The Civil War Memorial Grove, a living and growing monument, pays tribute to the thousands of men who lost their lives in the American Civil War.
The Grove has trees from the Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Savannah, Five Forks, Yellow Tavern, and Vicksburg battlefields. Some trees come from other Civil War-related sites, including the tombs of Presidents McKinley and Lincoln.
The idea for the memorial grove dates to 1896, 31 years after the Confederate Army’s surrender marked the end of the American Civil War. Mrs. Eliza Waggoner and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans’ wives and daughters, led the effort to create the memorial. Although California had sided with the Union Army, they felt the grove should represent all those who fought in the four-year war. Their concept was a living memorial featuring trees from important battlefields and other sites connected to the war.
The Civil War Memorial Grove was the first monument in Capitol Park. Nearly a year went into planning, fundraising, and assembling trees from around the country. On May 1, 1897, the grove was dedicated in a ceremony attended by several thousand onlookers. As children waved American flags, Judge Walling, Past Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, shared these words:
“This grove is intended to perpetuate the memory of those who gave up their lives that their country might live. They were different from other soldiers, and simply fought for the honor of the old flag and to show that the republic depended on the valor and patriotism of its citizens for its perpetuity.”
At the time of the ceremony, the trees were just saplings, each marked with a tag naming the battlefield from which it came. A sapling from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania stood beside one from Shiloh, Tennessee; a sapling from Lexington, Kentucky next to one from the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. In all 40 different battlefields were represented. At the center stood “a tree of Peace” transplanted from Appomattox, the Virginia town where the Confederate Army surrendered.
The Civil War was one of the most traumatic periods of American history, dividing families, brothers, friends, and neighbors. The Civil War Memorial Grove continues to honor and symbolically reunite the soldiers of both the Union and Confederate Armies.