We turn Stately Blaska Manor over to Eric J. Sprengle, Lieutenant Colonel (retired), United States Army. Col. Sprengle, now of Stafford County, Virginia, grew up in the Madison area. His great, great grandfather fought for the Union with the 3rd Iowa Cavalry, and was a life time member for the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington State.
Sprengle notes that the large United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) granite marker was erected on 15 June 1906 — not 1931 — and pre-dates the individual federal government confederate grave markers in Confederate Rest, which were ordered 20 May 1909. [Corrected from original post which stated the UDC monument was erected 1896. This was erroneously reported in the 1922 newspaper article.] Sprengle provides documentation that Confederates Rest and the Daughter’s monument was regularly honored by Union veterans of the Civil War, under the banner of their organization, The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR.
by Eric J. Sprengle
Many people and publications in Madison state the large granite monument was that furnished by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in the 1930s. This date comes from the article “Civil War Panorama” by William Huggins of the Wisconsin State Journal dated 24 May 1981. Mr. Huggins was incorrect.
[The Wisconsin State Journal reported 28 May 1922 that the big granite stone monument with all the names of the confederate soldiers and dedicated to “Mrs. Alice Whiting Waterman and her boys” was installed at Forest Hill cemetery in 1896. However, Mr. Sprengle now says the 1922 newspaper story was in error and that the monument was placed on June 15, 1906. He cites this 2008 Wisconsin Magazine of History.
The monument installation and dedication were conducted by members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and members of the Lucius Fairchild Post 11 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) of Madison. The monument was unveiled by Martha Lewis, the daughter of Captain Hugh Lewis, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic [the Union soldier’s equivalent of today’s VFW].
Mrs. Waterman was aided in her care of the confederate graves by former Governor Lucius Fairchild [himself commander in chief of the GAR from 1886-87], Fred Phillips, and Captain Hugh Lewis — all one-armed veterans and members of the GAR post. [“Blue and Gray,” Wisconsin State Journal, 29 May 1885]
[Fairchild’s successor, Cadwallader C. Washburn, governor from 1872-74, “went a step further … he led a party of old union soldiers into Confederate Rest and with his own hands strewn floral offerings upon the boys in gray … the first chief executive of any northern state to exhibit such charity, but his conduct has since been very generally emulated where union and confederate soldiers lie buried together.”
[Washburn was a general in the Union army at Vicksburg and elsewhere. “The Washburn family had always been strongly opposed to slavery,” says the Wikipedia entry. Washburn purchased a farm called Edgewood, then donated it for Edgewood high school and college. He went on to found General Mills.
[The 1885 news article continued: “Hon. B.J. Stevens, while acting as mayor of Madison last year, showed great kindness to Mrs. Waterman and offered to assist her in any manner.” Alice Whiting Waterman’s 13 Sep 1897 obituary.]
The design of individual confederate grave markers furnished by the federal government was not approved until 1906. This explains the design of the UDC monument and its placement within the rest.
[If the UDC monument did not come first, then why would it repeat the names inscribed on the individual tombstones, which came later.]
[The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records that “The Department of War had been content to allow Northern cemeteries where Confederates were interred to languish. However, after the Spanish-American War (1898), the federal government, led by President William McKinley [the last Civil War veteran to become president] in the spirit of national reconciliation and in the postwar glow of recent victory, proposed that a loving nation would reach out and care for the graves of fallen Confederates. Recognition of these places as hallowed ground and the individuals interred in them as deserving of honor began with the creation of the Confederate section at Arlington National Cemetery in 1900, and continued with the renewal through 1916 of 1906 legislation that authorized federal funds to mark all Confederate graves.”
[Unfortunately, Madison’s Confederates Rest is not included in the VA study, titled “Federal Stewardship of Confederate Dead.”
[But the common practice, the study reports, was to bury Union and Confederate dead in coffins side-by-side in trenches marked only with wooden planks, sometimes inscribed in charcoal. “Most Confederate cemeteries were, however, forgotten and neglected after the Civil War.”
[The 2016 federal report does say, “The UDC became the dominant women’s organizations associated with the Lost Cause [which], in part, championed states’ rights and the constitutional rights theory of the Civil War as Jefferson Davis defined it in postwar writings. The question of slavery was marginalized and reverence for the passing of the Old South—portrayed as a culture of tradition, honor, and chivalry—was emphasized.]
In addition, the big granite monument played a significant role in the 1937 National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic held in Madison. The GAR Commander in Chief, C.H. William Ruhe, laid a wreath at the UDC monument from the GAR in an act of reconciliation thus making the monument part of GAR history and history of the country.
Those who are upset at the monument because it says “United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC)” should understand they had nothing to do with the subjection of blacks before, during, and immediately after the civil war; as the UDC was formed in 1894. The one single organization in the south that was most responsible for the continued subjection blacks for the 100 years after the civil war was the Democratic party.
If this monument is removed it would be a travesty of the highest order because it would be erasing the history of Madison and the Grand Army of the Republic at the whim of local politics and the political agenda of the moment.
I have been to Forest Hill Cemetery many times. About 100 yards from confederate rest you will find the grave of Brevet Brigadier General Henry Harnden, Commander of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, and one of the union officers responsible for the capture of Jefferson Davis. I am willing to bet that many in Madison are unaware of this fact, like they are unaware of the true history of confederate rest.
I find it ironic, that the citizens of Madison during the civil war, former soldiers of the union army, and members of the Grand Army of the Republic were much more friendly and forgiving of the soldiers and women of the former confederacy than the current mayor and some residents of Madison today. In 2017, it’s the politics of the day and the lack knowledge of the history of Madison, the civil war, and reconstruction that has caused this controversy.
In Madison there is very little real history preserved, only politics.
For further study: A brief history of Confederates Rest and the Alice Whiting Waterman story. It notes that, although born in Baton Rouge, she moved to New York City with her family at age 9 had lived many years in the north before moving to Madison in 1866.
Wisconsin Historical Society photo from 1898 shows no UDC monument but wooden grave markers Alice Waterman had secured, surrounded by fence she had constructed and trees she planted.