After the First Battle of Manassas, Richmond appropriated this approximately 7.5 - acre lot on 12 Aug. 1861 for burial of Confederate war dead. These Soldiers from every Southern state either died in Richmond's military hospitals, such as Chimborazo, or were brought directly from local battlefields. Eventually they numbered about 17,200, including some 8,000 unknowns. The first recorded Memorial Day observance in Richmond occurred here on 10 May 1866, organized by the Ladies' Memorial Association for Confederate Dead in Oakwood Cemetery. Robert E. Lee, invited to speak, declined but wrote, "The graves of Confederate dead will always be green in my memory, and their deeds be hallowed in my recollection."