It has been little short of astounding to hear the hysterical cries of the Virginia Flaggers and their supporters concerning resistance to their proposal to fly a large Confederate flag along I-95 south of Richmond. Grayson Jennings of Richmond, Virginia, has claimed that he’s worried about vandalism, although he has not mentioned whether the Flaggers will assign Rob Walker to guard the flag pole. We’ve had talk of terrorism as well by Flagger supporter Carl Roden of Chester (South Carolina). And by now it’s become commonplace to see Flaggers cry that they are being denied their right to free speech by their opponents, although it seems that what the Flaggers would like to do is to silence their opponents’ free speech.
Yet, as expected, the most hysterical commentary comes from frustrated romance writer Connie Chastain of Pensacola, Florida. Susan Hathaway, the Flaggers’ lead spokesperson, has openly declared that she leaves the “heavy hitting” to dear old Connie. Chastain also maintains the Virginia Flaggers’ blogsite, so it can’t be said she isn’t connected to the group, even if she’s not a Virginian. Chastain’s hysteria reached new levels this weekend when it was suggested that the Flaggers’ determination to dig into what they claim is historic soil where Confederate soldiers camped, fought, and died might have the unfortunate effect of disturbing important cultural and historical resources, including perhaps the bodies of buried Confederate soldiers.
In this radio interview Flagger Barry Isenhour of Midlothian, Virginia, speaks of the historic importance of the location (he also reportedly “hints” that this flag is the first of many to be flown across the commonwealth of Virginia). Yet Chastain can’t quite accept the implications of the Flaggers’ own declaration. She claims that people don’t know whether anyone is buried there (which is, of course, why one would check for that as well as for other valuable archaeological evidence). In an obvious attempt to mislead unwary readers, she declares that there’s no cemetery there. However, nowhere is the word “cemetery” used (and the presence of a cemetery would suggest the presence of bodies). Perhaps in the emotional condition generated by her hysteria Chastain simply didn’t comprehend what was being said … or she simply deliberately distorted it.
The fact is that in many cases Civil War dead were buried in unmarked graves. They were not immediately moved to cemeteries for internment. This was especially true in the case of the Gettysburg dead: it’s one reason why folks still denote the field due south of Oak Hill “Iverson’s Pits.” The national cemetery at Gettysburg was created when the bodies of Union soldiers were dug up and removed to the cemetery, where they were reburied. The bodies of Confederate soldiers were later unearthed and moved to various sites, the most important of which is in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. As the NPS blog site From the Fields of Gettysburg put it:
Then there is a final question. “Are there still bodies in the fields that have not been found?” The answer to this is almost certainly yes. Since the 1870’s and throughout much of the 1900’s remains have been uncovered. One noted historian stated that nearly 1,500 Confederate remains from the Gettysburg Campaign have been unaccounted for and there is a possibility that some are still buried at Gettysburg. The most recent discovery occurred in 1995 near the Railroad Cut, the scene of bitter fighting on July 1, 1863. The identity of this soldier and the army in which he served could not be readily identified during the archaeological excavation of the remains, but some battle experts believe he fought for the Confederacy and was most likely a Mississippi soldier.
In 2008 the body of a Union soldier was found at Antietam. So it is quite possible that on many battlefields of the war, including the ground fought over during the Bermuda Hundred campaign, there are unmarked graves (Chastain confuses unmarked graves with a cemetery for reasons I’m sure she’ll explain away).
Let’s recall that it’s the Flaggers themselves who have made this claim about the area where they propose to erect their famed flagpole. Now it appears that their hard hitter does not want to comprehend the possible implications of that fact. That’s sad. It would also be sad if the people who claim that they seek to honor the Confederate soldier find themselves in an embarrassing situation due to their failure to exercise due diligence. You would think they would want to take precautions to make sure that they won’t be disturbing anything beneath that soil.