Who was Sir Moses J. Ezekiel?
By: Calvin E. Johnson,
1064 West Mill Drive
Kennesaw, Georgia 30152
Phone: 770 428 0978
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
We have heard the many speeches, at a
soldier's memorial, by those who conclude, by saying, "We shall
never forget our Veterans!" But have we, not, forgotten our
ancestors? Memorial observances, which once were attended by the
thousands, are now attended by fewer folks.
September through October is Hispanic History
Do your children know who Sir Moses J. Ezekiel
was? This was a man whom was proud of his Jewish-Spanish Heritage
and whose birthday is remembered in October. He was proud to be an
American and a Virginian.
Do schools still teach our American history of,
As a student, I remember my school taking all
kids on an educational field trip. Each mother and father should
take their children on a trip through history at Arlington
National Cemetery. There is a story for every great American
buried here and if you listen closely you may hear their story
that is part of our nation's history.
Arlington National Cemetery is located in the
shadow of the Custis- Lee Mansion (Arlington House) that was home
to General Robert E. Lee and his family until 1861, and the
beginning of the War Between the States. This cemetery was first
used in 1864, for the burial of Union soldiers.
Tours, through this famous burial place of
President Kennedy, General 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 and should be a
part of your guided tour through Arlington.
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 by
some people as both striking and unique. This monument was trusted
into safe keeping to the U.S. War Department by the United
Daughters of the Confederacy in 1914. It was a tradition of
American presidents to place a wreathe and some even spoke there
on Memorial Day. What has happened to this wonderful tradition?
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, Sir 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 which depicts
the multi-cultural makeup of the late Confederate States of
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
Ezekiel talked his parents into letting him
attend Virginia Military Institute and he did enroll on September
17, 1862. Some people say, he was the first Jewish-American to
enter there at this the school of General Stonewall Jackson.
After three years at VMI, Ezekiel saw military
service during the War Between the States. The Cadets, of Virginia
Military Institute, were called to support Confederate General
John C. Breckenridge at the Battle of New Market, Virginia.
Ezekiel joined his fellow cadets in the charge upon the Union
Ezekiel, after the war, went on to finish his
education at VMI. It was during this time that he had the fortune
to meet General 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 would become known worldwide. He was honored by
King Emmanuel who knighted him and gave him the distinction of
"Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel."
It was Ezekiel's wish to return to his native
Virginia but World War I kept him for doing so. He spent his final
days in Italy where he died in 1917. His remains were not brought
back to the states until 1921.
Among his many great works are: "Christ Bound
for the Cross", "The Martyr", and "David Singing his Song of
His funeral service was held at the
amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Cadets, of the
Virginia Military Institute, stood by his casket that was draped
with a flag of the United States. Ezekiel was buried at the base
of the Confederate monument. Also buried around the monument are
450 Confederate soldiers, wives and civilians.
The following words are inscribed on his grave
"Moses J. Ezekiel
Sergeant of Company C
Battalion of Cadets of the
Virginia Military Institute."
Lest We Forget our American Heritage!
The Black Southern Heritage video contains Professor Ed Smith's
presentation on Moses Ezekiel and pictures of the monument at
here for information.]