Remembering Moses Ezekiel--American Artist, and Son of Dixie
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
September through October is Hispanic History Month throughout the USA!!
Country music singer Don Williams began his song "Good Ole Boys Like Me", with, quote “When I was a kid, Uncle Remus would put me to bed with a picture of “Stonewall Jackson” above my bed.” unquote
Do your children hear bed time stories about Uncle Remus, Stonewall Jackson or the many people who made this nation great? Does your family know who Moses J. Ezekiel was?
Moses Jacob Ezekiel was born in Richmond , Virginia on October 28, 1844. He was one of fourteen children born to Jacob and Catherine De Castro Ezekiel. His grandparents came to America from Holland in 1808, and were of Jewish-Spanish Heritage.
At the age of 16, and the beginning of the War Between the States, Moses begged his father and mother to allow him to enroll at Virginia Military Institute.
Three years after his enrollment at (VMI) the cadets of the school marched to the aid of Confederate General John C. Breckinridge. Moses Ezekiel joined his fellow cadets in a charge against the Union lines at the "Battle of New Market."
When the War Between the States ended, Moses went back to Virginia Military Institute to finish his studies where he graduated in 1866. According to his letters, which are now preserved by the American Jewish Historical Society, Ezekiel met with Robert E. Lee during this time. Lee encouraged him by saying, "I hope you will be an artist.....do earn a reputation in whatever profession you undertake.”
The world famous Arlington National Cemetery is located in Virginia and overlooks the Potomac River . At section 16, of the cemetery, is a beautiful Confederate Monument that towers over the graves of 450 Southern soldiers, wives and civilians. These words are inscribed on the memorial:
"Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank,
Not lured by ambition, or goaded by necessity,
But in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it,
These men sacrificed all, dared all....and died."
The United Daughters of the Confederacy entered into a contract with Moses J. Ezekiel to build this Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery . It is written that he based his work on the words of Prophet Isaiah, "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."
This Confederate Memorial towers 32 and 1/2 feet and is said to be the tallest bronze sculpture at Arlington National Cemetery . On top is a figure of a woman, with olive leaves covering her head, representing the South. She also holds a laurel wreath in her left hand, remembering the Sons of Dixie. On the side of the monument is also a depiction of a Black Confederate marching in step with white soldiers.
Ezekiel was not able to come to the dedication of the monument held on June 4, 1914, with President Woodrow Wilson presiding. Many Union and Confederate Veterans were in attendance among the crowd of thousands.
Moses Jacob Ezekiel studied to be an artist in Italy . As a tribute to his great works, he was knighted by Emperor William I of Germany and Kings Humbert, I and Victor Emmanuel, II of Italy---thus the title of "Sir."
Among the works of Sir Moses J. Ezekiel are: "Christ Bound for the Cross", "The Martyr", "David singing his song of Glory" and "Moses Receiving the Law on Mount Sinai."
Upon his death in 1917, Moses Ezekiel left behind his request to be buried with his Confederates at Arlington . A burial ceremony was conducted on March 31, 1921, at the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery . It was presided over by the United States Secretary of War John W. Weeks. He was laid to rest at the foot of the memorial that he had sculptured. Six VMI cadets flanked his casket that was covered with an American flag.
The death of Moses Ezekiel, the distinguished and greatly loved American, who lived in Rome for more than forty years, caused universal regret here----1921, The New York Times Dispatch from Rome, Italy.
The following is inscribed on his grave marker:
"Moses J. Ezekiel
Sergeant of Company C
Battalion of Cadets of the
Virginia Military Institute."
Lest We Forget!!