Midtown Raleigh News

Oakwood Cemetery holds ties to Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg

Oakwood Cemetery will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with a special ceremony and tour Sunday.
Oakwood Cemetery will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with a special ceremony and tour Sunday. Sarah Barr - sbarr@newsobserver.com

Bruce Miller winds his way through the gravestones at Oakwood Cemetery, stopping here and there to point out the names of those whose lives tie North Carolina to the Battle of Gettysburg.

There’s Iowa Royster, a UNC salutatorian turned Confederate soldier who fought at Gettysburg and died two weeks later in a makeshift hospital.

A short distance away, there’s Sophia Arms Partridge, a Raleigh teacher who pushed for the creation of the Confederate Cemetery, the initial section of Oakwood, after the war.

In 1871, 137 soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded at Gettysburg were reinterred there.

And, among those 137 soldiers is John Dolson, a Union soldier from Minnesota, who was misidentified at his burial in Gettysburg and whose true identity remained unknown for more than a century.

Together, and along with many others, their stories show the connection between the state and the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, said Miller, the cemetery’s historian. The battle raged over three days, from July 1-3, 1863, and claimed 51,000 Union and Confederate lives.

On Sunday, Oakwood will mark the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, a major turning point in the war, with a special presentation and tour.

“There’s so much Gettysburg here,” Miller said. “How could we not do something?”

Beyond the 137 soldiers who were reinterred, Miller thinks there could be a dozen or more Gettysburg veterans in the cemetery as a whole. Overall, there are at least 1,400 soldiers buried at Oakwood who fought in the Civil War, most of them Confederates, but there are six Union soldiers as well.

The special Gettysburg program begins at 1 p.m. and includes a presentation on mortality during the war, a walking tour of the cemetery and a tour of the Confederate Cemetery.

Robin Simonton, the executive director of the cemetery, said the intention is not to glorify the Confederate soldiers’ cause but simply to remember their lives.

“For us, it’s about the stories,” she said.

For more information about the tour, call 919-832-6077 or email info@historicoakwood.com.