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May 28, 2002 Memorial Day In Fredericksburg
Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association


Day mixes fun-in-sun, solemnity

May 28, 2002 12:57 am


ABOVE: Silently, in memory of fallen soldiers,
a procession walks from
the Masonic Cemetery to the Hugh Mercer Monument
in downtown Fredericksburg.

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About 100 people attended Memorial Day ceremonies
in the National Cemetery yesterday, concluding the event
with a prayer. Veterans Fred Whetzel (with hat) and Harry Beazley (right) are members of American Legion Post 55.

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In period dress, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee Camp 1805,
from Spotsylvania Courthouse, gather round for yesterday's ceremony in the Confederate Cemetery.

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LEFT: City Councilman Scott Howson (left) and
Jim Breeden
of American Legion Post 55 lay a wreath
on the National Cemetery's Humphreys Monument
yesterday morning.

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People enjoy patriotic tributes, outdoor play

FREDERICKSBURG marked Memorial Day with activities solemn and celebratory.

The day began with a number of ceremonies in area cemeteries recognizing the sacrifices made by men and women who died serving in the armed forces.

Fredericksburg Councilman Scott Howson addressed the more than 200 people who gathered at the city's National Cemetery, burial place of Union soldiers killed in the area's four Civil War battles.

"It is impossible for us to envision the horrors that transformed this place almost a century and a half ago," Howson said. "Only the rows of small stone markers stand to remind us of the terrible sacrifices on this one battlefield, in this one long ago war.

"Each stone marks the body of some father's son, some mother's child, some sweetheart's lost love a life taken, a promise unfulfilled, a living, breathing, ordinary young man denied his rightful time here on Earth," he said.

A fitting memorial to those who have died defending freedom is to make sure Americans continue to fight for liberty for all, Howson concluded.

Across town at the Confederate Cemetery, John Cummings, director of the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association, urged the crowd of about 350 people to remember their Southern ancestors.

"Here now, we gather to embrace the lost cause," Cummings told those gathered amid rows of tombstones adorned with Confederate flags.

Southerners shouldn't seek division, however, he said. They should simply work to ensure "history is justly told."

After Cummings' speech, boys and girls dressed in white with red sashes strewed flower petals at base of the Confederate monument, and re-enactors fired a ceremonial volley.

It was the 136th Memorial Day observance at the cemetery, which is cared for by the Ladies' Memorial Association of Fredericksburg. More than 3,500 men from 14 states are buried there.

A half-dozen blocks away, a small group also gathered yesterday morning in Shiloh Cemetery at the corner of Littlepage Street and Monument Avenue to honor the veterans buried there.

The cemetery dates to the late 1800s, when Fredericksburg's prominent black Baptist churches--Shiloh (Old Site), Shiloh (New Site) and Mount Zion--were one.

Members of American Legion Post 142 in Fredericksburg performed a flag-raising and led participants in the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony. Members of several churches offered prayers.

The Rev. Douglas Buckner of Spotosylvania County's First Baptist Church of Love delivered a sermon.

Later, at Fredericksburg's Masonic Cemetery, people in shorts and T-shirts mingled with Civil War soldiers and 19th-century ladies.

Helen Marler, who owns the Living History Company of Fredericksburg, was there as her alter ego, Jane Beale.

Beale, a mother and wife born in 1815, embodied the common woman of that era, Marler said.

She led a silent procession to the Hugh Mercer monument on Washington Avenue yesterday after the Masonic Cemetery ceremony.

The solemn walk provided time to contemplate the meaning of Memorial Day, Marler said.

"I think of the children who are left without fathers, the citizens and, most recently, the civilians who died for our country," she said.

Mercer, one of several Revolutionary War generals from the Fredericksburg area, died in 1777 during the Battle of Princeton.

He was one of the early members of Fredericksburg's Masonic Lodge No. 4, which helps maintain the Masonic Cemetery.

The lodge, which also boasts George Washington as a member, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, said master Bob Brammer, who attended yesterday's eighth annual observance at the Masonic Cemetery.

John Pearce, director of the James Monroe Museum, which provides day-to-day oversight of the cemetery, described some of the remarkable people buried there.

They include Benjamin Day, former Fredericksburg mayor; Robert Brooke Alexander, publisher of the Fredericksburg newspaper, The Democratic Reader; and Christiana Campbell, keeper of a popular tavern in Williamsburg where revolutionaries met.

"There are all sorts of bits and pieces of local and national history in the people we see and remember in this place," Pearce said of the stone-walled cemetery, which was established 218 years ago.

On the lighter side of Memorial Day, people flocked to Old Mill and Falmouth Waterfront parks along the Rappahannock River.

The $20 fee for visitors who don't live in Fredericksburg or Stafford County didn't deter many people, park gatekeepers said. A few said the new fee--$15 more than last year--was high.

The increased fee stems partly from budget shortfalls, but it also follows heavy use of the regional parks by nonresidents and four drownings last summer. The parks have become gathering places for Hispanics from the area and Northern Virginia. Three of last summer's drowning victims were Hispanic men who did not speak English.

Signs in English and now Spanish encourage visitors to wear life jackets, but few swimmers--the majority of whom were Hispanic--were wearing them yesterday. Many of the swimmers were small children.

Area parks were also the scene of other outdoor fun. Families grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Children ran around. Dog owners paraded their pets at a dog mart.

Summer had arrived.

Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.

Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association

PO Box 1964

Spotsylvania, VA  22553

(540) 582-7469