Sunday, June 11, 2017

Remembering Richmond, Va.

Our Virginia vacation moved from the state's Northern Neck to the state capital.

It is always fun for me to stop by my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, when in Richmond.  I earned my degree in mass communications, with an emphasis on broadcast journalism.

That program is now part of VCU's Robertson School of Media and Culture.


It was Memorial Day, so not much was open on campus.  But that made it easier to park.

I wanted to stop by the school bookstore, but it was closed. While a student at VCU, I worked for a while in the university's bookstore, which today is in another location than it was back then.

My last year at VCU, and for a while before moving to North Carolina for my first TV job, I lived on the first floor of this old house.

It was great living by myself and also being so close to campus.

The house is now part of VCU, housing the office of "equity and access service" (whatever that is).

The office was closed but I was able to see inside. My room was in the back past the stairs.

The owners back then lived down the street.  They were an elderly couple who had a picture of Robert E. Lee on the wall inside their front door.

This Civil War statue stands in a circle across from my old apartment.

It commemorates the Richmond Howitzers artillery unit that fought for the Confederacy.

There was a laundromat behind it I used to use.
Going to college in Richmond bolstered my interest in the Civil War that I had since a youngster.

I minored in history at VCU. I especially remember taking and enjoying a few Civil War classes taught by Dr. Daniel Jordan.  He would go from VCU to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Va.

Dr. Jordan endowed a history scholarship at VCU. Good to see that!


Upon hearing the news from New Orleans about the recent removal of Confederate statues of President Jefferson David and Generals Robert E. Lee and Pierre Beauregard, I made a point to stop by Richmond's Monument Avenue to see and photograph the Confederate commanders long honored there.

By the way, love the clouds in this photograph!
There are similar moves afoot around the South. I've been told the Jefferson Davis Highway in Northern Virginia is going to be renamed. And this article says how Charlottesville, Va. is taking some similar actions.

But, as the article indicates, Richmond, the Confederacy's capital city, seems to be safe from such measures.

On Monument Avenue are beautiful and massive statues of Robert E. Lee (right), Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury (a Confederate navy commander and highly regarded "Father of Modern Oceanography" who has a crater on the moon named for him).
So it's a relief that Richmond's Confederate statues are safe.

One thing I've been wondering about New Orleans is what is being done with those removed statues of CSA leaders?

I would think that they should be displayed in a museum, if nothing else. They are, after all, pieces of art in many ways.
Richmond's Monument Avenue statues are big, bold and beautiful.

Wikipedia, and other sources, detail each monument.
Lee's was the first to be erected. It was unveiled in May 1890.  A French sculptor, Antonin Mercie, created the masterpiece from a painting.

According to Wikipedia, the horse is not Lee's famous Traveller.  Interesting, I wonder why not?
It would be 17 years before the second statue would be erected. This one is cavalry commander Jeb Stuart.

It's my favorite of the five.

So dashing and detailed is this "Last Cavalier."

The Battle of Yellow Tavern, outside Richmond, would be the end for the gallant Stuart.

Stuart would be buried nearby at Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery.

I have some photographs of his grave site later in this post.
Stuart's statue was sculpted by an American artist who immigrated from England.  More on Frederick Moynihan here.

On the day of this visit, being Memorial Day, the traffic was light on Monument Avenue. I was able to park near each statue and take a few photographs before moving on to the next one.

Monument Avenue is normally a very busy thoroughfare lined with expensive homes, museums, churches and a hospital.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is among the trio of iconic Confederate chieftains, along with Lee and Stuart.

His equestrian monument would be revealed on Monument Avenue in 1919.  It was sculpted by Frederick William Sievers, an American born in Indiana who would move to Richmond as a young man.

Sievers also created the Monument Avenue sculpture of Matthew Fontaine Maury that would debut in 1929.

