William Latane’ was a Confederate Army Officer who was the only one killed during J.E.B. Stuart’s daring “Ride around McClellan”, a mission that skirted completely around the Federal Army of the Potomac during June 12-15, 1862.
In the “Westcott Bedroom” upstairs in the First White House there is an engraving of the scene of his burial. The Union officers would not let a minister officiate at the funeral so the women of Sumner Hill and Westwood Plantations in nearby Hanover County, Virginia, read the service.
The engraving shows the women in mourning standing around the grave, a black servant leaning on the shovel used to dig the grave. The scene of the burial was painted by William D. Washington in 1864, and the engraving was done from the painting. It was a particularly popular engraving after the War, signifying the desolation of the South at the time.
Lantane’s death became romanticized in art and poetry both during and after the war. It reminds me of a hymn titled “I Vow To Thee My Country”. The first stanza reads: “I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love: The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best; The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.”