Hispanic Confederate, Moses Ezekiel

The diversity of her people is the history of America.

September 15th is the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month that is celebrated through October. Make this time of remembrance a family affair and ask your children to share the following story with their teachers and class mates. You could also make copies for your church or synagogue and veterans and civic groups.

Some people preach "multi-cultural" thought but don’t want us to read, or our children to hear, stories like that of that of the following.

"The death of Moses Ezekiel, the distinguished and greatly loved American sculptor, who lived in Rome for more than forty years, caused universal regret here."—1921, the New York Times Dispatch from Rome.

Arlington National Cemetery is a reverent place of history. It is located in the shadow of the Custis-Lee Mansion (Arlington House) that was home to Gen. Robert E. Lee and his family until 1861, and the beginning of the War Between the States.

Tours, through this famous burial place of President Kennedy, Gen. Wainwright and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, are conducted daily. I have been told that another part of this cemetery (section 16) may sometimes be overlooked. It is, however, an important part of our nation’s history.

On June 4, 1914, the President of the U.S., Woodrow Wilson spoke at the dedication of a new Confederate memorial at section 16. The monument to those Confederate soldiers, who were re-interred there in 1900, has been called both striking and unique.

Dr. Edward Smith, a Professor of History at American University, has described this monument as probably the first to honor the Black Confederate soldiers. This monument includes a depiction of a Black Confederate marching in step with the white soldiers.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a Jewish- Confederate Veteran, Moses J. Ezekiel, to do the work on this monument. Some people say that he might have been the first Jewish-American to do this type of sculpture. It is written that the UDC was pleased with his work that depicts the multi-cultural makeup of the late Confederate States of America.

Moses J. Ezekiel was born on October 28, 1844, in Richmond, Va. He was one of fourteen children born to Jacob and Catherine de Castro Ezekiel. He was born in a house on "Old Market Street" that is said to have been in the poorer side of town. His grandparents came to America from Holland in 1808, and were of Jewish-Spanish Heritage.

Ezekiel talked his parents into letting him attend Virginia Military Institute and he did enroll on September 17, 1862. He is said to be the first Jewish- American to enter there at this the school of General Stonewall Jackson.

After two years at VMI, Ezekiel saw military service during the War Between the States. The Cadets, of Virginia Military Institute, were called to support Confederate Gen. John C. Breckenridge at the Battle of New Market, Virginia in 1864.

Ezekiel, after the war, went on to finish his education at VMI. It was during this time that he had the good fortune to meet Gen. Robert E. Lee who was president of Washington College. Lee gave him the following words of encouragement in his quest to be an artist;

"I hope you will be an artist, as it seems to me that you are cut out for one. But, whatever you do, try to prove to the world that, even if we did not succeed in our struggle, we are worthy of success and do earn a reputation to whatever profession you undertake."

Ezekiel would travel to Italy to study and work as an artist and become known worldwide. Among his many great works are: "Christ Bound for the Cross" and "David Singing his song of Glory."

A lesser known but important War Between the States-related work, is a bronze entitled "The Outlook" which depicts a Confederate soldier "done in 1910" looking over Lake Erie from the Confederate cemetery at the site of the former prisoner of war camp at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. This is where many of his fellow class mates of Virginia Military Institute had been imprisoned and some died.

Ezekiel died in Italy in 1917.

On March 31, 1921, Moses J. Ezekiel was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The burial ceremony was the first held at Arlington’s Amphitheater and was presided over by the United States Secretary of War John W. Weeks. His casket was covered by the United States flag and six VMI cadet captains, and two other cadets, stood by his casket. Ezekiel was buried near the base of the Southern monument he built.

A message was read from US President Warren G. Harding, who praised Ezekiel as "a great Virginian, a great artist, a great American and a great citizen of world fame." A tribute was also paid by Rabbi D. Phillipson of Cincinnati who later wrote a monograph of Ezekiel.

These simple words are inscribed on his grave marker;

"Moses J. Ezekiel
Sergeant of Company C
Battalion of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute."

People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.–Edmund Burke, British Philosopher, 1729-1797.

By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Author of the book, When America stood for God, Family and Country.
1064 West Mill Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia 30152
Phone: 770 428 0978