Posts Tagged ‘national cemetery’

One of the more challenging aspects of wrapping your head around how people lived and thought in a different time is dropping the sense of inevitability and to some extent, labels. We tend to label and organize and categorize things, but that’s much easier to do with hindsight. People living in the thick of things aren’t always conscious of what will be essential to remember or what it will someday be called. One of the best examples I’ve heard of is the Battle of Gettysburg. When the soldiers marched into the little Pennsylvania town in late June and early July, they had no idea that this battle was going to be on of the most remembered. Some might not have even known the name of the place where they fought, and historians note that letters and diary entries from Gettysburg have to be identified through context because the soldiers, rather than calling it the Battle of Gettysburg, just mention things like having fought in a wheatfield or in a peach orchard. And so this tombstone is labeled not with our modern naming for this war, but as the War with Spain. The appellation the Spanish-American war must not have become standard until after this veteran’s death.

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I will be the first to confess that I didn’t catch this one. My friends who were on vacation with me called this to my attention, and thanks to the power of the internet and a cell phone, we were able to confirm the date as being that of D-Day.

Stanton Byron

Byron Stanton was a member of the 116th United States Infantry who took part in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. He died somewhere on those beaches and was later transported home to rest in the soil of his home state of Pennsylvania on a still-older battlefield.

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Most resources suggest that Orsa as a woman’s name is derived from the Latin word for “bear.” Orsa Lander sleeps in Chester Township Cemetery.


In the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, you can find the grave of Blodwyn Tipton. My quick and not entirely scientific research (can’t believe everything on the internet, you know) indicates that Blodwyn is a Welsh name that means “white flower.”


Asenath Harris Gillam is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. The name Asenath is Biblical: the name of the Egyptian woman who is given to Jacob (son of Joseph) as a wife by the Pharoah.

Asenath Harris Gillam

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The muffled guns sad roll

On fame's eternal camping ground

No rumour of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind.

No vision of the morrows strife

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow;
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop

Nor war’s wild note, nor glory’s peal,
Shall thrill with fierce delight;
Those breasts that never more may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce Northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,
Come down the serried foe;
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew the watchword of the day
Was “Victory or death!”

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.
By rivers of their father’s gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.

Your own proud lands heroic soil

Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead

Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell.
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor time’s remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

Stanzas from “Bivouac of the Dead,” a poem written by Theodore O’Hara in 1847, is on plaques around the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

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In today’s edition of things I never knew, we have the Dental Corps. Both the Army and Navy had a Dental Corps by World War I, formally established by an Act of Congress in 1911 and 1912, respectively.  This was not done out of altruism, but as a response to the need for a system of dental care for soldiers that had plagued the military since the Revolutionary War.

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Lentz (2)

Albert J.
Pvt Hdq Co 13th Infantry Div
Born in Gettysburg Oct. 17th, 1895
Killed in action at Catigny, France
April 27, 1918
The first Gettysburg boy to make the supreme sacrifice in the World War

Lentz (3)

What is it about being the first to die that grants one recognition? I’ve looked at this before, with David Eldridge (who has the distinction of being the first European to die in the Western Reserve). It’s certainly not an honor very many people would vie for. Albert Lentz, from what I can tell, had done nothing particularly noteworthy before his departure for service in Europe. I’m not saying he wasn’t a perfectly nice young man, loved by friends and family, because I don’t know – he seems to have been living an average unrecorded life. Suddenly, he has the misfortune to be the first Gettysburg fatality in the Great War, and he’s a household name – really, he gave his name to the American Legion post in Gettysburg. But what is it about being first? For a far-off war, is it the first body that is not just a body, but the shell of a person who we used to know? For a new place, is it the knowledge that even if we move from this spot, some small part of us will also remain here with the first person we have broken ground to bury?

*Any errors in transcription are my own. I tried to confirm my transcription with online sources, but others disagreed on items I am confident I can read clearly.

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Soldiers National Monument (8)

Lincoln’s now-famous Gettysburg address was given at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The first monument placed in the National Cemetery was the Soldiers National Monument. The cornerstone was laid in 1865 and the monument was finished four years later. The monument sits at the center of the cemetery. Burials of Union Civil War soldiers fan out from the statue in four quadrants,.

The monument is topped by the representation of liberty, crowned with a laurel wreath. She holds a second laurel wreath and a sword at rest to represent “the constant struggle for freedom.”

Soldiers National Monument (9)

At the base of the column that elevates liberty, there are four other statues.

Soldiers National Monument (6)

Soldiers National Monument (5)


Soldiers National Monument (4)


Soldiers National Monument (3)

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All of the free-standing crosses I photographed in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg were stark and simple – a vertical bar with a horizontal crossbeam near the top.  All three were for World War I soldiers who had while in service and two of the three were these simple white constructions that resemble photographs I have seen of the vast World War I cemeteries in France.

Underwood Edward

Feldmann William John


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New York state monument

This monument to the soldiers of New York state at the Battle of Gettysburg stands inside the National Cemetery, making it an interesting combination of cenotaph (as not everyone being honored is buried nearby) and mass funerary monument (since some of those men most undoubtedly were killed at Gettysburg and lie within site of the monument). The symbol at the very top is also a melding of multiple meanings.

New York state monument (2)

Towering high above the slight hills of the cemetery and nearly alone on this section of landscape (save the Solder’s National Monument), a woman clothed in classical garb holds out a laurel wreath as if to crown the brow of an invisible New York soldier before her. Laurel wreaths outside of the cemetery have long been a sign of victory, and so seem a fitting tribute to those New York soldiers who helped bring this important victory to the Union. In the cemetery, laurel wreaths signify not victory at war or competition, but of the soul over death, as well as immortality. This monument braids together multiple meanings by its placement inside another place of dual purposes: a cemetery that was once a battlefield.

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