More on Arlington’s Confederate Section

Your article on the Confederate Section of Arlington National Cemetery (“Ask Civil War Times,” September 2007) notes that 482 graves from Arlington and other local cemeteries were moved to this section in 1901. It should be pointed out that other former Confederates who died after 1901 are also buried there. That includes my great-great grandfather, Robert Dawson, who died on February 15, 1931

The front of his gravestone is marked by the initials “VA CSA.” My great-great-grandmother, Roberta, who died in February 1935, is buried with him. Her name is on the back of the gravestone.

My own grandfather told me years ago that his Grandpap Dawson was buried in the Confederate section at Arlington. At the time I didn’t believe such a section existed. About 10 years ago, however, I visited the cemetery with my children and, while there, inquired about the location of his grave at the graves information desk. They gave me the appropriate grave and section numbers, and I soon found myself standing in Jackson Circle looking at the marker with his name.

Later I obtained his military records from the National Archives. He had enlisted in the 4th Virginia Infantry Regiment in 1861, but he apparently was ineligible to serve at the front for medical reasons (I was unable to decipher why from the papers because of the poor handwriting). He spent the war as an orderly in hospitals in Winchester and Lynchburg, Va. He was granted leave in December 1864 and married Roberta Minton on the 21st in Lynchburg. They had 14 children, five of whom did not live to adulthood. Estelle Dawson was No. 13, and the mother of William Hodgson, my grandfather.

I also want to note that the Confederate gravestones at Arlington are pointed at the top instead of round like the others in the cemetery. As one legend goes, that’s so “the Yankees can’t sit on their tombstones.”

Nancy Householder Westminster, Md. Bloody Kansas Revisited

The article “Did the War Begin in 1856? Some Kansans Say ‘Yes’” (September 2007) was captivating, but its conclusions were unrealistic. I agree that “Bloody Kansas” was an important factor in the seemingly inevitable road toward war, but it was neither the first battle—in Kansas or in the United States—between pro- and anti-slavery men, nor was it the fiercest.

The Battle of Black Jack was only one in a long line of conflicts over slavery going back many years, some before the United States even had a name. Historians can cite dozens, perhaps hundreds, of similar battles during the early 19th century, with equal significance and loss of life.

For a war to commence, particularly a civil war (or rebellion, depending on your viewpoint), there needs to be an organized entity fighting on each side. The Civil War could not have started before the Confederacy even existed— indeed, the war didn’t start until well after that country (or Rebel organization) was formed. When Black Jack occurred in June 1856, it was more than nine months before Jefferson Davis would take his oath as a U.S. senator from Mississippi, swearing to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States and to defend the Union with his life—an oath he would break.

The Battle of Black Jack was a pivotal event in U.S. history, but to suggest it was the start of the Civil War is stretching its significance far past the breaking point.

Richard Buchko Rock Springs, Wyo. Correction

In “Unraveling the Myths of Burnside Bridge” in the September 2007 issue, Union Maj. Gen. Jacob Dolson Cox was incorrectly identified as Jacob Dobson Cox.


Originally published in the December 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.