Archive for Gravesites

Mary Pickersgill

Mary Pickersgill

Mary Pickersgill. Photo from the Maryland Archives.

So I’m going to start my series on Loudon Park with a non-Civil War burial, but it’s a big one. Mary Pickersgill is probably the most famous person resting in Loudon Park.

Apart from being a successful business owner and charitable figure in 19th century Baltimore – remarkable achievements for anyone let alone a woman back in those days – she is best known for sewing the giant garrison flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on September 12, 1814.

Her headstone is small and understated, but a plaque that briefly explains her importance was placed on her grave by a few historical preservation groups in 1976. In addition, the old cemetery gatehouse has a large, 15-star Star Spangled Banner draped on its eastern wall at all times – a subtle tribute to Mrs. Pickersgill.

Her grave is located near the Frederick Road entrance (which appears to be permanently closed these days) in Section AA in the northern part of the cemetery:

Map to Mary Pickersgill's Gravesite.

Location of Mary Pickersgill’s Gravesite. Map by Apple Maps.

Close-up of Mary Pickersgill's Headstone.

Close-up of Mary Pickersgill’s Headstone. Photo by the author.

The historical plaque placed at the grave.

The historical plaque placed at the grave. Photo by the author.

If you weren’t actually out looking for her grave, you’d never know it was here. With so many other large, ostentatious monuments in Loudon Park, seeing a simple set of markers is actually somewhat refreshing. It certainly speaks to what kind of woman she was.

In the next installment, we’ll see a pair of graves relating to one of the most famously shocking events of the Civil War era.

Loudon Park Cemetery

As part of the research I’m doing for an upcoming trip to Gettysburg, I’ve been looking more deeply into the Maryland connections to the battle.

There were 11 regiments present with a Maryland designation – 6 Union and 5 Confederate – but what I learned is that many of the officers of those units are buried right down the street from where I grew up, at Loudon Park Cemetery. Aside from those Civil War veterans, there are many other notable people buried there – in fact, I created new categories for Loudon Park so that I can share what I’ve found over several posts in the next few weeks.

Some of the sites on the Internet are a little confused about Loudon Park because there are actually two cemeteries there. Loudon Park Cemetery is owned and run by a private company. The northeast corner of the property houses Loudon Park National Cemetery, a separate burial ground run by the VA, and operated by nearby Baltimore National Cemetery. I’m going to try to clear up some of the confusion by actually visiting the gravesides and verifying their locations. It should be an interesting trip through Maryland history.

Elizabeth Thorn

One of the human interest stories around the Battle of Gettysburg that has come to the forefront in the last few years is the story of Elizabeth Thorn.

Her husband, Peter Thorn, was the caretaker of the Evergreen Cemetery on Gettysburg’s famed Cemetery Hill from 1856-1874. The Thorns and their children lived in the gatehouse of the cemetery during this period. Of course, the battle took place right in the middle of their tenure, in July of 1863.

Peter wasn’t home during the summer of ’63, though. In August of 1862, he joined the war effort himself – enlisting with a local infantry company. Elizabeth was left to tend to the children and the cemetery by herself. When the armies started closing-in on the town, she fled the battle zone with the kids.

Despite his being away at war, Elizabeth must have had some contact with her husband during his service. She was 6-months pregnant when she was forced to leave her home.

My niece, Abby and nephew, Nathan in front of the statue of Elizabeth Thorn.

My niece, Abby and nephew, Nathan in front of the statue of Elizabeth Thorn. Photo by Karen Michener.

After the danger passed, she made her way back to the cemetery gatehouse only to find that it had been looted and damaged in the fray. The cemetery itself was right in the middle of the battlefield, and there were bodies strewn everywhere.

The cemetery was her responsibility as well as being her home, and she got right to work – personally burying somewhere between 91 and 106 bodies herself in the mid-July heat.

The daughter she was carrying at the time died young, only barely reaching her teenage years. Elizabeth blamed the stress of her post-battle experience for the poor health and eventual death of the child.

On a happier note, her efforts have recently been recognized more properly. There is now a statue of Elizabeth, placed in 2002, known as the Gettysburg Women’s Memorial just inside the gates of Evergreen Cemetery.

But that’s not all there is to the story. I wanted to tell Elizabeth’s story so that I could set up the telling of part of Peter’s. The wartime service that took him from his home, brought him closer to mine – much closer. But we’ll explore that further in a future post.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – The Black Iron Dog

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

Another of the sites at Hollywood Cemetery that I never posted about during my series at Gettysburg Daily was the grave of Bernadine Rees. While not a famous Civil War figure – let alone a Gettysburg-related one – her grave is best known for the black iron dog watching over the plot.

The loyal dog watching over the little girl. Photo by John Dolan.

The loyal dog watching over the little girl. Photo by John Dolan.

Ms. Rees died before she was even 3 years old – probably a victim of the 1862 Richmond scarlet fever epidemic. There a many stories associated with the statue of the dog. One is that it was a bought by the family especially for the plot (as Bernardine supposedly loved dogs). It’s also said that the dog statue belonged to a family friend who loved to see the little girl pat it whenever she came over, so he placed it next to her memorial.

