Tag Archives: Gettysburg cemetery

Wish You Were Here’s 4th anniversary

In March 1999, I met Thomas Roche, who was editing nonfiction for Gothic.Net. I pitched him a column about visiting cemeteries: on vacation, with friends, with my parents, with tour guides. My initial list of proposed columns had 42 cemeteries from San Francisco’s historical columbarium to the artists’ graveyard Vysehrad in Prague.

I’d never written a column before. I had published a handful travel essays in Trips magazine and the Traveler’s Tales books. I’d edited the book Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries and three issues of Morbid Curiosity magazine. Tom had no indication that I could actually do what I was proposing. He gave me a chance anyway.

My first column appeared in April 1999. It was adapted from my introduction to Death’s Garden, which had gone out of print. It was part survey of cemeteries I’d visited, part manifesto about why it was important to visit graveyards and what they had to teach us.

For the next couple of years, I wrote each month about a cemetery I’d visited, roaming from Gettysburg to Hiroshima, from Northern Michigan’s Mackinaw Island to the Roman catacombs. Gothic.Net never put any limitations on what I wrote about — and the editorial staff were hugely encouraging. Often I’d get nice emails from them even before the essay had gone up online.

After I’d written the first dozen columns, I started to think about putting together a book. I began to travel to historically significant cemeteries just so I could write about them. My husband Mason and I arranged a tour of East Coast cemeteries, starting in Boston and driving to Providence, then on to Sleepy Hollow, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and back to Brooklyn to see Green-Wood Cemetery. In all, we visited 14 cemeteries in 11 days. It was wonderful.

Then my younger brother died suddenly and I got pregnant at 39. Complications ensued.

It took a while for me to complete the book. I joined the Red Room Writers Society in October 2004, which gave me a place to escape to (the Archbishop’s Mansion) where I could write shoulder to shoulder with other writers. I finished a bunch of new essays, filled out the book, and named it Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.

WishYouWereHere-cover-FINAL-600x900It took a while to find a home for it, but John Palisano published it in May 2013 through his Western Legends Press. Working with John was a dream: he let me choose the essays, arrange them how I liked. He made me a book trailer that I love.

When Black Dog & Leventhal approached me to write 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, I asked John if I could have the rights to Wish You Were Here back. There were some errors I wanted to correct and I wanted to include an index. The updated version was published on July 21, 2017.

I have felt so lucky and supported as I created this book. It contains 35 of my graveyard travel essays and visits more than 50 cemeteries, churchyards, and gravesites across the globe. It explores the pioneer cemetery in Yosemite, the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Arlington, Pere Lachaise, Vysehrad, the Protestant Cemetery of Rome and the Catacomb of Saint Sebastian, and so much more.

It starts with me discovering my love for cemeteries when I visited Highgate for the first time in January 1991 and ends just before my daughter’s birth in 2003. There’s so much more I want to say about cemeteries–and so many more essays I’ve written. I’ve started to assemble a book that I’m calling Still Wish You Were Here: More Adventures in Cemetery Travel. I think it might be out early in 2023.

In the meantime, you can see where this all began in Wish You Were Here:  

Get the book:

On Amazon: https://amzn.to/3BsAlH9

On Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wish-you-were-here-loren-rhoads/1126830675

On Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/a/18236/9780963679468

Or direct from me, if you’d like it autographed: https://lorenrhoads.com/product/wish-you-were-here-adventures-in-cemetery-travel-autographed/

What cemeteries have you visited on vacation?

Greetings from Boot Hill!

As a product of the classic American childhood road trip, I’m curious to know which cemeteries you’ve visited on vacation.  Please check all that apply.

Feel free to add anything I’ve missed in the comments.


Guide to the Cemetery that Abuts Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Beyond the Gatehouse: Gettysburg's Evergreen CemeteryBeyond the Gatehouse: Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery by Brian A Kennell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up in the gift shop at the Gettysburg National Park after visiting the Evergreen Cemetery first, which is the wrong way to go about it. The book includes a pullout map, which would have been handy to have as I poked around Evergreen. The map would have guided us to the people profiled in the book. I would have liked to look at their photographs, helpfully included beside their biographies, as I stood before their monuments. As it was, I enjoyed the beautiful stones in Evergreen without appreciating the history that lies beneath them — at least, I didn’t appreciate it until I read this book.

Written by the current superintendent of the cemetery (who has lived in the cemetery’s gatehouse since 1976), the book briefly explores the history of the association that founded Evergreen, then glances at the wildlife that has come to dwell there. After that, it dives into the town’s founding fathers and moves quickly to Gettysburg’s defining moments in July 1863, when the Confederate Army came to call. My favorite section quotes the memoir of Elizabeth C. Thorn, who served as caretaker and gravedigger after the Battle of Gettysburg was done.

All in all, this is an enjoyable little book. If it has any flaws, it’s that it looks as if it was designed at home. Large portions of the text are boldface, except where portions are quoted from other sources. The sketch on the cover doesn’t do justice to the beautiful, historic brick gatehouse. Despite those elements, the interior photographs are clear and the text is polished. Perhaps when a second edition is published, the book design will be updated, too.

