Linden Grove Cemetery memorial recognizes Confederate soldiers, doesn't glorify Confederacy

Site used to educate about Civil War

COVINGTON, Ky. -- A memorial at a Northern Kentucky cemetery recognizes both Union and Confederate soldiers and because of its educational value, cemetery officials see no reason why it should be lumped in with Confederate monuments that are under fire around the country. 

It's called the "War Between the States" memorial and is located in historic Linden Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Covington. Dedicated by veterans of other wars in 1933, its plaque recognizes both Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

The memorial is designed as a stage of sorts to host Memorial Day events, say local historians. It doesn't honor or mention any individual. It memorializes Civil War soldiers who lie at rest in the 1835 public cemetery.

And it's not going anywhere.

The War Between the States memorial is one of only two Kentucky memorials for both Union and Confederate soldiers. (Gary Davidson/Historic Linden Grove Cemetery)

"There's no change at the cemetery," said Rick Ludlum, chairman of the cemetery board. "We haven't had any push back from the community."

Civil unrest broke out on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia after protests over taking down Confederate monuments there. One woman was killed after a car was driven into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists who were objecting to the monuments' removal. Taking down Confederate monuments in other parts of the country has now become a hot-button issue nationally.

Monuments in a cemetery or on a battlefield respecting the individuals who fought are totally appropriate, said Dave Schroeder, executive director of the Kenton County Library and avid historian. "These are used to tell the story of what went on in that battle."

Schroeder said Linden Grove was a private cemetery by the time most Civil War headstones and monuments were erected. It reverted to a public space in 1997.

"These (monuments and headstones) are different from those in public squares and public buildings," Schroeder said.

Families have the right to memorialize their loved one as they see fit, he said.

Covington sits at an interesting juxtaposition of history with stories of those who fought for and against slavery and slaves who stopped there on their way to freedom.

Linden Grove opened before the Civil War began as a public cemetery and was one of the first integrated cemeteries in Kentucky, according to historic records. The founder of the African-American Elks also is honored with a monument.

Like other Kentucky cemeteries, soldiers from all wars lie there, but Union and Confederate soldiers have a special design -- the graves are in military-like rows with tombstones that face each other with a space between. Rebels on one side, Yankees on the other.

Most did not die in the war, said Ludlum, but after they returned home. As with any veteran, the families had the choice of honoring their loved one's military service, regardless of sides.

Original Union tombstones were made of wood and the federal government began to replace those markers with stone in 1873, according to the National Cemetery Administration. Confederate soldiers' graves began to be included when Congress passed a law in 1906.

The federal government does the same for soldiers of all wars, said Ludlum. "That's nothing new."

Signage at the War Between the States memorial at Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington. (Gary Davidson/Historic Linden Grove Cemetery)

Covington, like most of Northern Kentucky's river cities, was a Union holdout. The closest the Confederates got during the Civil War was Fort Mitchell, where they skirmished with soldiers and volunteers from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky before retreating.

There are several batteries across the three Northern Kentucky counties including one at Devou Park called Bates Battery and one in Fort Wright called Hooper Battery.

Members of the Sons of the Confederacy do a small service for the Confederate soldiers around Memorial Day. Ludlum said they don't turn away groups honoring those buried. 

Sons of the Confederacy is a closed group, and like the Daughters of the American Revolution, require a direct link to ancestors who were in that war. Their website says they do not support white supremacists.

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