A head-on view of the Black Iron Dog. Photo by John Dolan.

A head-on view of the Black Iron Dog. Photo by John Dolan.

The dog makes for an odd curiosity to be sure, but there may be a Civil War connection, too. One of the stories is that the piece was a treasured object to the family (maybe because of Bernardine’s connection with it) and the family didn’t want it to be confiscated in a metal-hungry Confederacy in the midst of war. Not even the Confederate government would be desperate enough to turn to grave-robbing they thought, so they put the statue here for safe keeping.

Whatever the truth happens to be, it’s a unique site for a number of reasons, and very popular with tourists to the cemetery. It’s become something of a tradition to leave toys and other gifts for Ms. Rees, and many of the visitors take part. The shape of the alcove in her headstone makes that a very tempting thing to do. Maybe it’s the dog, and maybe it’s the story of the death of a young child who never got a chance to grow up, but something about this place really seems to resonate with people.

If you’d like to see it for yourself, the Rees plot is located at one of the major intersections within the Cemetery. It is highlighted by the red box on the map below:

The grave of Ms. Rees - with the Black Iron Dog - can be found here.

The grave of Ms. Rees – with the Black Iron Dog – can be found here.

My speech in the video below repeats a lot of the information from above, but it also gives you a better idea of the scale, and a closer look at the kinds of trinkets people leave on the headstone.

Video by John Dolan

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – The Confederate Pyramid

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

I never posted about the massive Confederate monument in Hollywood Cemetery during my series at Gettysburg Daily. That makes this post the first of the “lost episodes”.

South of Gettysburg Hill is a giant monument to the Confederate dead that was erected by the Hollywood Memorial Association in 1869. It’s a 90-foot, 4-sided stone pyramid on top of a hill. It makes for a very hard-to-miss landmark.

The Confederate Pyramid

The Confederate Pyramid. Photo by John Dolan.

Each face of the monument has an engraved stone with an inscription near the middle of it, about 6 feet off the ground. The one on the west side reads, “Erected by the Holly-Wood Memorial Association A.D. 1869”. On the south side, “Numini et Patri ae Asto” (my Latin is a little rusty, but I think this translates to “God and the Father Await”). On the north side, “Memoria in Aeterna” (or “Eternally in our memory”). Finally, the main inscription is on the eastern face:

The inscription dedicating the monument. Photo by John Dolan.

The inscription dedicating the monument. Photo by John Dolan.

As I said above, the pyramid is located just south of Gettysburg Hill, and is plainly visible on satellite photos. It’s that big.

The Confederate Pyramid is located inside the red box.

The Confederate Pyramid is located inside the red box.

In the short video below, I give a description of the monument and tell one of the stories people tell of how it was built.



Video by John Dolan
 

Next time, we’ll showcase another landmark in Hollywood Cemetery from the “lost episodes” archive.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – John Wesley Culp

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

Most Gettysburg nerds have heard of Wesley Culp – the boy from Gettysburg who went south and fought for the Confederacy. The story is that he was killed on Culp’s Hill (owned by members of his family) during the battle some time between July 2nd and 3rd, 1863.

John Wesley Culp

John Wesley Culp

As you can imagine, since we aren’t really sure when he died, we aren’t really sure where he died either. So we don’t know for sure where his remains ended up. That being said, he has a marker here at Hollywood:

The marker for John Wesley Culp. Photo by Scott L. Mingus, Sr.

The marker for John Wesley Culp. Photo by Scott L. Mingus, Sr.

This marker is located among the multitudes on Gettysburg Hill:

John Wesley Culp's marker is located at the red square.

John Wesley Culp’s marker is located at the red square.

I explain more about the controversy here (along with giving some more background on Private Culp) in the video below:



Video by George Skillman
In the next installment, we’re going to move away from the Gettysburg Hill section of the cemetery and explore some of the other notable landmarks.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – Richard B. Garnett

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

Anyone who has seen the movie Gettysburg knows the story of Brigadier General Richard Brooke Garnett (or at least an interpretation of it). The fact of the matter is that he is shrouded in some mystery.

For one thing, we don’t reliably know what he looked like. The usual picture that you see of him is this one:

Richard B. Garnett?

Richard B. Garnett?

But there’s some thought (spurned on by members of the Garnett family, I think) that perhaps this was a photo of his cousin, Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett, the first general killed during the Civil War. Apparently the two men had very similar features.

There is another photo that could be Garnett. This one was found in the Library of Congress labelled as “Franklin Gardner“. At least some people think that this is in fact, Brig. Gen. Garnett:

Is this Richard B. Garnett, and not Franklin Gardner?

Is this Richard B. Garnett, and not Franklin Gardner?

Yet another mystery surrounds the whereabouts of his remains. As I explain in the video below, none of the Union burial details ever made note of finding the remains of a General among the Pickett’s Charge dead.


Video by George Skillman
The location of his marker is right in the middle of Gettysburg Hill:

The monument to Richard Brooke Garnett is located at the red square.

The monument to Richard Brooke Garnett is located at the red square.