If you order the book directly from the cemetery’s superintendent, your purchase helps restore this lovely cemetery.  Here’s the link.

There are also some copies for sale on Amazon:Beyond the Gatehouse: Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery

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Cemetery of the Week #22: Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery

Jennie Wade’s monument

Evergreen Cemetery
799 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325 (adjacent to Soldier’s National Cemetery)
Information: (717) 334-4121
Email: info@evergreencemetery.org
Established: 1854
Size: 10 acres
Number of interments: 10,246 (according to Findagrave.com)

In November 1853, the citizens of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania met to discuss opening a graveyard “where all the dead could repose together,” regardless of sect, rank, or class. Ground purchased on a ridge overlooking the town was named Ever Green Cemetery. Somewhere along the way, its name mutated to Evergreen Cemetery.

It might have continued to be a sleepy, small-town cemetery, if the Confederate Army hadn’t marched up to Pennsylvania in 1863. Cemetery Ridge saw some of the fiercest fighting on July 3rd. Thousands of men and horses tramped through the cemetery during the battle. Both the cemetery and its brick gatehouse were damaged by artillery shells. Later, the gatehouse became a landmark in images of the battle’s aftermath.

After the war moved on, Elizabeth Thorn, wife of the cemetery’s superintendent, did what she could to bury the dead — despite being six months pregnant. Her husband Peter had enlisted in the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry, never dreaming that the war would come so close to home. In the months following the battle, Elizabeth and her elderly father dug five graves a week in the rockiest part of the cemetery. Her memoir of those days, later published in the Gettysburg Times, reports that the stench of the bodies decaying in the field across the road drove her on.

On November 16, 2002, Evergreen dedicated a memorial to the women who served in and endured the Civil War. The statue takes the form of a very pregnant Elizabeth in a Victorian gown, leaning on her shovel. There’s a photo here.

The most-visited gravesite in Evergreen Cemetery belongs to Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade. The 20-year-old had gone to her sister’s house in town in order to escape the fighting. The only civilian to be killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, she was struck by a stray bullet while “making bread for the Union soldiers,” according to her monument. She was initially buried in the garden at her sister’s house on the 4th of July. In January 1864, her remains were moved to the German Reformed Cemetery in Gettysburg. She was reintered in the Evergreen Cemetery in November 1865. The Iowa Women’s Relief Corps replaced her original tombstone in 1900 with the monument that stands today. An American flag flies at her grave around the clock.

A wealth of other folk connected to the war lie in the graveyard, including Reverend Michael Jacobs, a Professor of Science and Mathematics at Pennsylvania College, who became the first historian of the battle of Gettysburg. Also there is William David Holtzworth, a twice-wounded Civil War veteran, who became a guide to the battlefield. He subsequently toured the battlefield with Presidents Grant, Hayes, and Cleveland, as well as nearly a dozen Civil War generals.

Other permanent residents of Evergreen include baseball’s left-handed pitcher Edward S. Plank, who was called “Gettysburg Eddie,” and poet Marianne Moore, who received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in the 1950s for her Collected Poems. Time magazine named her America’s greatest living female poet.

The cemetery, which calls itself “Gettysburg’s most historic cemetery,” contains a wealth of lovely Victorian gravestones. It is still open to burials. Ninety-minute walking tours can be arranged for groups of 10 or more by contacting Superintendent Brian Kennell at ever@cvn.net. He is also the author of Beyond the Gatehouse, a guide to Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery. If you order your copy of the guidebook directly from the Superintendent, your purchase benefits the cemetery.

Useful Links:

Evergreen Cemetery’s website

Hi-res panorama of the cemetery

Flash map of the cemetery

GPS information from CemeteryRegistry.us

Cemetery-focused information on the Battle of Gettysburg

My review of the Beyond the Gatehouse: Evergreen Cemetery

Other Pennsylvania cemeteries of Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #21: Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #43: Christ Church Burial Ground

Cemetery of the Week #57: Laurel Hill Cemetery

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

Guide to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Lincoln and the Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg National CemeteryLincoln and the Human Interest Stories of the Gettysburg National Cemetery by James M. Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike Arlington National Cemetery, which has had many books written about it, Gettysburg National Cemetery — a.k.a. Soldiers’ National Cemetery — has very few, most of which are out of print. That’s a shame, since the whole system of American national cemeteries, including Arlington, owes its existence to this plot of ground in Pennsylvania.

This booklet, which I picked up at the gift shop at Gettysburg National Park, seems to be the most comprehensive information available on the subject. It opens with photographs of corpses strewn across the battlefield and subsequently laid in a temporary grave, then goes on to describe the movement to honor the fallen, which grew until it inspired President Lincoln to write the Gettysburg Address. I found this portion of the book worth the price. In fact, I would have liked even more detail.

The book’s second half fulfills its title by providing biographies and some photographs of the men laid to rest at Soldiers’ National Cemetery. I was impressed by the research that went into uncovering these stories. I wonder if more could be added since this book was published in 1995.

Soldiers’ National Cemetery was a crucial development in the way the dead are treated in this country. If you have any interest in the matter, track down this book.

You can order your own copy from Amazon: Lincoln and the human interest stories of the Gettysburg National Cemetery

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