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The North Honors Our Confederate Dead: Why Can’t We?

August 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Hidden away on a quiet little side street in Alton, Illinois is a beautiful granite monument, honoring the Confederate Dead. If you didn’t know its precise location, you’d never find it. I suspect that many of the locals don’t even know about it.

The 57-foot-tall granite monument sits high atop a hill, and dominates the two-acre site on which its located. It was erected in 1909, and at its base are plaques with the names of 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. Lost in time are the names of the dozens of civilians (Confederate sympathizers) who also died as prisoners of war.

Alton, Illinois sits on the Mississippi River, just 20 miles north of St. Louis, and during the Civil War, it was Union territory. Missouri did not secede from the Union, and yet it was categorized as a slave state. It was a conflicted state, with both Union and Confederate troops within its borders.

By all accounts, Alton was filled with Confederate sympathizers (those who fed or housed Confederates), as well as Confederate spies. Both the spies and the sympathizers ended up in the Alton prison. Many died there, due to starvation, deprivation, extreme cold, and disease.

Sometime in 1862, there was an epidemic of Smallpox at the prison and before it was over, 1,354 of the Confederates were dead. These were the “enemy” and yet Union officials made it clear that their remains were to be treated with reverence and respect.

Specific instructions were given for the burial of these soldiers: “Those who die will be decently interred, and a proper mark affixed to their place of burial.”

The Confederate dead were placed in individual coffins, and a numbered stake was used to mark each grave. A detailed ledger recorded their name and burial place.

In 1867, the federal government assumed ownership of the site, and from 1899 - 1907, efforts were made to document the placement of the war dead. Even with those meticulous records, it was decided that it was “utterly impossible to identify the graves of those buried there.”

In an effort to honor the final resting place of these 1,354 men, the monument was erected. It was to serve as a marker for the unmarked graves of the Confederate dead.

Situated on the Mississippi River, Alton is a quaint little town struggling to survive, with a riverboat casino that brings in some cash and enables the town of 30,000 people to keep the lights on and the schools open. Despite that, the grounds of the Confederate Cemetery on Rozier Avenue are beautifully maintained.

When I visited the site in July 2015, every single thing - from the manicured grounds to the CCC-built wrought-iron fence - was in pristine condition.

The historic placards placed around the cemetery and prison tell a story that honors the memory of our Confederate dead. While it’s true that the victors write the history, the story of our Confederate soldiers - the men captured by the Union Army - is told with tenderness, approbation, honesty and the utmost respect. In 1935, a Confederate veteran - a survivor of that prison - returned to the ruins and was treated as an honored guest (see photo below) and a returning son.

The monument and grave site is treated as a scared site, and is given the proper reverence and honor.

That’s how the North treats our Confederate dead. Why can’t the South be permitted to do the same?

Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, our Confederate monument is under attack, by City Council members that have publicly stated that the monument must come down. This, despite the fact that specific state legislation prohibits the removal of monuments honoring our Confederate dead.

Perhaps City Council needs to take a field trip to Alton, Illinois, so they can learn a little something about honoring our war dead.

It’s a sad commentary that we must look to the North to teach us something about Southern civility and decency and honor.

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Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

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In Alton, they are allowed to have nice things.

It's a sad commentary that our Southern heritage is honored more in Illinois than in Virginia.

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The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this military cemetery in Upper Alton.

The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue, a short, quiet residential street in Upper Alton. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this "military cemetery" in Upper Alton.

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The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned in Alton, by the Union.

The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. The bronze plaques give the names of each of the 1,354 soldiers.

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One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

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Each plague

Each plaque lists the first and last name, and their unit. Most were from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, but many were from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

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This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

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plague

The North honors our war dead. Why can't we?

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monum

Sitting on an elevated site in a bucolic setting, it's beautiful, majestic and reverent.

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Save the

Much like our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia (and yet ours is more detailed and elegant and historically significant). Portsmouth's monument to our Confederate dead is on the National Registry, and is considered historically significant for many reasons. For one, it's one of only three monuments in the South that feature all four branches of service. Secondly, some of Portsmouth's own sons were used as models for the four zinc statues.

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About two miles south of the monument is the prison where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated.

About two miles south of the monument you'll find the prison ruins where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated. Located in downtown Alton, this is a popular tourism site for the city.

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In 1935, surviving Confederate soldier returned to the site.

In 1935, Confederate veteran Samuel Harrison (age 93) returned to the site of the prison and chose one of the limestone blocks as a grave marker for himself. He'd spent eight months at this prison in 1864. When released, he walked 45 miles to his home in Rolla, Missouri. When he returned to Alton in 1935, he was lauded as an honored guest. Harrison (of Dent, Missouri) said that this was the first time he'd returned to Alton since the War. Mr. Harrison related that overcrowding was endemic, and bunks were stacked "nine high, with three men to a bunk."

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The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why cant we?

The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why can't we?

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To read more about our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, click here.

For the next 60 days, all monies received at this site will go directly to Stonewall Camp #380 for legal fees to save Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument. Click here to donate.

