Six weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and 155 years after the end of the Civil War, signs of the Confederacy are being removed — from NASCAR tracks and the Mississippi state flag. Statues have been toppled. History is being re-examined.
In Snohomish County, we’re about as far from the Old South or the Deep South as one can be in the continental United States. And yet, Confederate symbols can be found here.
At the GAR Cemetery in Snohomish, at least two grave sites have headstones marked with “CSA,” showing that a veteran served with the breakaway Confederate States of America. Those grave markers also have a symbol known as the Southern Cross of Honor.
Joseph “Biff” Reading, longtime manager of the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, said the stones haven’t been there all the years since the men were buried. He recalled that they were installed in the late 1990s or early 2000s, after a researcher delved into the history of Civil War veterans at the cemetery and at Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery.
Karyn Zielasko Weingarden, the genealogical researcher, has since moved out of state. Reading said she found documentation showing the men were with the Confederacy. “The U.S. government sent the monuments,” said Reading, who doesn’t believe the men’s families were involved.
Those headstones are on the graves of William W. Batterton, who served with Capt. H.G. McKinney’s Company in the Missouri Infantry State Guard, and William J. Andrews, who was with the 5th Regiment of the Missouri Cavalry. Batterton died in 1927, Andrews in 1913.
To this day, the National Cemetery Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has on its website information about how to obtain headstones for Civil War veterans, “for those who served with the Union Forces … and another for those who served with the Confederate Forces.”
Ten U.S. Army bases — including Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood — are named after Confederate commanders, too.
Signs of the Confederacy don’t sit well with Hans Dunshee, a Snohomish Democrat who served 22 years in the state House representing the 44th Legislative District. He was also on the Snohomish County Council in 2016.
“We’ve got bases named after traitors,” said Dunshee. He sees Confederate headstones placed in recent years as “part of a larger effort to justify and sanitize the Confederacy.”
His work in the Legislature includes honoring another Civil War veteran buried at the GAR Cemetery. William P. Stewart was an African American who by 1889 had settled in Snohomish. In 1865, Stewart served with the 29th U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry after enlisting in Chicago.
It took Dunshee years of effort to rename Highway 99 the William P. Stewart Memorial Highway in 2016, and to have a monument to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, removed from Peace Arch Park near the Canadian border. It was placed there by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1940, he said. Another Jefferson Davis monument was removed from Vancouver, Washington.
“It was the Jim Crow era when these monuments went up,” said Dunshee, 66, who was helped by Stewart’s great-granddaughters, Georgina “Genie” Paul, Marilyn Quincy and Mary Barrett.
“In the Pacific Northwest, there were lots of ex-Confederates,” he said, adding that logging lured many from the South. “When I got into this, it was an amazing trip down a twisted history.”
For some, Civil War history comes alive through re-enactments.
Everett’s Geoge Sier, 65, is part of the Washington Civil War Association. For a decade, he’s been in re-enactments at Evergreen Cemetery and around the region. He is originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Sier acts as a commander with a Confederate unit, the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, at the events.
“The history was what it was, we cannot change it,” said Sier. He said he does re-enacting both because of his ancestry and because it’s enjoyable. For now, re-enactments aren’t happening because of the coronavirus.
As for today’s protests over police brutality and the ugly legacy of slavery, Sier said “it’s something that happened 155 years ago.”
Sier was against last week’s removal of the Mississippi state flag, the last in the country to include the Confederate battle emblem. On Tuesday, Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed a bill retiring the flag. “This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on,” Reeves said.
“We don’t want to throw stones at one another,” Sier said. “I would love to say, ‘Hey, let’s all sit down and talk about it.’”
Morgan Davis, of Snohomish, is outspoken about his disapproval of Confederate monuments or symbols at the Snohomish cemetery, where about 200 Civil War veterans are buried. His grandfather, Thomas A. Davis, “fought in the Union Army in 18 notable battles, including Antietam,” Davis said in an email. “He fought against the racism and slavery in the Confederacy.”
Davis pointed out that the GAR Cemetery is owned by the Earl Winehart Post 96 of the American Legion in Snohomish.
One Fourth of July a few years back, Dunshee attended a Civil War re-enactment at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of the 1863 battle marked as a Civil War turning point.
“There were probably guys there who just wanted to shoot guns,” Dunshee said. But he noticed “a lot more people wanted the Confederate side.” In tents selling merchandise, Dunshee said he saw “a whole bunch of pretty belligerent Confederate stuff.”
Dunshee views it all as “glorification of the Confederacy,” and believes the time for that is long past.
“I think our country needs to go through what Germany did after World War II — a deep self-examination and soul searching. If we had really gone through that self-examination, I don’t think we’d be where we are now,” he said.
“Sit down and have that conversation,” Dunshee said. “It has to happen. Its time has come.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.