In 1901 the City of Petersburg delegated to the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg the authority to convert Old Blandford Church into a mortuary chapel and a Confed- erate Memorial.
This body of women organized May 6, 1866, took as their objective the reburial of Confederate soldiers who were left on the battlefields or just anywhere they fell.
No nobler band of women ever performed a more beaut- iful service to posterity than did the Ladies Memorial Asso- ciation of Petersburg, Virginia.
When the story of their sacrifice, courage, and undying service is known, one can but be inspired by their very me- mory. Yet as you pass through the cemetery and see the evidence of the grief to which these women were subjected during the siege of Petersburg and all through the war, we can realize the challenge which was theirs.
Within a stone's throw of the church can be seen the graves of some of the 9th of June heroes, when, "the gray haired sires and beardless youths" 125 strong under the gallent Col. Fletcher H. Archer engaged the trained soldiers of the Federal Army in a surprise attack on the city. These civilians held at bay 1,500 of General Kautz's cavalry at Rives farm until reinforcements arrived and Petersburg was saved.
Among these buried near the church are a sixteen year old lieutenant; a forty-six year old father of five children; a fifty-three year old father buried beside his twenty-one year old son, who had been killed in 1862; a fifty-four year old deaf father, killed after the command to surrender, which he could not hear, who lies buried beside the grave, containing the remains of two of his sons lost a few months later; and a fifty-six year old widower, whose only daughter when she grew up to womanhood gave a large past of her life in pro- moting activities pertaining to the Confederacy.
These women, bereft of husband, brothers, sons, father or sweetheart, did for others what they would have wished to be done for their loved ones who had given their lives in defense of our southland.
They at least could give these heroes a Christian burial.
A plot of land in the eastern section of Blandford Ceme- tery was secured as a gift from the city. This was laid out in curbed sections for the different Confederate States with paved walks interspaced with circles and triangles for flow- ers and shrubs.
In each section they placed a granite marker which deno- ted its state and some simply marked "unknown."
A handsome granite arch at the entrance to Memorial Hill a substantial speaker's stand and a monument surmounted by a life-size Confederate soldier facing north, are the work of these women.
It was after the foregoing had been accomplished that they undertook the supreme task of converting this old building, then having only bare walls and a roof, into the present historic shrine.
The plantings in this section and in other old parts of the cemetery as well as the restoration of many of the rare old iron fences was the project of the Cockade City Garden Club.