Tag Archives: Union veterans

A Few Out of the Way Spots on Memorial Day

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.27.20 AMA few day ago I posted a number of pictures taken while participating in the pre-Memorial Day exercises at the National Cemetery in Los Angeles. Over the weekend, it occurred to me that there were several Union Civil War veterans buried elsewhere in cemeteries around LA, especially at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which as I have often made note, is in close proximity to Harristorian HQ.

Unfortunately, most of the graves are in isolated parts of the cemetery and rarely visited. I suppose that the veterans’ descendents have long ago moved on. So we (my wife, Coni and I) took it upon ourselves to hold our own Decoration Day (the original name of Memorial Day from 1868) and place flags on the graves of Union veterans in Hollywood.

Below are a few shots of our own festivities.


With compliments,


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Appomattox Day

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 11.02.14 AMAppomattox Day, in case you’re wondering…was yesterday, April 9th, 2014. Not many really “celebrate” this day anymore – though it is often commemorated – especially owing to its clear reconciliationist overtones. But not too terribly long ago, this day was celebrated with great joy and truimphalism by Union veterans – particularly those who fought with the Army of the Potomac – as the day the forces of the United States suppressed a domestic rebellion.

Not for nothin’ my fellow citizens – happy (belated) Appomattox Day!

With compliments,


James A. Garfield on Partisanship, Treason, and the 1868 Elections

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 7.54.45 PMIn 1868, as presidential and congressional races heated up, partisans on both sides invoked the Civil War to further their (or others’) political campaigns. In the Republican camp, that wasn’t all that hard to do. Jefferson Davis was a Democrat, most prominent Rebels were Democrats, and yes…the man who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat too.

Of course there were loyal Democrats as well – so Republicans did their best to discredit them by making the obvious association.

I recently came across this letter written by James A. Garfield in October, 1868. Garfield had served as a major general in the Union army, spent nine consecutive terms as a Republican congressional representative from Ohio, and eventually was elected (in 1880) the 20th President of the United States – where he served only 200 days before he fell to an assassins bullet.

In 1868, Garfield was trying to convince one of his former Union army comrades – prominent Democrat William S. Rosecrans –  that supporting a Democrat for the House of Representatives was a heinous mistake – perhaps as odious as supporting treason. Rosecrans had moved to California after the war and was heavily involved in land development in Los Angeles…where he also became a key Democratic Party spokesperson. The following letter is a great example of a former Union soldier “waving the bloody shirt,” as it were, to make as argument.

“I cannot look upon your present political affiliations with out keen sense of regret – for it seems that the leaders of the Democratic party are so blinded by the fury of partisan feelings that they are quite ready to be led by the old secession rebel element of the south. Our good friends Gen. Schenck is fighting a desperate battle with the Democracy of the District – who are running Valandingham for Congress – I cannot for a moment suppose that were you here – you would differ with me in my purpose to so all in my power to defeat the traitor whom you and I sent through our lines – and electing his stead the Union soldier who helped save the Republic.”

So those who had fought to save the Republic always had this card up their sleeve – and would play it out regularly.

One last thing – someone came after me the other day for not posting footnotes when I quote original research. I have mentioned on several occasions that I would provide my sources to anyone who asked – just send me a note. But for the record, my snarky friend…

James A. Garfield to William S. Rosecrans, Oct 7, 1868, Box 12, Folder 71, Rosecrans Papers, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

With compliments,


The Silent Sentinel at the Los Angeles National Cemetery

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 9.36.20 AMWell, I believe that I have found what may be the most unimposing Civil War monument ever. Near the Sepulveda Blvd entrance to the Los Angeles National Cemetery stands a solitary Union soldier, on top of a rock, at parade rest.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about this statue, except perhaps for the lack of a clear message. There are no inscriptions…and nothing denoting cause or comrades. Without close inspection, one could wonder whether or not this was even a Union soldier. The presence of a small “US” belt plate betrays the soldier’s allegiance. But that is all. Does he commemorate Union? Emancipation? Or does he simply stand guard over his fallen comrades, which in this case, happen to be WWII soldiers?

I suspect that his silence speaks to each of us individually – make of him what you will…his very presence will get you thinking.

With compliments,


Starr King Post #52, GAR – Santa Barbara’s Civil War Veterans

The Starr King Post pictured in 1922

I came across a rather interesting webpage concerning the founding and commemorative activities of Santa Barbara’s GAR post: the Starr King Post #52. Most of the information is typical – dates, names, places…what you might expect. And I particularly enjoyed descriptions of GAR Comrades parading down State Street to the beach. I am a little suspect on the analysis, however, and troubled by the sloppy research. King died in ’64 not ’66. But hey, why pick at the details? The author emphasizes the forgetfulness of the Union veterans suggesting that the former soldiers had long forgotten all war-time issues. Well, I do know that that the Post invited Confederate veterans in the area to participate in some Memorial Day commemorative activities – but it’s a bit of a leap to assume that the old soldiers had left the war behind. Reconciliation and forgetfulness are not the same thing – not at all.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s worth it to have a look for myself, and a trip to Santa Barbara would be fine and dandy. I’ll be looking closely at any Memorial Day speeches, news articles, and post minutes that I can find. If our friends in Santa Barbara are anything at all like their comrades throughout the rest of the country, I doubt that they forgot much of anything.

With compliments,