Early on Veterans Day, Philip Way helped put hundreds of battle flags on the graves of Confederate soldiers buried in Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg.
When fellow members of the Colonel D.H. Lee Martz Camp 10, Sons of Confederate Veterans, went to pick them later Monday night, most were gone.
Way, the commander of the camp, said thieves stole more than 200 battle flags.
“It’s very disrespectful,” Way said. “We respect all veterans. They’re veterans just like any other veteran.”
The group is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft.
Sgt. Chris Monahan with the Harrisonburg Police Department said the theft is under investigation.
Woodbine Cemetery, located near downtown, was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1850 as a nondenominational, nonprofit cemetery.
The 18-acre cemetery is home to roughly 9,000 graves.
Woodbine, part of the Virginia Civil War Trails program, features a Confederate monument, which is surrounded by the graves of more than 270 Confederate soldiers.
Among those buried are Joseph W. Latimer, known as “The Boy Major.” Latimer was a Virginia Military Institute cadet who left his studies to join the Confederacy.
The 19-year-old was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg and was moved to Harrisonburg, where he later died.
The cemetery is also the final resting spot for the city’s only Confederate general, John Robert Jones.
Among other accomplishments, Jones led the effort to capture the Union outpost in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
He also led a brigade during the Seven Days Battles, a series of battles near Richmond.
After the war, he served as a commissioner in chancery in Harrisonburg. He died in 1901.
Way said it’s important that soldiers’ graves are honored.
“The war between the states is part of American history,” Way said. “We honor that history, the brave soldiers and what they fought for.”
Monday’s theft comes about five months after the Turner Ashby Monument in Harrisonburg was vandalized.
Confederate Brig. Gen. Turner Ashby was killed on June 6, 1862, during the Battle of Good’s Farm, a small skirmish not far from the monument.
On June 6, a person walking their dog in a wooded area off Neff Avenue noticed the mischief at the monument. Eggs, raw meat and other unknown substances were thrown on the monument.
The suspect also left notes quoting Ulysses S. Grant and Jefferson Davis.
The perpetrator was never found.
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which owns the monument and the land it sits on, paid for the stone sculpture to be power washed.
Anyone with information about either case is asked to call police at 434-4436.