Monument to Confederate General Stephen Dodson Ramseur Rededicated
On Monday, October 20, 2014, 150 years after his death from wounds in the Battle of Cedar Creek, a monument to Confederate General Stephen Dodson Ramseur of North Carolina was rededicated. The monument is located in Middletown, Virginia near the intersection of Route 11 South and Belle Grove Road within the boundaries of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. The National Park Service recently preserved the monument which was erected in 1920 by the North Carolina United Daughters of the Confederacy with assistance from the North Carolina Historical Commission and the United Confederate Veterans. Representatives from General Ramseur’s hometown of Lincolnton, North Carolina and 45 Ramseur descendants were among the 120 people in attendance at the ceremony.
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is a partnership of the National Park Service and local partners Belle Grove Plantation, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Shenandoah County. The National Historical Park partners conducted a wide range of commemoration activities for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek including battle reenactments, park tours, lectures, and living history programs.
The sesquicentennial of the Battle of Cedar Creek also provided the impetus to conduct preservation work on the Ramseur monument. The monument consists of a rough-hewn grant base with a brass plaque and a polished granite column on which four cannon balls are stacked. The original cannonballs were furnished by the Secretary of the Navy but were stolen in the 1960s and replaced with much smaller replicas. In addition to restoring the cannonballs to the appearance of the original monument, the stone and bronze plaque were cleaned as part of the preservation work.
When the North Carolina United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned the monument, they resolved to mark the place where the General died as they believed it was “unknown generally to the people of (the) communit(y).” It is located on the edge of Belle Grove’s property because the wounded General Ramseur was brought into the Union occupied Belle Grove Manor House for care. He would die at age 27 in the early morning hours of October 20, 1864. In Belle Grove he was visited by his classmates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point including the Union Captain and future U.S. Senator from Delaware, Henry A. du Pont. Senator du Pont spoke at the 1920 dedication of the monument and recounted that upon visiting General Ramseur’s deathbed, “ I was deeply moved. Strange as it may seem – illogical, if you please – in that supreme moment he turned with content and satisfaction to the one person who though officially a foe, was still, as he instinctively felt, the steadfast personal friend of former days.” Excerpts from du Pont’s dedication speech were read at rededication ceremony Monday.
The ceremony also included presentations on the life and military career or General Ramseur, the efforts of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect the monument, and the recent conservation work on the monument. A highlight were personal words from Ramseur descendant, John D. Ramseur II of Charlotte, North Carolina who encouraged the audience to remember the values of community, loyalty to friends and family, and Christian faith that his ancestor embodied. During the ceremony, representatives from the reenacting groups the 26th North Carolina Regiment and the 28th North Carolina Infantry stood sentry at the podium and at the monument. They had placed a flag at General Ramseur’s grave in the cemetery of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Lincolnton, North Carolina before travelling to Middletown where they placed another flag near the base of the monument. In addition to citizens of North Carolina, approximately Ramseur descendants attended the rededication and took their photograph by the monument.