One of the soldiers of 17th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A., the unit our soldier statue is largely dedicated to, was an Alexandrian named Hector Eaches. He did not die in the war, so the statue does not mention his name, but he suffered a wound, experienced the privations of a POW, and buried a friend killed at Fredericksburg. He died later in 1875, and rests in Ivy Hill Cemetery between King and W. Braddock. He was 35.
With all the latent hatred some have against Confederate soldiers, we should learn about who they really were. Hector’s surviving letters are in the Alexandria library, and some published in a book titled Letters to Virginia. The Eaches were Quakers who were against slavery. In the 1850s Hector was working in New York making a living doing portraits. 1861 he came back here to join those who would leave town and form the Confederate States Army further west. Since he was against slavery, it is clear that he did not join to defend it, contrary to what some today would have us believe.
None of Hector’s letters mention any political issues. Only “my country” in one letter toward the end of the war. He went into the army out of a sense of duty to defend his state and the country it became a part of. His brother, John Eaches, who also served in the Confederate Army in Missouri, wrote to Hector in 1863 asking: “I want to know something about the Alexandria boys and what they are doing and have done in the army to distinguish themselves? I know they will do their duty. Praying for your health, and that you may live through this glorious struggle for liberty.” John had no other cause either.
One letter by Hector describe how he was wounded at White Oak Swamp, near Richmond, and had to recover in a POW camp with a bullet in his leg. He was on crutches most of the war. In 1863 he was paroled (traded). When the Confederate Army got him back, they assigned him light duty in a drafting office. At war’s end, he had the privilege of having Robert E. Lee sit for him to draw. He sold that picture for $200 in September 1865, and went back to a career as an artist.
Hector Eaches was a good, kind man. An artist with a great God–given talent who set it aside to risk death, suffered injury, and endured great suffering. He is the true representation of what our soldier statue means. Duty, honor, country. All American soldiers who wore blue and gray embody those things.