From the Richmond Enquirer, 7/12/1862
THE BURIAL OF DEAD SOLDIERS. - MEETING OF THE CITY COUNCIL. - A special meeting of the City Council was held yesterday forenoon, at ten o'clock, for the purpose of making some provision for the burial of soldiers dying in the city, by way of obviating measures adopted by the war authorities, for the same purpose, but incompatible with the welfare of the city. Acting upon the supposition that there was no adequate allotment of ground for the burial of soldiers, in the several cemeteries of the city, the Secretary of War authorized the Hollywood Cemetery Company to extend their premises, for the purpose of meeting the difficulty, provided such extension would not interfere with the City Reservoirs, which are situated a short distance west of the Cemetery. The Committee on the Water Works, having, some time ago, perceived the necessity of adding a new reservoir to those now erecter for the supply of the city, had purchased the Clarke Spring property, adjoining, and comprising about twelve acres.
The President of the cemetery, in pursuance of the order of the Secretary of War, a few days ago caused the burial of the dead soldiers to be carried on upon this property, after concluding in his own mind that the part taken possession of would not interfere with the city reservoirs. Another view of the subject was taken by the committee, and hence the meeting of the Council on yesterday.
Mr. Grattan presented a statement in relation to the City Water Works, the necessity for new supplies of water, and the adaptability of neighboring property to the purpose desired by the war authorities, proposing, in the end, that the city offer to purchase any such property as a donation to the dead of the army in our midst, rather than that the reservoir property should be appropriated.
Mr. Denoon, Chairman of the Committee on Water Works, explained the state of affairs so far as he was connected with the several conferences which have occurred on the subject at issue, after which he described the peculiar position of the reservoir grounds, and the construction of reservoirs, demonstrating that it would militate against the purity of both the atmosphere and the water, to bury the dead within their precincts. He inveighed with considerable emphasis against the measure, favored Mr. Grattan's proposition, and closed by saying that he had nothing to retract; it should never be said of him that he was the degraded son of an honored father, and what he had said, he would seal,, if necessary, with his blood. As Col. Ellis, President of the Cemetery, was present, he moved that he be heard by the Council in relation to the affair.
Mr. Talbot, from the Committee on the Oakwood Cemetery, wished to state to the Coucil that there had been an erroneous impression prevailing regarding Oakwood, which was, that a stop had been put to the burial of dead soldiers in that Cemetery. - This was not the case; the only difficulty which had occurred at all was when, some time ago, the force employed to dig graves was too small, and sometimes twenty, forty, and upwards, of bodies had remained disinterred over night. A plan had been since adopted, of digging trenches, which was performed more easily, and the burials were now conducted as expeditiously as might be desired. Already some five thousand soldiers, who have died from disease or wounds, had been interred there, and there was room for thousands more.
Col. Thomas H Ellis, by permission of the Council, made a personal explanation, to show that his action in regard to the appropriation of the city property, was wholly influenced by the necessity of the case, and without any intention to infringe upon the essential parts of the reservoir plat. His explanation was deemed perfectly satisfactory by the Council.
Mr. Wynne was opposed to that part of Mr. Grattan's proposition which offered to purchase other property in place of that which the Confederate Government had taken from the city. It had been stated that Oakwood Cemetery was at the command of the Government, the city had already done nobly in caring for the dead, wounded, and sick, in equipping and furnishing men, and it seemed to him absurd to expect that the city, in addition to what it had already done, should be expected to buy land to give to the Government.
Mr. Glazebrook was surprised to hear remarks of such a nature, in the Council, too, of the city, in who defence these gallant men had fallen. They had come from their Southern homes to fight our battles, and should it be said of us that we denied them the simple boon of graves?
Mr. Wynne had heard a great deal said about this coming to Virginia to fight Virginia's battles. These noble, brave, gallant and patriotic me came here to fight for the South, and not for Virginia alone. She was the outpost, the bulwark against which our invaders were directing their force, and her soil was the theatre which had been chosen for the issue. But he did not wish to deny graves to our soldiers. His objection to Mr. Grattan's idea was that it proposed to purchase land for the purpose, when there was land enough for the purpose in Oakwood, or might be obtained by the Government, also, in other and better fitted localities than the premises of the city reservoirs.
Some further desultory debate followed, after which it was resolved that the Secretary of War be apprised of the state of facts in relation to Oakwood Cemetery, and requested to discontinue interments on the reservoir property.
The Council then adjourned.