His “headstone” itself is also unique. Since the whereabouts of his remains is unknown, it’s more of a memorial than an actual marker. It was placed here (as it says) by family and friends in the 1990s.

The front of Richard B. Garnett's monument. Photo by John Dolan.

The front of Richard B. Garnett’s monument. Photo by John Dolan.

The back of Richard B. Garnett's monument. Photo by John Dolan.

The back of Richard B. Garnett’s monument. Photo by John Dolan.

In the next installment, we’ll highlight another mysterious “burial” on Gettysburg Hill.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – John T. Ellis

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

Another of Pickett’s officers that was involved on July 3, 1863 was Lt. Colonel John T. Ellis of the 19th VA Infantry. He didn’t participate in the attack itself though, because he was killed shortly before Pickett’s division set out across the field.

Lt. Colonel John Thomas Ellis

Lt. Colonel John Thomas Ellis

Ellis is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in the Gettysburg Hill section, just a short way down the hill from General Pickett himself.

The grave of John Thomas Ellis is marked by the red square.

The grave of John Thomas Ellis is marked by the red square.

In the video below, I give a very brief biography of Lt. Col. Ellis and explain how he was killed.


Video by George Skillman
And of course, we have a close-up shot of Lt. Col. Ellis’s headstone. One of many here on Gettysburg Hill.

The headstone of Lt. Col. John T. Ellis. Photo by John Dolan.

The headstone of Lt. Col. John T. Ellis. Photo by John Dolan.

Next time, we’ll talk about another high-ranking officer in Pickett’s division who is likely to be buried here among his men.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – “Gettysburg Hill”

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

The area of Hollywood Cemetery that we’ve been exploring so far is known as Gettysburg Hill. This hill got its name from the more than 2,000 Confederate dead from the Battle of Gettysburg that are buried in this section.

This stone marks the area where the Gettysburg dead are buried.

The marker where the Gettysburg dead are buried. Photo by John Dolan.

As we know, the Confederates didn’t hang around very long after the battle. They were on the road south by July 4. There was no way for the Confederates to collect or bury all of their dead – especially those who died near or beyond the Union lines. Those men were buried largely in mass graves by Union burial details and U.S. government contractors. So how did thousands of dead from Gettysburg end up in Richmond, VA?

The southern economy was wrecked by the war. Even families who wanted to exhume their relatives to move closer to home couldn’t afford to do so. It took until 1872 for the Hollywood Memorial Association to raise enough money to have a large number of these men – mainly the dead from Pickett’s Charge – moved to the cemetery. After nearly 10 years, there wasn’t much left of the remains, and no good method for identifying them. They were buried in a mass grave, much as they had been on the battlefield.

Since so many of the dead in this area were from Pickett’s Charge, Pickett himself chose to be buried on this hill near his men. For better or worse, July 3, 1863 really had become the defining moment in his life, and would remain so for all time.

In the last few years, headstones have been added to this section for the men who are likely to have been buried here. We’ll talk about a few of them in the next few posts, but for now, here are some views of the hill that we took during our visit two years ago:

Looking down the hill from the top. Photo by John Dolan.

Looking down the hill from the top. Photo by John Dolan.

A view from the opposite direction, looking up the hill. Note the top of General Pickett's monument at the top left. Photo by John Dolan.

A view from the opposite direction, looking up the hill. Note the top of General Pickett’s monument at the top left. Photo by John Dolan.

One more view from the bottom of the hill showing all the headstones. Photo by John Dolan.

One more view from the bottom of the hill showing all the headstones. Photo by John Dolan.

In the next post, we’ll talk about one of the men who is memorialized by a headstone in this section.

Gettysburg at Hollywood Cemetery – Lewis B. Williams

This is a continuation of my series on famous burials in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Other posts in the series can be viewed here.

Colonel Lewis B. Williams

Colonel Lewis B. Williams

Right next to Pickett’s grave is the grave of one of his officers, the commander of the 1st VA Infantry, Colonel Lewis B. Williams.

As most Civil War buffs know, Pickett’s Charge was a spectacular failure. In addition to a 50% casualty rate among the rank and file of the division, every single field officer under Pickett’s command was either killed, wounded, or captured. Colonel Williams was one of the men who was mortally wounded in the assault.

It was his decision to ride his horse across the field rather than walk – the same decision made by Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett that day – that was his undoing. When a shell exploded near him, he was thrown from the horse and landed on his own sword. He died later that night.

Like Pickett, his grave is located in the Gettysburg Hill section of the cemetery within a few feet of his division commander.

The red square marks the location of the grave of Lewis B. Williams.

The red square marks the location of the grave of Lewis B. Williams.

In the video below, I give a short biography of Colonel Williams and show his headstone. General Pickett’s marker is just behind the camera.


Video by George Skillman
 

Here’s a close-up shot of Lewis B. Williams’ headstone. It’s very distinctive and easy to recognize from a distance.

The headstone of Lewis B. Williams. Photo by John Dolan.

The headstone of Lewis B. Williams. Photo by John Dolan.

In the next installment, we’ll talk a little more about the Gettysburg Hill section of the cemetery and how it came to be. Then, we’ll move on to discussing some of the men who probably found their final resting places there.