In the years following their establishment in 1894, the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected monuments to Confederate heroes across the South. On May 24, 1998, over one hundred years later, the ladies of Black Horse Chapter #9 in Warrenton, Virginia, continued that tradition in grand style.
Six hundred Confederate soldiers who died in Warrenton field hospitals following the Battles of First and Second Manassas have rested in anonymity in the town's cemetery since 1877, when their bodies were removed from their unmarked graves and reinterred beneath a granite shaft erected in their honor by the Ladies of the Memorial Association of Fauquier. Although each soldier had originally been identified by a wooden marker made by local schoolchildren, Union troops callously pulled up the the makeshift headstones and burned them for firewood in the winter of 1863. The names of Warrenton's Confederate dead were thus lost to history.
Or so it seemed. In 1982, Robert E. Smith of Carpentersville, Illinois, began a search for the gravesite of his Confederate ancestor, Charles Wilburn Smith, who had served during the War Between the States with Company B, 5th Alabama Battalion of Infantry, and whose final resting place was unknown. After fourteen years of checking surgeons' records, hospital data, and regimental histories, Smith stumbled onto a box of records from the Warrenton field hospitals that had been misfiled in the National Archives. This accidental discovery, along with his previous years of research, allowed him to identify 520 of the 600 soldiers whose remains were buried in Warrenton's mass grave.
Believing that his findings should be shared with the town that had cared for the grave for so many years and with anyone who, like himself, might be seeking a lost ancestor, Smith collected his data in a loose-leaf notebook and left it on the doorstep of Warrenton's mayor, J. Willard Lineweaver, and his wife Elizabeth, a member of the UDC's Black Horse Chapter. Although Smith had suggested that the notebook be housed in a mailbox-type structure to be erected next to the monument, Bizz Lineweaver had other ideas. As she states in the introduction to The Memorial Wall: To Name The Fallen, "Everyone deserves a grave marker, and...these now-identified fallen soldiers certainly should be given proper and permanent recognition." The very next day, she consulted with her friend Meade Palmer, a well-known landscape architect who immediately agreed to design a monument that would harmonize with the existing structure and serve as a fitting tribute to those who lay beneath it.
Next, Mrs. Lineweaver approached the members of the Black Horse Chapter, who enthusiastically agreed that a proper memorial needed to be built. Palmer suggested a granite wall that would encircle the existing monument and thus complete what had always looked to his eye like an unfinished work. The names of the 520 men from 10 Confederate states whom Smith had identified, along with their units and dates of death, would be engraved on the wall, with space being reserved for the 80 whose names were still unknown.
Two years later, on a gray, slightly drizzly day in late May, members of the Black Horse Chapter and the Virginia UDC, several descendants of men buried in the mass grave, Warrenton town officials, reenactors and SCV camp members, and interested spectators gathered in front of the newly constructed wall, close by the grave of Warrenton's most famous Confederate son, Colonel John Singleton Mosby. After brief remarks by Mayor and Mrs. Lineweaver, Mr. Smith, Black Horse Chapter President Mrs. John Marshall Cheatwood, and Brigadier General Lewis Marshall Helm, AUS (Ret.), a Memorial Day address was given by former Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh, Jr.. The wall was then dedicated by Rev. Carl R. Schmahl.
Virginia Division UDC President Mrs. John H. Gum and Black Horse Chapter President Mrs. John Marshall Cheatwood at the dedication
Project chairwoman Mrs. J. Willard Lineweaver is the focus of intense media attention after the ceremony
Although construction of the wall has been completed, expenses have not yet been met, and fundraising continues. The cost of engraving a single name on the wall is $135, but donations in any amount will be accepted. Contributions are tax deductible and can be mailed to:
To Name the Fallen
P.O. Box 1006
Warrenton, VA 20188
Make checks payable to "To Name the Fallen."
The Black Horse Chapter has compiled and published a 128-page soft-cover book about the project, The Memorial Wall: To Name the Fallen, Warrenton, Virginia, Cemetery. The illustrated volume contains the following:
The book sells for $10 a copy and can be ordered from:
- Information about the project (including the names and units of the 520 men who have been identified) [For an on-line listing of the men buried beneath the memorial wall, please visit http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Valley/9222/ManCemAlpha.html, maintained by Denise Kirkland Smiley.]
- A copy of the program from the dedication ceremony
- Copies of articles that have appeared in local newspapers, including the Washington Post
- A brief look at the War years, with a special focus on Warrenton
- Orders of battle for the Battles of First and Second Manassas
- Short biographies of several of the identified soldiers
- A list of War Between the States soldiers buried in Warrenton Cemetery
- Excerpts from Smith's original manuscript
- A list of contributors to date
To Name the Fallen
P.O. Box 1006
Warrenton, VA 20188
Shipping charges are $3.00 for the first book and $0.50 for each additional book mailed to the same address at the same time. Checks should be made payable to "To Name the Fallen."