By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram staff writerJune 9, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The Old Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery has a new name.
During a ceremony May 30, the amphitheater was renamed in honor of James R. Tanner in conjunction with the annual Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Decoration Day observance.
"This dedication not only symbolizes the connection to our rich heritage to generations yet to come, but also embraces the selfless sacrifice of our military members, past, present and future, and all the heroes who forever rest here in these hallowed grounds," said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries Patrick K. Hallinan.
Tanner, who served as a corporal in the 82nd New York Infantry, lost both his legs during the Second Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, in August of 1862.
"After the war, this wounded warrior became a stenographer and was present at both President Abraham Lincoln's death bed and at the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. He didn't let his disability stand in the way of helping others," said Hallinan.
Tanner would spend the rest of his life advocating for veterans and lobbied Congress for the charter which established the American Red Cross in 1904. He was present when the cornerstone of the Confederate Memorial was laid in Section 16 of the cemetery in 1912.
"He believed the reconciliation of the nation was an important step forward in the 1900s and campaigned for the creation of the Confederate section at Arlington National Cemetery," said Hallinan.
Tanner died in Washington, D.C., Oct. 21, 1927, and is buried in Section 2, grave 877, at Arlington.
Richard Griffin, event coordinator and commander of Lincoln-Cushing Camp No. 2, Department of the Chesapeake, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, explained that May 30 was the day set aside in 1868 by Gen. John Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, to honor the Union dead.
"Today is a day to memorialize and honor not just those who perished in the service of their country during the Civil War, but all who have fallen in combat throughout our history, protecting a nation united," he said. "It was on this spot 105 years ago today that the Sons of Union Veterans shouldered the responsibility for planning and executing Decoration Day services for their fathers in the Grand Army of the Republic."
Griffin explained that the SOUV has held observances in honor of Memorial Day at the amphitheater since 1909, partnering with the Army to dedicate and rename the venue in Tanner's honor.
Representatives of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and the Association of Oldest Inhabitants of Washington, D.C., also provided remarks during the ceremony.
The U.S. Army Brass Quintet performed renditions of "Hail Columbia, Happy Land" and "Amazing Grace."