The Historic Confederate Cemetery is located in the heart of the Historic Oakwood Cemetery. The Confederate Cemetery, established in 1866 by the Wake County chapter of the Ladies Memorial Association, houses 1,388 Confederate soldiers and 2 Union soldiers (as of 2010). Over the past century and a half, there has been numerous mass reinternments from other grave sites, including Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemetery, and research and restoration projects to uncover missing information and unknown soldiers. Included in this portion of the cemetery are multiple monuments commemorating the Ladies Memorial Association, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the dead buried here, and the men and women who have served our country in all United States conflicts.
A year after the Civil War ended, residents of Wake County
united to form a chapter of the Ladies Memorial Association (LMA). Led by
Sophia Partridge (1817-1881), the goal of the LMA was to create a sacred place
for the Confederate dead and ensure their future care. After being approached by
members of the LMA, Henry Mordecai donated the land for a new cemetery site
located in the Oakwood neighborhood. Mordecai told the LMA that they “are welcome
to as many acres of my land as the need for such a sacred purpose.” This
cemetery will be known for being the first Confederate Cemetery founded in the
late Confederacy. Before the creation of Oakwood Confederate Cemetery, most of
the Confederate dead were buried behind the Fairground Hospital for Confederate
soldiers in the Rock Quarry Cemetery. After the war, a Union representative was
sent to survey and pick a location for a Union cemetery. He chose the exact location
of the Rock Quarry Cemetery and sent a message to the LMA stating that the Confederate
dead had to be removed by a specific date or else “their remains would be
placed in the public road.” Enraged by this comment, the LMA employed the
entire community into action. Within just a few weeks, 494 bodies were moved
and reinterred in the new cemetery site. Most of the work was done by young men
of the city who fought alongside the dead in the war.
The cemetery houses soldiers from all over the Confederacy.
Currently, the cemetery is sectioned into 8 divisions with the first 4 reserved
for the North Carolina dead. Division 5 is for the 44 Georgia dead, Division 6
for the 9 Mississippi dead, Division 7 for the 4 rows of the South Carolina dead,
and Division 8 for 106 unknown soldiers plus 70 soldiers from remaining states.
In February 1870, Captain George M. Whiting was the first Confederate Veteran to
be buried in the Confederate Cemetery. In 1871, 137 Confederate soldiers were
reinterred from Gettysburg. In 1883, 107 Confederate soldiers were reinterred
from Arlington National Cemetery. Over the past century and a half, there have
been numerous reinternments and veteran burials leaving a grand total of 1,388
Confederate soldiers and 2 Union soldiers as of 2010.
In the center of the cemetery is a monument that was
erected in 1870 which was sponsored by the LMA. The Confederate Monument commemorates
soldiers who died during the war and the loved ones they left behind. This monument
is the center of the annual Confederate Memorial Day services that are held at
the Oakwood Confederate Cemetery each May. The monument is also highly criticized
and is often vandalized like many Confederate monuments in today’s society. There
are many other monuments located in this section of the cemetery, some
commemorating groups of people or an individual. They range from large obelisks
to small plaques. When you visit Oakwood’s Historic Confederate Cemetery, make
sure you visit the House of Memory which has a wonderful display of
commemorative plaques for every war in United States history.