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.
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.
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:
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