Veteran of Wisconsin’s Iron Brigade asked former Confederates to fund monument at Forest Hills

After the death of Alice Whiting Waterman in 1897, Madison resident Hugh M. Lewis, who had been a captain in Company A of Wisconsin’s famed Iron Brigade, appealed to his Southern counterparts in Washington D.C., to raise money for a lasting memorial to the selfless lady and “her boys,” the southern soldiers who died as POWs at Madison’s Camp Randall.

Tell Mayor Soglin to veto the Common Council’s action Tuesday (04-10-18) to erase the monument erected in 1906 to selfless Madison volunteer Alice Whiting Waterman and “her boys.” As our friend, city Landmarks Commissioner Stu Levitan noted, “We found that the structure does not extol the Confederacy or Secession, but functions as a grave marker.”

Our thanks to Dave Muskat of Historic Madison WI for unearthing this account of the placing of the monument at Confederates Rest cemetery from the Thursday, June 14, 1906 Wisconsin State Journal (then as now, a pro-Union, anti-slavery newspaper.)

Mrs Waterman’s Noble Devotion

Southern Woman’s Fidelity to Dead
is Recalled by Monument For Them

Pathetic Story of Confederate Dead
who Sleep in Forest Hill Cemetery

The story of the confederate dead at Forest Hill in whose memory a monument is to be unveiled Friday is one of pathetic and romantic interest. These sons of the southland sleep the farthest north of any confederate dead but though they rest far from friends and kindred, they have received there share of attention and floral tributes on memorial day. They lie in a charming spot. The high and airy Forest Hill cemetery overlooks the city of Madison itself and Lakes Mendota and Monona. The fragrant breath of summer clover is wafted to them from the green fields around, while in the rear near at hand is a grove of wildwood, where sings the mocking bird and sports the chipmunk. The noise and distractions of the city disturb not their rest. A more sweet and peaceful place cold hardly be asked by an exile. 

Story is Pathetic

The troops here buried formed a contingent of confederate soldiers captured at Island No. 10, and were removed to the far north in the spring of 1862. They comprised many of the First Alabama, the flower of the old aristocracy of that state, with some from Louisiana, Arkansas and a few other southern states. Sickness due to removal to a colder climate resulted in a high mortality among them. Between April 2 and July 3, 1862, 129 southern soldiers died as prisoners of war at Camp Randall in Madison, the present football and athletic field of the university of Wisconsin. The resting place of these soldiers known as Confederate Rest, is a pretty little plat of ground and around it centers a most touching story of a southern woman’s love and devotion. 

Mrs. Waterman’s Devotion

alice-watermanFor thirty years Mrs. Alice Whiting Waterman of Baton Rouge, La., devoted her time and fortune to beautifying and decorating the graves of her “boys,” as she affectionately called them. 

Mrs. Waterman lived at Baton Rouge until she was ten years old. She then went with her family to New York city where she was married to Charles Waterman, but was soon left a widow. She passed a number of years in the east and then came to Chicago where she was for eleven years matron of the Briggs House. She served in a similar capacity in the Newhall House at Milwaukee. She first came to Madison in 1868 and spent the closing years of her life at the home of Major F.W. Oakley. 

Loyalty of Mrs. Waterman

Mrs. Waterman’s work was one of singular loyalty and devotion. When she came here in 1868 and learned that her countrymen were lying in grades neglected and almost forgotten among strangers of the north she resolved to do what she could to beautify their resting place. 

First in Potter’s Field

The plot was in the potter’s field, and she was given permission to take charge of it and restore it to what she felt was its proper condition. She heaped up neat mounds over each grave, planted trees in the plot and an evergreen hedge along east and south sides, cleared away the weeds, trimmed the grass, erected head boards on each grave and had the whole surrounded by a white, board fence. The head boards were appropriately inscribed with the names of the dead, their company and regiment as well as the date of the death. These head boards she had replaced three different times. When the board fence began to decay she had it replaced by a granite coping which cost $800 and practically consumed the last of her fortune.

She suffered various reverses of fortune in business ventures but never lost her motherly sweetness, nor the loving interest in caring for the graves of her “boys”. Each memorial day found her remembering the graves of the confederate soldiers with handsome floral tributes.

Madison Men Take Up Cause

WSJ 1906 daughters monumentFormer governor Lucius Fairchild, who shortly before his death was national commander of the Grand army of the Republic as well as other union veterans of Madison, tendered Mrs. Waterman much assistance in her noble work. Governor Fairchild was the first executive of the state to place with his own hands a floral tribute on a grave in “Confederate Rest.”

Mrs. Waterman died at Madison Sept. 13, 1897, and at her own request was buried in a corner of the confederate enclosure. After her death Major F.W. Oakley, clerk of the federal court for the western district of Wisconsin and a gallant union soldier, has been caring for the “rest” and has done what he could to get some confederate organization interested in it. 

Just before the outbreak of the Spanish American war the Confederate veterans association, with headquarters at Washington, DC., decided to solicit funds for the erection of a suitable monument at the “rest” but the movement was allowed to languish. After the death of Mrs. Waterman, Captain Hugh M. Lewis, company A, second Wisconsin Infantry, Iron brigade, Army of the Potomac, appeared before the Washington post, or camp, as it is called, of the Confederate Veterans association, and called attention to the fact that something should be done for the care and preservation of the “Confederate Rest” here. He paid a glowing tribute to the life and work of Mrs. Waterman. Captain Lewis is a well-known Wisconsin veteran and is now serving as a doorkeeper in the house of representatives at Washington. Stimulated by this address the Washington Confederate Veterans’ association decided to collect funds and erect a suitable monument on the “Rest.”

The outbreak of the war with Spain, however, prevented the plan being carried out, but finally the Daughters of the Confederacy have carried it to a successful issue.

Hooray for the State Journal today (04-13-18)!


About David Blaska

Madison WI
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2 Responses to Veteran of Wisconsin’s Iron Brigade asked former Confederates to fund monument at Forest Hills

  1. Patrick M O'Loughlin says:

    I noticed that when Stu Levitan’s comment was introduced into the debate over this matter, the response was that while the maker had made no reference to the lost cause, those behind the marker (Daughters of the Confederacy) had spread that notion elsewhere at other times. So in other words it wasn’t the maker so much, but the ideas of the people who put it there. So does that mean we have to change the name of our city because it belonged to a person who didn’t just support slavery, but was an actual slave owner? We could call it Soglinville, his ideas will never go out of fashion. We can rename Mifflin Street The Ho Chi Minh Trail like he always wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Confederate Rest stone is ‘too big’ for Stu Levitan; it’s got to go | Stately Blaska Manor

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