Historic Oakwood Confederate Cemetery
Backstory and Context
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.
2. "Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina." Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina | Confederate Monument, Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh. March 19, 2010. Accessed June 20, 2019.
3. Jones Maupin, Armistead. "Oakwood Cemetery." NCpedia. 2006. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://www.ncpedia.org/oakwood-cemetery.
4. Purser, Charles E. A Story Behind Every Stone: The Confederate Section of Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina. Edited by Frank B. Powell. Wake Forest, NC: Scuppernong Press, 2010.