Another Walk in Arlington

Last February I had the opportunity to spend the better part of a day walking around Arlington National Cemetery. Mind you, a day is nowhere near enough to see all that one may see, but I had spent time there before, especially in the area around Arlington House, where many distinguished (and some undistinguished) Civil War era figures have been laid to rest.

For someone who has been doing a great deal of research in the Civil War/Reconstruction era, there are also gravesites to see that most visitors might overlook. Here are some of those gravesites.
DSC02278Daniel Ammen was a childhood friend of Ulysses S. Grant, and the friendship continued throughout their military careers. While Ammen’s brother Jacob attended West Point, Daniel entered the Navy, rising to the rank of rear admiral.

DSC02376But he never forgot his friend Ulysses: in 1871 he named a son after the 18th president.

DSC02339Joseph J. Reynolds was one of Grant’s classmates at West Point. He would see service both in the Civil War and on Reconstruction occupation duty.

DSC02286William W. Belknap commanded a regiment from Iowa during the Civil War. Later he would become Grant’s secretary of war, succeeding John A. Rawlins (who is buried not all that far away). In 1876 Belknap would resign his office in an effort to avoid being impeached for malfeasance in office in a rather colorful affair involving the sale of post sutlerships, an enterprise in which two of his wives (who happened to be sisters) were deeply involved.

P1100701And here’s Orville Babcock, who joined Grant’s staff during the Civil War and then joined his boss in the White House. Some people found him charming, but others believed he was calculating and more than a little corrupt. Surely Babcock’s involvement in the negotiations leading to the abortive annexation of the Dominican Republic and the Whisky Ring scandal suggest that there was a lot of smoke and, in the latter case, more than a little fire, and that’s just for starters. Yet Babcock kept a government job, and drowned of the coast of Florida in 1884 while doing his work as an inspector of lighthouses.
DSC02407Another one of Grant’s staff officers who got himself in trouble after the Civil War was George K. Leet, who was accused of corrupt activity in the New York Customs House. Grant did not stand by Leet as he had stood by Babcock, even if he came to regret supporting Orville.

DSC02336Less well known to all but a few researchers was another of Grant’s private secretaries, Culver C. Sniffen, whose autograph I’ve seen more than a few times (but he always signed documents “C. C. Sniffen,” so only now do I know his actual first name). I didn’t come looking for him, but here he is.
DSC02373And, to conclude this stroll through the cemetery, I bring you William F. “Baldy” Smith and family. At one time Grant thought a great deal of Baldy Smith, but later he had good reason to revise that estimation.

We’ll return to the cemetery another time.

7 thoughts on “Another Walk in Arlington

  1. Wow, what stories!

    If I were a big-time tv producer I would pitch a historical miniseries just on these figures alone.

    And those names ring of their era.

    But you can’t beat a name like “C. C. Sniffen”.

    Thanks for yet another great post, Professor.

  2. Rob Wick June 6, 2016 / 7:59 am

    C.C. Sniffen’s wife, Zanobia, corresponded often with Ida M. Tarbell in the 1920s concerning Zanobia’s concern that the public was buying into the Lost Cause narrative too deeply. She was mainly concerned about Mary Scrugham and her dissertation at Columbia Univeristy “Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion.” Sniffen also expressed concern about the influence the United Daughters of the Confederacy had throughout the nation, especially in the work of Mildred Rutherford. Tarbell told Sniffen that she wanted to write a response to Rutherford’s work from a historical perspective, but she never found the time to do so. As for Sniffen’s concern over the Lost Cause narrative, Tarbell wrote “We must bear in mind that ‘defeated causes’ die hard.” Tarbell tried to interest Putnam’s in a book that Sniffen wrote on the Lost Cause but they declined to publish it.


    • I found a scan of that text under that title at website of “The Open Library” and took a very quick peek at it.

      If you want to see a hole blown in one argument often used by Lost Cause defenders see pages 118-119, where an extensive quote is printed and referenced. The quote is written by a newspaper editor whose sons fought for the Confederacy and its author attacks the bad-faith claim of the alleged constitutionality of “nullification” of Federal jurisdiction, pointing out that this is nothing other than rebellion or revolution pretending at a dubious legality.

  3. Shoshana Bee June 6, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    I had this eerie feeling whilst scrolling through the names on the headstones. It took me a couple of days to nail it: It reminded me of the image that I get in my head when I hear the Marty Robbins song, ”Alamo”: a roll-call of the dead that I have become more than casually acquainted with. With each headstone, a vignette would play out, as I caught myself nodding in recognition. The names now so familiar, that I know some of them better than I know my neighbors. The Grant biography, the Grant Papers….and now the Memoirs: Grant and his world has become somewhat part of my world. Thank you for sharing yet another part of Grant’s life with us, Dr. Simpson.

  4. hankc9174 June 8, 2016 / 5:43 am

    To: General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
    cc: Barack Obama

    Dear General,

    Please bury John A. Rawlins .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s