Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Lt. Walsh’s grave – celebration and pseudo mystery

at Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh NC

The media firestorm  about the secret decoration each year of Lt Walsh’s grave in the Confederate section of Oakwood cemetery was a hoot to watch, since the “decorator” is a beloved private historian who has performed rituals in City Cemetery and performed last rites for bridges quite out in the open for all these many years.  I certainly won’t tell you his name.  But I joined a group of almost two dozen people at 4 pm on April 13 to listen to the history and context of this particular grave marker.  We heard anecdotal history and a reading of the only eyewitness account from the time: the statement of Millie Henry, a ten year old servant girl.  If Lt Walsh’s celebration reaches it’s twentieth year next year, and this blog reaches its first, I will post that text next April 13.


The Oakwood gathering segued into a wonderful party in Oakdale with freshly shelled black-eyed peas and barbeque, both cooked in cast iron over a fireplace made that day out of loose brick.  There was some wonderful meeting and greeting, but rather than gossip about it I will share some more graveyard images – some favorites from City Cemetery, where my Walsh friend used to hold candlelight readings of Poe. Truly local and genuine rituals – one of the things that makes Raleigh what it is.


April 14, 2008 - Posted by | Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history | ,


  1. Great story. I was visiting family in NC April 1st when I saw the article in the N&O.

    I take it from your pictures, it happened again.

    This is a great way to memorialize a brave Confederate.

    Comment by RoadDog | May 2, 2008

  2. Hello—very interesting story. I am familiar with Oakwood
    Cemetery, especially with the 2 Union Army soldiers mistakenly
    buried there in the Gettysburg Confederate section. I am a
    member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Major
    General John A. Logan Camp #4 of Raleigh. Are there any plans
    for a similar gathering at Oakwood next week on the 13th? Thanks in advance.

    Dennis St. Andrew
    Senior Vice Commander
    Maj. John A. Logan Camp #4
    Raleigh, NC

    Comment by Dennis St. Andrew | April 8, 2009

  3. […] A year ago, in starting this blog, I made use of a personal connection and had a little fun with the mystique surrounding the annual decoration of Confederate Lt Walsh’s grave in Oakwood Cemetery. Just as last year, Channel 5 treated it like a mystery, and for the 20th year, an old friend managed to make his remembrance, hold an afternoon reading, and retire to a well-earned evening of mint juleps with friends unscathed by identification.  I missed the reading this year, vacationing in Charleston with Cara, but our experiences there had me well steeped in Confederate lore as I checked by the gravesite and stopped for a quick visit at the post-reading party.  I’m quite sure they’re still sitting around in Oakdale as I write this, so the event is in process, but Good Night, Raleigh got out an uncannily timely post about the decorations and directs us to NandO’s contribution to last year’s media coverage ( WRAL had current footage of this year’s decorations joined with a re-run of last year’s story).  As I promised a year ago, below is the contemporary account included in the printed handouts that accompany the remembrance/celebration. […]

    Pingback by Lt. Walsh Remembrance Reaches 20 Years « Raleigh Rambles | April 14, 2009

  4. That is so cool. A friend and myself were there just yesterday and came across this grave site.We were wondering why it was decorated as it is. It is still intact, cept the flowers of course are all dried.

    Comment by kim | May 2, 2013

  5. Thanks, Kim and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I wanted to make sure you also saw the post from a year later.
    It’s a great tradition and i always enjoy the reading of Lt Walsh’s story.

    Comment by raleighnaturalist | May 3, 2013

  6. I did and I hope to be able to be there next year to see it in person.It’s such a neat tradition.

    Comment by kim | May 3, 2013

  7. […]  Lt Walsh and the pseudo-mystery (2008) […]

    Pingback by Lt. Walsh Anniversary Celebration Reaches 25 Years « Raleigh Rambles | April 13, 2014

  8. Thanks for this story. My dear friends in Oakwood have told me about my fellow Texan, Lt. Walsh, and I’m pretty sure I have met the mystery historian…a delightful chap and a class act.

    Comment by Dana Scott Galloway | April 13, 2023

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