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Posts Tagged ‘virginia’

Women's War Memorial

This is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial and the exhibits and archives associated with it are dedicated to honoring all women who have served with or in support of the United States armed forces.

This is a photo I took from the back of the memorial, looking out at a section of the cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery from the Women's War Memorial

It’s hard to see because this photo was taken on a cheap film camera and then scanned to digital, but the very closest tombstone is that of a woman who served in World War II.

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On days when I don’t necessarily know what I want to write about, I check out pages that feature “this day in history” columns. According to the History Channel, on March 14, 1967, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s body was moved to its current (and theoretically permanent) gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thinking back, I think that JFK’s grave was probably the first one I was consciously aware of. I was a lucky child in that I did not experience the deaths of any friends or close relatives that I was conscious of until late elementary school, and so the grave of a historical figure took the place of a more personal connection to cemeteries. In addition, the assassination of JFK was such a significant moment for my mother’s generation that I grew up knowing that that she was sitting in her junior high school classroom when the announcement of his death came over the loudspeaker. I don’t remember a time before I know that a president had been assassinated during my mother’s life time and that he rested under an eternal flame outside of Washington, D.C. Despite all of that, I have never visited JFK’s grave in person. I’ve taken only one actual trip to Arlington, and that was to view the Women in Military Service Memorial. But JFK’s burial in Arlington is part of the cultural milieu, something that I have known from before I could comprehend the significance and symbolism. Are there any other cemeteries or graves in American culture that are so famous? (Perhaps Grant’s tomb due to the old “who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” thing.)

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The internet is a strange place. People come looking for all sorts of things, and occasionally they stumble on my blog and photographs. About once a week I check on the stats for the blog to see what brings people here, and I probably look at my Flickr stats about once a month to see what photos are getting the most views.

For reasons that I have yet to fathom, my most viewed photo on Flickr is a fairly grainy shot of my grandfather’s hunting themed birthday cake that probably predates my birth. But what I wanted to look at today was my most viewed cemetery photos.

The most viewed cemetery photo of all (4th most viewed of all photos) is one from the Nurse family cemetery at the Rebecca Nurse homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts. It lists the names of the people who testified on Rebecca Nurse’s behalf during the Salem Witch Trials.

Salem Monument

This makes a lot of sense to me, as the Salem Witch trials elicit a lot of interest even today. My 4th most viewed cemetery photo is the stone cenotaph for Rebecca Nurse at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.

Rebecca Nurse stone

Number two is my rather poor photo of the stone for Helen Pitts Douglass from Rochester, New York. I’m guessing it gets the hits it does because Frederick Douglass, her husband, is mentioned in the description.

Grave of Helen Pitts Douglass

The third and fifth most viewed cemetery photos are for Confederate general’s graves in the same town: Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

Stonewall Jackson's grave

Robert E. Lee's tomb

These photos, poor as many of them are, have received well over 100 views each. I’m going to revisit this again, because I am curious about what photos of mine that aren’t of famous people’s graves get visitors.

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Two years after the American West trip, I earned my final credits for graduation on another road trip course that toured the American South, and that was really the next time that I took any tombstone photographs. But I began to feel the pull of graveyards – during our visit to New Orleans, one of my disappointments was that I didn’t manage to squeeze in a tour of any of the famous cemeteries (My friend Matt and I did join in on a Ghost Tour that centered on the French Quarter.)

Robert E. Lee's tomb

Stonewall Jackson's grave

As part of the course, we visited the cemetery where General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is interred and General Robert E. Lee’s tomb on the campus of Washington and Lee University. I still restricted my cemetery photograph to “famous” graves, but my definition of famous had expanded a little. In addition to Stonewall Jackson and Lee, I took photographs of other Confederate officers’ grave markers.

William Pendleton Grave

Col. Alexander Pendleton, CSA

I look back at the photographs from this trip, and I could kick myself. I see all those other tombstones in the background of the Jackson and Pendleton photos, and I wish I had known then how fascinated I would become with cemeteries.

And, why, oh, why, didn’t I get a photograph of the marker for Lee’s horse, Traveller, who rests just outside the chapel door?

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