File this post under the heading "Reparations for the Era of Civil War."
Recently I had the chance to visit the Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. It's one of the largest Confederate cemeteries; there are something on the order of 17,000 soldiers buried there. It's a pretty interesting place, in part because the people buried there are almost all enlisted men -- the officers were apparently buried in Hollywood Cemetery and Shockoe Hill Cemetery. There is also relatively little in the way of monuments there, which I guess goes to show that in death, as in life, the little people are often forgotten. I guess I'm not surprised by this. There's a pretty modest obelisk put up around 1866 and also a granite monument put up in 2007 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But not a lot in between. There are a number of very small, foot- stones that dot the Confederate part of the cemetery; it's a quiet and I would add dignified, space. It reminds me a lot of the National cemeteries around Richmond that have U.S. soldiers buried in them.
Old friends may recall a blog post I wrote years ago on the money that the Virginia legislature gives to cemeteries with Confederate soldiers buried in them -- I think it's $5 per year per person. What I did not realize until recently is that the United States Veterans administration is also charged with providing some monuments for Confederate cemeteries. Title 38, section 2036(a) provides as follows:
The Secretary shall furnish, when requested, appropriate Government headstones or markers at the expense of the United States for the unmarked graves of the following:
(1) Any individual buried in a national cemetery or in a post cemetery.
(2) Any individual eligible for burial in a national cemetery (but not buried there), except for those persons or classes of persons enumerated in section 2402(a)(4), (5), and (6) of this title.
(3) Soldiers of the Union and Confederate Armies of the Civil War.
(4) Any individual described in section 2402(a)(5) of this title who is buried in a veterans’ cemetery owned by a State.
(5) Any individual who at the time of death was entitled to retired pay under chapter 1223 of title 10 or would have been entitled to retired pay under that chapter but for the fact that the person was under 60 years of age.
Now the Sons of the Confederate Veterans are hoping to get the Veterans Administration to do more in terms of monuments. I think tha the cemetery is better off as it is without more monuments marring the landscape; but I'd also add -- as I guess is clear from my scholarship -- I'm not a huge fan of spending more federal government money to commemorate the Confederacy. Thus, I'm not enthusiastic about the Veterans Administration doing more with Oakwood -- for both aesthetic and moral reasons. If private individuals want to put up a new monument, as the United Daughters of the Confederacy seem to be doing at Oakwood, that's obviously something they have the right to do.