Burial Of Negroes At Oakwood Cemetery

June 19, 1866


The Oakwood Cemetery permits blacks and whites to be buried in the same cemetery due to an overwhelmingly large increase in deaths. The depth of the buried bodies is so shallow it gives the cemetery a foul smell, so it is decided blacks must pay a fee to be buried there.


It is stated that for some time past all the negroes who have died in the United States Hospital at Howard's Grove have been interred at Oakwood Cemetery under direction of the Federal Medical Director. No objection at first was made to this practice, but the number of dead increased so rapidly, and they were buried in so irregular a manner, that the sexton of the cemetery, Mr. Redford, thought it necessary to make strong complaints upon the subject. The rules of the cemetery were broken through, the negroes were buried among the whites, and the graves are said to have been not more than two feet in depth, so that the stench became not only unpleasant, but dangerous to all persons who visited the cemetery. No fees were paid of course, and in answer to the remonstrances of the sexton, the Federal surgeon stated that he had no funds wherewith to pay the fees for the burial of the negroes, but would send on to the north for the necessary money, and then pay all charges. With this understanding the burying was continued, the sexton assisting in the work, but no money was paid; and he was instructed not to allow any more negroes from the hospital to be interred unless the customary fees were paid and the general regulations complied with. On Saturday last several dead negroes were carried to the cemetery to be buried by a party of men from the hospital, and Mr. Hertford told the party that the bodies could not be interred there. The working part left the dead bodies upon the ground, returned to the hospital, and soon came back with a Federal surgeon and a file of United States soldiers. This surgeon told the men to bury the negroes, and ordered the soldiers to protect them if they were in any way molested.
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Brooke Beam




“Burial Of Negroes At Oakwood Cemetery,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/225.