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“Our Trip to the Black Hills” by Addie Hoyt Fargo (1899)

February 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

In one of Addie’s obituaries, she was described as “a gifted woman possessing…a fine literary ability.”

As a writer, I longed to hear Addie’s “voice.” The written word can provide so much insight into a writer’s soul. I yearned to know Addie better. I wanted to read her words, and have a keyhole peek into her soul.

And then in early February, while I was reading my way through 10 years of the Lake Mills Leader, I found an essay written by Addie Hoyt Fargo. In May of 1899, Addie and Enoch had taken a one-week train trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Below is her account of that trip, written in her own words.

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Our Trip to the Black Hills

By Mrs. Enoch J. Fargo

Our excursion party comprising parties of the Wisconsin Press Association with their wives and daughters, numbering 70 in all, left Chicago Thursday at 6:00 pm, May 25th over the North-Western, bound for the Black  Hills.

We occupied two handsome Wagoneer sleepers and commenced to have a jolly good time from the very beginning.

M. P. Rindlaub, of Platteville, President and O. F. Roessler, of Jefferson, Secretary of the Wisconsin Press Association directed the excursion, while the genial James Gibson of Madison, district passenger agent of the N. W., assumed complete charge of our party from Chicago to Omaha. At Clinton, Iowa he invited us to step out upon the platform to see the largest railroad locomotive in the United States.

Some of us looked at the wrong locomotive, but the most of us saw a 122-ton affair, almost as big as a church.

Omaha was reached at 9:30 the next morning, where we found cars waiting for us, provided by Omaha’s Street Railway Co., which took us to the Millard Hotel for breakfast, and after breakfast, took us around the city and, and out to the Exposition grounds.

The entire forenoon was taken up with the trip through the grounds and buildings. Talk about a miniature World’s Fair! It is ever so much more than that, and anyone who goes there thinking he is to see something small, will be much disappointed.

The Greater American Exposition will open again in July and as nearly all of the open space has been taken, it promises to be as great a success as last year. There will be a Cuban village, 180 Cubans will arrive in Omaha this week, a Hawaiian village, and 20 families of the Philippines.

This will be a greater attraction than any seen at the Exposition last year.

After our return we were given a banquet at the Paxton Hotel by the officers of the Capital Exposition. The luncheon was preceded by the singing of “America.” Dr. Miller, president of the Greater American Exposition, welcomed the party to Omaha. He invited us to take note as we went like birds of passage through the city what Omaha is. The seat of empire, he declared, had been transferred from the East to Mississippi Valley. It was politically the dominant position of the country. He called our attention to the marvelous progress made by the West, of which we saw but the border, as exemplified last summer in the Trans-Mississippi Exposition.

Since that time, though we might regret the situation forced upon us, we could not help but look up on the situation as it is. An opportunity to know the new possessions in all the phases of their life is to be given. Editor Wilder, of Madison, was called upon to respond.

Representing the state, he said, which had given Vilas, Spooner, Fairchild and a long list of other statesmen, he acknowledged the cordial welcome. These were a band of the editors, their wives and children, and perhaps their sweethearts, seeking to learn the West, but the West was hard to find.

Here we found broad avenues, excelling the devious and narrow streets of eastern cities. We had found the spices of the exposition and realize the half had never been told.

Henceforth the word “Omaha,” would be a watchword with us and we would go to our homes with it fragrant in our memory.

The program was necessarily a brief one because of the early departure of our party for Hot Springs. Three o’clock found us saying good bye to Omaha and our Mr. Gibson, and passenger agent J. H. Gable of the F. E. & M. V., took charge of our party from Omaha to the Black Hills and back, and I assure you he looked after the comfort of us all in the usual hospitable style of the N. W. system.

From Omaha we came over the F. E. and MV, stopping at Rome Millers Eating House at Norfolk for supper, and it may be incidentally mentioned that G. H. Rodgers, the manager of that institution provided us with an excellent meal.

Northern Nebraska is all a rolling prairie; the fields are so green and the horses and cattle look well cared for, but when we got into Dakota, the scene changes.  Just before reaching the hills we pass through some of the worst country imaginable, a rocky clay soil, here and there, a lump of pine trees, some buffalo grass, a muddy stream or two and that is all.

This part of Dakota is called the Bad Lands and it’s pretty bad too, though we were told we hadn’t seen the worst of it. From here we begin to go up higher and higher and we see the black hills in the distance and really black they look too. Mr. Gable tells us the reason for this is because the mountains are covered in pine trees, and approached from a distance, this black mass of pine trees rises up against the horizon giving it the appearance and name of Black Hills.

At a previous time they were the home of various Indian tribes and they also constituted the winter shelter of the winter buffalo herds.

We arrive at the foot of Battle Mountain and here we are at Hot Springs, ready for breakfast too, I assure you. We went to the Evans Hotel for breakfast, which is just across the street from the station. This is one of the finest hotels in the West, commodious and cheerful. After breakfast, carriages were waiting to take us to Wind Cave which is 12 miles from Hot Springs, over pine-clad hills and through valleys. Wind Cave in all probability represents an extinct geyser and outrivals the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, in extent, has been explored in different directions to a distance of 91 miles and so far have found 2,100 chambers, with queer and beautiful formations in each.

