The story of this little cemetery is interesting, even if its name is misleading. (Spoiler: there’s a “Federalist” buried there, too.) The highlights of the booklet are the vintage postcards and photographs, but it would have been nice to see the graves of the soldiers individually, especially since there are only 19 of them. I liked reading the biographies of the few soldiers whose names are known.
It’s unfortunate that the author couldn’t find any photos of the Ladies Auxiliary who tended the graves over the years. It’s also a shame that no one spellchecked the text. My edition is copyright 1999, so maybe those things have been corrected over the years.
If you are local — or passing by — the booklet is worth checking out. They are cheap on Amazon.
“The lure of silent places — gardens can be as tranquil as graveyards — leads each of us more easily to reflection and remembrance, revelation and joy.” That sentiment inspires this gorgeous full-color photo book. Every page is graced by a 7 x 9-inch photo, which reproduces a rainbow of greens and grays, highlighted with bright flowers.
On his travels between Popes Creek, Virginia and Cumberland Island, Georgia, Henry Clay Childs stopped off to visit the only unaltered American colonial church, graves of the earliest European settlers as well as George Washington’s ancestors, graveyards of villages abandoned after the Civil War, and the elegant cemeteries of Savannah.
Childs saw a graveyard anywhere dreams were buried and a garden wherever flowers bloomed, so there’s a great deal of fluidity in this definitions. This book will delight anyone who takes pleasure in beauty, whether they’ve previously been cemetery aficionados or not.
Even your mom might like these beautiful photographs.
Vintage postcard of the monument to Jefferson Davis
412 South Cherry Street
Richmond, Virginia 23330
Email: email@example.com Founded: 1847 Size: 130 acres Number of interments: approximately 80,000 Open: Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the bluffs above the James River stands Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery. It was named for the holly trees that grew on the property, which belonged to Colonel Harvie, whose family plot lies under a stand of trees on the property.
Hollywood has the distinction of being one of only three graveyards where two presidents are buried. The others are Arlington National Cemetery and Quincy, Massachusetts, where the Adamses lie at rest.
When he died in 1831, America’s fifth president, James Monroe, was originally buried in New York. In the 1850s, a movement arose to bring all the Virginian presidents home. In 1858, Monroe was exhumed and accompanied home by an honor guard. The ship bearing his body ran aground in the James River and a grandson of Alexander Hamilton was drowned. The Monroe memorial was designed by Albert Lybrock. Through the mullions, you can see the marble sarcophagus covering his remains. James E. DuPriest Jr.’s Hollywood Cemetery: a Tour said that Monroe’s ornate tomb attracts thousands of visitors to the cemetery each year.
Also buried in the President’s Circle is John Tyler, the 10th president, who took office after William Henry Harrison died from the pneumonia he caught at his own inauguration. During his presidency, Tyler opposed secession, but after the Civil War broke out, he served in the Confederate Congress. He died in Richmond in January 1862 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. No exhumations for him. It took until October 1915 for the United States government to forgive him enough to erect the tall square pillar, crowned with a shrouded urn, that marks his grave now. This was the first monument paid for by the US government erected to anyone who had joined the Confederacy.
Elsewhere in the graveyard is buried Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy. He was originally buried in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, but Virginia petitioned to bring his body home. He was reburied here on Memorial Day 1893. He is buried near his children. Daughter Winnie, known as the Angel of the Confederacy, died of grief after her father forbade her to marry the grandson of a Northern abolitionist. Davis’s son Joseph died after falling 15 feet from the porch of the Confederate Capitol. The boy’s grave is marked by a broken column.
Also in the graveyard stands a granite pyramid that marks the graves of 12,000 Confederate soldiers. Many of them were moved from the battlefield at Gettysburg, where their bodies had been left where they’d fallen, even after all the Union bodies were gathered together and reburied in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
At first, the Confederate graves were laid out side by side, marked with wooden boards. These were the days before dog tags, so many of the bodies could not be identified. In 1869, the women of Richmond raised $26,000 to build a rough 90-foot-tall pyramid of undressed James River granite. In 1910, the pyramid was covered with English ivy and Virginia creeper. Now the rock is bare and is dedicated to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
Vintage postcard of the Confederate monument, postmarked 1910
Also buried in the cemetery are six Virginia governors, many of the founding fathers of Richmond, and 25 Confederate generals, more than any other cemetery in America. Among those are J.E.B. Stuart, who died in a battle called Yellow Tavern, and George Pickett, who ordered the suicidal charge on Cemetery Hill at the battle of Gettysburg.
Finally, William Burke, who taught Edgar Allan Poe, is also buried here.
The cemetery office is open 8:30 to 4:30 during the week to sell books and maps. They also sell the books and walking tour guides on their website. The cemetery offers daily walking tours from April to October at 10 a.m. from Monday through Saturday.
Hollywood Cemetery’s homepage, which has a great slideshow
A history of Hollywood Cemetery from the National Park Service
Visitor info for Hollywood Cemetery & other Richmond attractions
Some photos of the graveyard & a list of famous burials
Wikipedia recommends two histories of the cemetery: John O. Peters’ Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (2010) and Mary H. Mitchell’s Hollywood Cemetery (1999). I haven’t read either, so I can’t provide any pointers. Let me know if you develop a preference.
This is a very strange book, more a collection of ghost stories than essays about cemeteries. The author was inspired by the legendary Wisconsin Death Trip, but instead of collecting news stories, historical photos, and real-world evidence of how things were, she collects urban legends and tales of hauntings, reproducing some in dialect that mimics oral accounts without actually being quoted. Woven around those stories are her memories of growing up in an abandoned graveyard near her father’s farm and her visits to graveyards as an adult. Obviously, I like those parts of the book better than the folklore.
And it’s not that I don’t like folklore. It’s just that I wish it acted more like nonfiction here, without real people telling the stories or at least the author really responding to hearing or reading them. Instead, it feels like chunks of fiction are dropped in amongst the thoughtful essays. In fact, I’m deeply interested in her justifications of visiting cemeteries as she tangentially faces the oncoming reality of death, and her delicious, good-natured morbid curiosity. I wish there was lots more of that.
The photos by Starke Jett V don’t often rise to the level of the cover photo, with its plundered grave and jauntily tilted skull. Still, they do become art from time to time: the crow captured as it alights on a weathered stone, the naked toddler on the Clover Addams monument in Rock Creek Cemetery. They don’t detract from the text but they don’t exactly illustrate it, either.
I wish there was an index, to make the book more useful as of a research text, but I realize my uses probably differ from most people’s. We all might benefit from an explanation of what she considers the Chesapeake area, though. I had to google it.
You can get your own copy of the book for a reasonable price on Amazon.
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