Like Stuart, Jackson would not survive the war. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, a decisive Confederate victory to which Jackson's leadership was crucial, he would be accidentally shot, mortally wounded, by fellow Confederates.

These heroic monuments contributed to the Confederate "Lost Cause" mystic that would emerge in the post-Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

In the years right after the war, Southerners were not allowed by their Northern conquerors to honor in ways like this Confederate soldiers and sailors.

Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis also has a spot on Monument Avenue.  This beautiful tribute was unveiled in 1907, just a week after Jeb Stuart's would be.

The Davis piece was sculpted by Edward Valentine, a Richmond native.

The Monument Avenue artists were the best of the best in the early 20th century.  Each would be commissioned to create other prominent Civil War statues, honoring Northern generals and other leaders, as well as those from the South.
Hollywood Cemetery is a wonderful and historic downtown Richmond cemetery, located on 130 acres above the James River.

It opened in the late 1840s, just before Charleston's premier Victorian necropolis.
I have written two books about Magnolia Cemetery, so I am definitely a fan of this type of grave site.

There are links to my books on this blog site (tabs at the top) and on my Amazon author's page. 
Hollywood Cemetery is even more special to Alesia and me because her parents, Roger and Lois Crosby, are interred together in the mausoleum here.

They were great people and parents, and longtime residents of Chester, which is located south of Richmond.
 CSA President Jefferson Davis is among the dozens of Confederate leaders and generals buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

A blog post I did several years ago about this cemetery was recently picked up by a Virginia travel site called Romiyo.  I was contacted and gave permission for it to be used. Very flattered am I!
Hollywood and Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery are similar in many ways. Each was a pioneering "rural" Victorian cemetery that was part of a movement that came over from France and England in the mid-19th century.
The idea was to create large new grave sites in areas outside the busy urban areas where people lived and worked. There were concerns about water supplies being affected by overcrowded church and other downtown burial grounds.

The movement coincided with the influences of England's Queen Victoria.  There became an almost romanticized view of death and eternal life after that lead to the design of elaborate, symbol-filled grave sculptures and artistry, like those seen here at Hollywood Cemetery.
As to be expected in the capital of the Confederate states, Hollywood Cemetery is filled with thousands of war victims and veterans.
Numerous Confederate generals are buried here, including Robert E. Lee's cavalry commander Jeb Stuart.
Stuart was 31 years old when he was killed in defense of Richmond at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864.

Union cavalry leader George Custer was involved in this battle.  Very aggressive, Custer would prove a thorn in the side of Lee's army the remainder of the war.

If you read the article linked above, there's not much to see today in terms of the Yellow Tavern battle.  I've not tried to visit this site.  I would like to see the marker that is in someone's front yard, commemorating where Stuart was mortally wounded.  It's shown in that article.


Every time I've visited Stuart's grave at Hollywood Cemetery there are various tokens of admiration left by other visitors.  On this day they included a cigar and a small stone with Savannah, Georgia written on it.

The dashing Stuart continues to be a rock star to many Southerners.
The same could not be said of controversial Gen. George Pickett, he of "Pickett's Charge" Gettysburg fame.

I learned while driving "Lee's Retreat" to Appomattox in the days after this Hollywood Cemetery visit that Robert E. Lee actually sacked his longtime division commander after the Battle of Five Forks in April 1865.

The linked piece above, which recaps Pickett's star-crossed military career and personal life, includes this description I like of the post-war "Lost Cause" movement:  "The Lost Cause was a view of the war that downplayed slavery and lionized the Confederate military."

The piece, which is on Hollywood Cemetery's website, credits Pickett's third wife with repairing her husband's Civil War reputation, this through her book "Pickett and His Men" published in 1913.
A full day could be spent exploring Hollywood Cemetery's Confederate connections.

If I was ever to write another book about a cemetery in America, it would be about Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery.

It, like Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery, is just so interesting, historic and beautiful.

On next to "Lee's Retreat" from Petersburg to Appomattox!
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