There are numerous chambers uniquely named on account of some similarly or appropriate circumstance, Post Office, Theater, Cathedral, Garden of Eden, Fair Ground, etc. We explored six miles of this cave and came out after five hours, glad to stop and partake of the lunch the proprietor of the cave had waiting for us.

After we were driven back to Hot Springs, a few of us went to the Plunge, near the Evans Hotel. A handsome building enclosing the pool is, 75 x 25 feet complete in every appointment. The Plunge is the chief attraction of this popular resort and it is simply irresistible.

Myriads of tiny springs bubbling up from the pebbly bottom supply 100,000 gallons of water per hour. It is from five to nine feet in depth and so clear that the smallest object can be seen at the extreme depth. The water is highly charged with electric and magnetic properties which is highly beneficial for rheumatism.

The temperature of the water is 96 degrees years round, and one plunge almost repaid us for the long trip to Hot Springs. After the plunge we had supper, and then a dance at the “Evans” given us by the citizens of Hot Springs.

Sunday, some of our party went to church, some to the Plunge, and some to climb over the mountains; however, the day was too short and Monday found us upon our way to Deadwood, over the Elkhorn. We had breakfast at Buffalo Gap and got into Deadwood for dinner at the Ballock Hotel. The afternoon was occupied by an inspection of Deadwood until four o’clock when we left over the Elkhorn Narrow Gauge Road for a ride up Bald Mountain, visiting Terry and passing over the summit, which is 8,000 feet above sea level, and from which so fine a view is afforded of the outlying prairies. The atmosphere was favorable so the view could not have been better.

We returned to the Ballock for supper, and in the evening, a dance was given us at the Olympic parlors by the Olympic Club. Right here I might mention the fact that Harry Park, who is a commercial traveler in that section was at the hotel when we returned from Bald Mountain, so we took him with us to the Olympic Dance. Tuesday, Memorial Day, we visited Lead City, the highest city in the hills.

The forenoon was spent in seeing the Homestake Mining Plant, the largest gold mine in the world. We were unable to explore the mine, which is a privilege rarely granted because of danger of serious accident, but we inspected the stamp mills and learned how gold is extracted from quartz by the crushing and quicksilver processes. Rain kept us indoors in the afternoon, so we spent the time in the library building, recently given to Lead by Mrs. Hurst, of California.

At 5 o’clock we left Lead for Piedmont, through the most picturesque country I have ever seen, over hills and mountains through gulches and canyons, the scene changes every moment.

At Piedmont, we resumed our own cars and preceded homeward. We had breakfast at Long Pine, dinner at Norfolk, supper at Missouri Valley and a drive around the city. Arrived in Chicago, Thursday morning, June 1st after having spent as jolly and delightful a week as one could possibly wish.

Mrs. Enoch J. Fargo

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Addie

Addie wrote the essay above in 1899. She was 28 years old at the time. She's shown here in her wedding gown, in 1896 (age 24).

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Addie was a beautiful young woman, and talented too. I cant help but wonder how many unwritten books Addie had germinating in her soul. According to A History of Lake Mills (published 1983) Addie was murdered by her husband in 1901. She was 29 years old.

Addie was a beautiful young woman, and talented too. I can't help but wonder how many unwritten books Addie had germinating in her soul.

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Another picture of Addie on her wedding day.

Another picture of Addie on her wedding day. Addie was no retiring wall flower. She was a strong, independent woman with a remarkable intellect and a keen mind. She was the granddaughter of the Hawleys and the Hoyts, two "first families" of Jefferson County.

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In 1889, Addie wrote her high school essay on the inequality of work opportunities offered to young women.

In 1889, Addie wrote her high school essay on the inequality of work opportunities offered to young women. It was a bold piece for such a young woman to write.

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While reading through the old Lake Mills Leader newspaper, I was thrilled to find this travelogue, detailing Addies trip to the Black Hills. It was written in June 1899.

While reading through the old Lake Mills Leader newspaper, I was thrilled to find this travelogue, detailing Addie's trip to the Black Hills. It was written in June 1899.

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Addie

In 1993, when I interviewed for my first job as a newspaper reporter, the old ink-stained wretch of an editor asked me, "Why do you want to be a writer?" I answered, "Because I would love to see my name on the byline." He laughed out loud and said, "Yeah, I love that part, too." I got the job. I'm sure it was a thrill for Addie to see her name on the byline.

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In this piece, she talks about The Evans Hotel and The Plunge. This line drawing was shown with the article.

In this piece, she talks about The Evans Hotel and "The Plunge." This line drawing was shown with the article.

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The Plunge was a hot springs that had been enclosed. It was believed that the hot springs had salutary benefits for all manner of afflictions.

"The Plunge" was a hot springs that had been enclosed. It was believed that the hot springs had salutary benefits for all manner of afflictions.

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Addie and E. J. stayed at the Evans Hotel.

Addie and E. J. stayed at the Evans Hotel.

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