Churchill, because he was nasty to the Nazis. Get a grip of the situation over there – and get rid of all those PC misfits who seem to dictate all your policies and politics.God Bless President Trump – I wish we had him over here as our political leader!

    • Kevin Levin Nov 1, 2017 @ 15:32

      I personally side with the Confederacy…

      Hi Brian. You may not have heard that the Confederacy was thankfully defeated in 1865. We here in the United States live in a democracy, which allows for all Americans, including “the Blacks and all other minority groups” to voice their concerns about monuments on public property and a host of other issues. I for one thank my lucky stars every day that I live in such a country.

      • Brian Coughlan Nov 2, 2017 @ 14:48

        Please don’t lecture me about democracy, you don’t know the meaning of the word. Perhaps YOU may have heard we British invented the process! I can see that your idea of democracy is that as long as everyone sings Kumbaya and agrees with your lovely, jubbly, luvey vision of the world then everything is tickety-boo!
        I’m afraid not Mr Kevin Levin, your idea of democracy and your tacky ideas of welcoming
        everybody into your strange little misguided world of love and butterflies just got eight people killed in New York. You want to wake up out of that pinky trendy dream-state and
        start listening to your President.

        • Kevin Levin Nov 2, 2017 @ 14:54

          I hope you feel better now. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • Jimmy Dick Nov 1, 2017 @ 17:28

      Hey Brian, since you don’t know history, let me explain something. The people who fought for the Confederacy committed treason against the US so they could keep enslaving the black minority. They weren’t heroes. They were traitors. The monuments to them do not explain that fact. So we are correcting the lie the monuments represent.

      If you side with the Confederacy, then you side with tyranny, oppression, and racism. That’s what the Confederates were all about. If you side with the Confederacy, then you approve of enslaving your fellow human beings against their will.

      If you side with the Confederacy, then you are a white supremacist and an enemy of the United States of America, freedom, equality, and liberty.

      So if you want to get out a gun to stop the monuments to traitors from coming down, you will be treated like the enemy of the United States that you are.

      • Brian Coughlan Nov 2, 2017 @ 15:24

        You are done here, Mr. Coughlin. Future comments will be deleted.


  • Forester Apr 22, 2013 @ 9:10

    About Richard Poplar: If the Confederacy were an existing government, than I could understand giving posthumous recognition to black “soldiers,” viewing them as soldiers in retrospect regardless of their position at the time. HOWEVER, there is no CSA, and no one to even make such a decision. The SCV is just descendants of Veterans, they are not a government and cannot speak for a country that doesn’t even exist.

    And honestly Kevin, I’ve never seen any indication on this blog that you hated anyone. People just say that because they are themselves hateful.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 22, 2013 @ 9:31

      Thanks. I obviously won’t lose any sleep over it. 🙂

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