Did not glorify the South’s Lost Cause.
A Madison attorney is contesting the City of Madison’s removal of the memorial stone at Confederate Rest cemetery on 04-10-2018 (and reaffirmed on 05-11-2018) as a “desecration.” It was one of the city’s first me-too cancel culture victories, taken in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which exploded after the removal of monuments celebrating secession.
Madison attorney Todd Hunter names then-mayor Paul Soglin and all 20 members of the Common Council in his civil lawsuit filed 12-30-2021 in Dane County Circuit Court.
The complainant seeks the return of the monument to Confederate Rest, located on the eastern boundary of Forest Hill Cemetery on Madison’s near west side. He also seeks $25,000 for unauthorized disturbance of a gravesite, desecration of a cemetery, and “discriminating against the dead buried at Confederate Rest because of their ancestry.” The awards would be dedicate for the preservation of the cemetery.
Union veterans dedicated it
Hunter is also seeking to restore what he terms a grave marker — the bronze plaque at ground level at the entrance. That’s the one that referenced “unsung heroes” and “fought valiantly” and was removed earlier. The suit also wants to overturn the ban on flying the Confederate battle flag over the cemetery, which is the northernmost burial of Confederate casualties, the final resting place of some 140 who perished as prisoners of war at Madison’s Camp Randall after the capture of Island #10 on the Mississippi River in 1862.
The stone was dedicated with brass bands and speeches on June 1906, led by the local unit of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans advocacy organization for soldiers who fought on the Union side. Two years later, Congress authorized the placement of the individual stone grave markers that remain today. Notably, the stone glorifies no victorious general. It bears only the names of the dead and the inscription:
Erected in loving memory by United Daughters of Confederacy
to Alice Whiting Waterman and her boys
She is the Madison woman and former hotelier who tended the neglected gravesite, eventually attracting the patronage of Gov. Cadwallader Washburn, a Union general who served under Grant at Vicksburg, Later, Gov. Lucius Fairchild took up the cause; he lost an arm at Gettysburg and later became national commandant of the G.A.R. Fairchild remained a staunch supporter of Reconstruction and criticized fellow Republican Rutherford Hayes for ending the effort in 1877.
Mrs. Waterman’s dream
… was to replace the weathered wooden boards that served as grave markers with a permanent stone. After she died at the home of Union Captain Frank Oakley on Carroll Street in 1897, where she was housekeeper, the captain — then a U.S. marshal — enlisted the help of Major Hugh Lewis to solicit funds from Confederate veterans and family members of the deceased. Major Lewis was then sergeant at arms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lewis lost his arm at Gettysburg, as well. The money raised was sent to Oakley in Madison, who contracted with a local stone mason.
Hunter’s complaint details that history and much more in his 90-page complaint. Himself a former candidate for mayor, Hunter claims the defendant city officials used “malicious rhetoric” that falsely tied the large gravestone to the “nefarious Lost Cause” wherein some in the south attempted to justify the rebellion and slavery. More history here.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: The stone was hauled away on 01-11-2019, over the objections of the city Landmarks Commission. Two years later, a glacial boulder known as the Chamberlin Rock was hauled away because a newspaper story referenced a racial slang and NAACP champion Fredric March’s name expunged from his alma mater.