Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia is estimated to contain the remains of as many as 17,000 Confederate soldiers making it the second largest Confederate cemetery in America. During the early months of the war, it was determined that a cemetery needed to be established for the burial of the large numbers of military casualties inflicted by the battles around the Confederate capital. On August 12, 1861 the City of Richmond purchased land which would be made available for this solemn purpose. The military cemetery contains approximately 7.5 acres and is commonly referred to as the “Oakwood Confederate Cemetery.”
The Confederates buried in Oakwood were largely the casualties of the major battles fought to defend Richmond from northern invasion beginning in the summer of 1862. These battles included the Seven Days Campaign, Gaines Mill, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Mechanicsville, Savage’s Station, Beaver Dam Creek, and many others. Many were patients that failed to recover in the military hospitals in the Richmond area such as Chimbarazo, Howard’s Grove, and Winder. Although the cemetery lies in Virginia, Virginians do not comprise a majority of the dead. In fact, it is believed that the dead represent every state of the Confederacy.
Many Union soldiers where also originally buried near the Confederates in Oakwood. In 1866 the federal government relocated the bodies of most Union soldiers from Oakwood and buried them in the beautifully maintained Richmond National Cemetery which stands in sharp contrast to the condition of the Confederate section of Oakwood. The graves in Oakwood are marked with a small stone for every three graves with a numerical inscription for each grave plot. Some graves have been marked with individual markers, but by the vast majority of plots have no marker designating the name, unit, or home state of the soldiers. The Sons of Confederate Veterans has been seeking for several years to refine and implement a plan to make Oakwood’s Confederate Section a proper military cemetery which will provide a dignified and comparable resting place for those buried there. These improvements will have the added benefit of attracting numerous tourists to visit the area along with thousands of descendents of those who are interned there.