Valor of Southern Soldiers Not Forgotten

By Anderson, Alister C. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

Valor of Southern Soldiers Not Forgotten


Anderson, Alister C., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Alister C. Anderson

The Confederate monument "The Righteous Cause" in Arlington National Cemetery, a large and imposing sculpture, was created by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, America's first great Jewish sculptor. He executed more than 50 statues here and in Europe and was knighted by the Italian and German governments for his work.

Ezekiel was born in Richmond in 1844, one of 14 children of emigrants from the Netherlands. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and joined fellow cadets at the Battle of New Market.

He was intensely proud of his fighting in the War Between the States, which he believed was in defense of constitutional rights. The Italian revolutionary leader Garibaldi once accused him of fighting for slavery. He replied, "None of us had ever fought for slavery, and in fact were opposed to it. The South's struggle was simply a constitutional one based on the doctrine of `States Rights' and especially on free trade and tariffs."

His extraordinary skill, intellectual brilliance and a profound understanding of Southern history enabled him to create a unique work of art in "The Righteous Cause."

The monument illustrates in beautifully worked bronze what Southern theologians, historians, statesmen and citizens believed about the South. It embodies the spirit out of which evolved the Confederate States of America.

He considered this monument to be his greatest achievement, and when he died in 1917, his will instructed that he be buried next to it. His grave is marked: "Moses J. Ezekiel, Sergeant of Company C, Battalion of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute."

The monument was commissioned and financed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and has been maintained by that group since its presentation to President Woodrow Wilson, who accepted it as "a gift to the nation" on June 4, 1914. Surrounding it are the graves of more than 450 Confederate soldiers, wives and civilians.

The ideas that Ezekiel conveyed in his monument can be studied by viewing the work in three distinct sections from top to base: At the top, he depicts the religious beliefs of the Southern people; in the midsection, the culture of the South; and in the third section, the political principles that led 11 states into secession.

At the summit, the graceful figure of a woman representing the South stands serenely, looking consolingly on the graves below. Her head is crowned with a branch of olive leaves, a symbol of peace. Her left hand holds a laurel wreath that represents the South's moral victory in the war in spite of her conquest.

The wreath symbolizes also the love and honor she bestows upon her fallen sons and daughters. Her right hand holds both the plow and the pruning hook, which replace the sword and spear of her desperate struggle.

Below the words of Isaiah is sculpted a frieze of 14 shields bearing the coats of arms of the 13 states of the Confederacy - including Kentucky and Missouri, which the South considered to have succeeded - and Maryland, which would have voted to secede had President Lincoln not circumvented that by arresting her legislature. The shields of the 13 remind us that 13 Colonies seceded from a tyrannical British government.

This female figure stands upon a pedestal, the circumference of which is embossed in bas-relief with four cinerary urns, which commemorate the Southern dead. Below the urns are the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah describing the noble intentions of the Southern people after the war: "They shall beat their swords into plow-shares and their spears into pruning hooks." This section implies what Ezekiel personally experienced, that the war brought forth among the Confederate armies a great revival of religious faith. …

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