At the entrance to Blandford Cemetery at Petersburg, Virginia, is an imposing stone arch through which visitor must pass on their way into the grounds. Carved into the very top of the arch are the words, “Our Confederate Heroes,” a simple tribute to the estimated 20,000 Southern soldiers who lie buried on the grounds.
Overlooking the cemetery is Blandford Church, and inside the historic structure are 15 stained glass windows commissioned by the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Petersburg to honor the memory of the Confederate soldiers who are buried nearby. As one of these windows commemorates the Mississippi dead who lie in that sacred ground, I want to share a little history about how this memorial in glass was created.
Blandford Church was built in 1735 by the Episcopal Congregation of Blandford, Virginia,
a small town outside Petersburg. The church had a long and distinguished history, but after the Civil War the building was abandoned when the congregation built a new church in Petersburg.
On May 6, 1866, the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Petersburg was formed, and one of the projects that the group took on was the restoration of the church as a memorial to the memory of the Confederate soldiers who had died at Petersburg. In the early 1900s the association called on each Southern state to fund a memorial window in the church to honor their dead who were buried in the adjacent cemetery.
Each window placed in the church was to follow a common design: at the top the coat of arms of the state, in the center the figure of one of the apostles, and at the bottom an inscription. These windows would not be cheap – the Ladies’ Memorial Association planned to have them made by one of the Premiere glass makers in the United States: Louis Comfort Tiffany of New York. Each window cost $400 – which would be almost $10,000 in 2011 dollars.
Virginia and Missouri were the first states to fund their windows, followed quickly by Louisiana. These first three windows were unveiled on June 9, 1904, to a vast throng of citizens who turned out for the ceremonies.
It took a little longer for Mississippi to raise the money for her window, but by 1909 Mrs. Lou Clark of Vicksburg, probably a member of the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter, reported to the Petersburg Ladies’ Association that most of the money was in hand, and the order for the window was being placed with Tiffany’s in New York.
On June 3, 1910, the Mississippi window at Blandford Church, along with those of
Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Maryland, and Arkansas, were unveiled in a well attended ceremony. Since that time the windows have served as a striking reminder of the terrible cost of the Civil War.