Confederate POWs To Get Monument
By Doug Haberland
Bluffton - After a two year effort, the Indiana Division of the Son of Confederate Veterans has helped right a 63 year-old wrong at an Indianapolis cemetery.
Neal Pitts, a Bluffton physician and commander of the Indiana Division, said last week that efforts by the Indiana group and two Indianapolis police officers have succeeded in getting federal Department of Veterans Affairs approval for a new monument to be built at Crown Hill Cemetery honoring 1,616 Confederate soldiers - including 24 blacks - who died while imprisoned at Indianapolis' Camp Morton during the Civil War.
The Confederate dead were originally buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, where bronze tablets bearing the 1,616 names were affixed to a 30-foot monument, Pitts said.
In 1928 the monument was moved to Garfield park at the request of the Southern Club of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Detective Steve Staletovich said.
The club probably intended to move the bodies as well, but it never happened, he said.
Instead, when Greenlawn Cemetery closed in 1933 the bodies were moved to Crown Hill Cemetery in northwest Indianapolis, where a simple stone marker states the graves were those of unknown Confederate POWs, Staletovich said.
By federal law, all soldiers, North or South, are to have adequate recognition, Pitts said.
The new Crown Hill monument will be funded by the federal government and will include bronze tablets with names of the confederate soldiers listed by state. The dead represent 15 Southern states, Pitts said.
Staletovich said a dedication plaque will be placed on the old Crown Hill marker to cover the reference to the unknown graves. The new monument is expected to be completed by Veterans Day, he said.
"We're thrilled about it. We didn't think it would ever happen," Pitts said.
The monument should have never been separated from the graves, and "it was inappropriate these graves have been listed as unknown soldiers since the names of these soldiers were known," Pitts said.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans had input into the design of the new monument and, though they would have preferred the old monument be moved from Garfield Park, the solution is a good compromise, Pitts said.
Pitts gives much of the credit for the new monument to the research and efforts of Staletovich and Officer Wayne Sharp, though neither is a descendant of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, a requirement for membership in the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.
I'm just a patriot and thought that this was terribly wrong," Staletovich said of his involvement.
Once the situation was made public, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans - including Bluffton's Capt. Arthur M. Rutledge Camp and four other Indiana chapters - mounted a letter writing campaign to Indiana's U.S. senators and representatives and other government officials, Pitts said.
The group circulated petitions at Civil War re-enactments, street fairs and other community events and was backed by the Indiana American Legion and Civil war Roundtable groups in Indianapolis and Greencastle, he said.
Pitts' great-great-great-grandfather was captured in Kentucky by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's troops and imprisoned at Camp Morton before released in exchange for Union POWs, he said.