Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time Travelers: Fredericksburg National Cemetery

In my Time Travelers Series, I share some of my favorite historical sites from my travels with my fellow history adventurer, my husband Erin.

Destination: Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg National Cemetery

There were four major battles fought in the Fredericksburg area during the Civil War:  Fredericksburg in 1862, Chancellorsville in 1863, and Wilderness and Spotsylvania in 1864. All but Wilderness, which was considered a draw, were Confederate victories and after the war, Congress created the Fredericksburg National Cemetery as the final resting place for the more than 15,000 Union soldiers who died during those battles.

The cemetery lies atop Marye's Heights, which was the insurmountable position from which the Confederates brutally repulsed wave after wave of Union soldiers during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The cemetery itself is beautiful with its the terraced steps, brick walls and grand old trees. One does not truly realize the scope of human lives lost until the crest of the hill is reached, and then the awareness sinks in as twelve gently rolling acres of green grass dotted with headstones as far as the eye can see comes into view. Of the 15,300 men buried here, only 3,000 were ever identified.

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last Tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn, nor screaming fife,
At dawn shall call to arms.
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.

~From Theodore O'Hara's poem, The Bivouac of the Dead
These verses grace signs displayed throughout the cemetery.

If you are ever in the Fredericksburg area during Memorial Day weekend, a nighttime visit to the cemetery is not to be missed. Every year local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops place a flag and a luminary on every single grave and it is a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight to behold. My own pictures of this event were taken years ago before the digital camera age, and so I apologize for the poor quality of them. I hope to get some new shots this year, but some beautiful professional shots can be found on the internet, if you're interested.

1 comment:

  1. It's just hard to take in all of those graves. How did we really get to that point as a country?

    I just love your photos.


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