The Richmond History Podcast

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Only Jewish Civil War Cemetery

Richmond, Va is know for a lot of things, but one thing that it is not very well known for is having the only Confederate burial ground in the world.   It is commonly called the only Jewish military burial grounds in the world outside of Israel, but, according to Jewish there in  another Jewish military cemetery in Wei├čensee, Germany, for Jewish soldiers of the Kaiser's Army who fell in World War I.1 One out of two is still pretty good.

The History Pug visiting the Jewish Confederate
Burial Section, Richmond, VA
The burial site is in Hebrew Cemetery on Hospital St, across for Shockoe Hill Cemetery and is taken care of today by Congregation Beth Ahabah.  
Despite the fact that the Jewish Judah Benjamin or "The Brains of The Confederacy" as he is sometimes called, served in the Confederate Government as Attorney-General, Secretary of War, and then Secretary of State, (the only Confederate Cabinet Member that didn't own slaves), antisemitism was rampant. 2  At Spotsylvania Court House and Fredricksburg cemeteries, Jews were refused burial with their comrades.3 These Jewish soldiers from Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana were killed at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Wilderness.3  They were taken to the Jewish cemetery and buried in 5 rows, 6 bodies per row. 3  The Hebrew Ladies Memorial Association, was formed in 1866 to take care of the graves.3  The HLMA raised money for individual markers for the soldiers, sponsored Decoration Day (which became Memorial Day) services, and commissioned and iron fence to surround the hallowed grave area.! 

Richmond artist Major William Barksdale Myers was commissioned to design the iron fence prior to 1873.  The railings between the posts are crossed swords and sabers hung with wreaths of laurel while the posts are rifles covered by Confederate flags and a Confederate cap on top. 1
In the 1930's, care was turned over to the Hebrew Cemetery Company.3  They removed the deteriorating and worn grave stones and replaced them with the large granite stone with a bronze plaque attached with the names of all the soldiers buried in the section.3
One of the soldiers Henry Gintzberger, killed in the Battle of Cold Harbor, he was misidentified and buried under the name of Gersberg.   After more the 20 years of research trying to find the Gintzberger grave, Richmond historian J. Amlber Johnson, whose father served with Gintzberger, correctly identified this long-dead soldier.  In 1963, almost 100 years after his death, his name was corrected on the bronze plaque during a centennial celebration.  Gintzberger had enlisted at the beginning of the war in the Salem Flying Artillery, fought under Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville and was wounded at Gettysburg before meeting his fate at Cold Harbor.4
These 30 men are not the only Jewish Confederates to loose their life in battle during the Civil War by far.  Most are buried in family plots or are unidentified.3


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