Battle Over Civil War Graves

A military graveyard is causing controversy in Virginia, and its not located in Arlington.

A group is demanding better grave markers for more than 17,000 soldiers buried in Richmond that fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, wants federal funding to place individual, upright markers in the graveyard for dead soldiers, the Times-Dispatch reported.  The graveyard is named Oakwood Cemetery, and is one of the largest for Confederate war dead.

"You would not believe the people all across the country with ancestors out there who want this done," said F. Lee Hart III, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veteran's and the head of the group's committee to restore the cemetery.

One of the group's supporters is U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.  He wrote a letter petitioning the Veterans Affairs to release money for the refurbishment.

Currently, six by six inch marble blocks serve as the marker for 3 soldiers each.  According to the Sons of the Confederacy, these blocks are in disrepair.  "The stones are all damaged, a lot of them are illegible," Hart told the Times-Dispatch.  "It's disgraceful."

The VA estimated that the total cost of new, upright markers would be $3.2 million.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans asked for ten new upright, granite markers last year from the VA, but were turned down.  An agency official wrote such markers "would have an adverse effect on the historic setting and potentially archaelogical resources."

But Hart has pointed out that the cemetery had originally been marked by Confederate women's group with upright grave markers made of wood, which eventually rotted.

The month of April was marked as Civil War History Month by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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