While visiting the Antietam National Battlefield we
were privileged to hear a talk given by a Park Ranger, one Keith
Snyder. (See our story on Antietam). It was gratifying to hear someone as knowledgeable
and interested in his subject as he was. As a conclusion to his
talk on the battle at Antietam, he mentioned that the union dead
had been re-interred into the Antietam National Cemetery by 1867,
but that the Confederate dead remained in the burial trenches
where they had originally been buried for many additional years.
Over the years many of the burial trenches eroded and bones were
exposed, acting as eerie reminder of the horrific battles.
However, finally in 1870 the Maryland General Assembly created a
Washington Confederate Cemetery, appropriated $5,000 for the
re-interment of the Confederate soldiers. The cemetery was
officially dedicated on June 15, 1877.
As I thought of all the battlefields we had visited it occurred to me that one of the unsettling things of seeing all these places was that there was no closure. As long as these men lay in trenches with no proper burial there just was no end. So I determined then and there that I had to go and visit the cemetery to pay my respects to the brave soldiers both union and confederate who died for what they believed in.
With that in mind we went off in search of the Rose Hill Cemetery on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. The cemetery is located just south of the city and is very well tended. We found the Confederate section of the cemetery and took pictures of the gate and the monument (representing Hope). It was interesting how they had put the soldiers in sections according to their units and home state. The men that they were able to identify had their names listed on an engraved plaque. Those they were not able to identify were simply buried in rows and labeled unidentified.
I guess it might sound funny to someone who had never stood there, but I felt a real sense of peace and closure standing there amongst the remains of the over 2000 "southern boys" who lay, finally at rest, in a place so far from their homes.
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