The Carriage House Inn B&B

Check Availability | 434-846-1388

Blog

Old City Cemetery-Confederate Section

Posted on
Old City Cemetery

Old City Cemetery Confederate Section in the fall

For many people in Lynchburg, the “Confederate Cemetery” is the Old City Cemetery.  Early maps often referred to Confederate Cemetery, not Old City Cemetery.  Why are there over 2,200 Confederate soldiers, from 14 states, buried in Lynchburg?

Although there was no significant military engagement in or near Lynchburg, the city was home to the second largest permanent hospital center in the Confederacy.  The Civil War was the first war, fought in the United States, where injured soldiers were removed from the battlefield, placed onto box cars and taken to the nearest “hospital town” for treatment, surgery or to die.  As Lynchburg had three major rail lines soldiers were oftentimes brought here.  Tens of thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, were treated in local hospitals (previously used as tobacco warehouses).  When they died they were brought to the city’s only public burial ground, Old City Cemetery, where it was customary to bury “strangers” and those without relatives nearby.

In 1861 the first of 2,500 Civil War soldiers was buried in the cemetery.  There are over 2,000 white marble headstones in the Confederate section, each with two lines of inscription.  The first line gives the soldier’s initials and the second line gives an abbreviation for his military unit and state.  The headstones were installed by the Southern Memorial Association between 1904 and 1915, at a cost of $1.25 each.

In 1866 the Union soldiers buried in the cemetery were exhumed.  Many were sent to their hometowns.  Approximately 200 Union soldiers were relocated to Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, VA.

Old City Cemetery

Winter at the Confederate Section of Ole City Cemetery

The Confederate Section is bordered on 3 sides by a boxwood hedge and the old brick wall on the fourth.  The 500-foot long, five foot tall brick wall was constructed in 1886.  You enter this section of the cemetery through the entrance arch.  Made from granite, the arch was built in 1926.  It serves as a gateway and a memorial.

In 1869 the Monument to the States was erected.  It is the oldest Confederate monument in Virginia and the fourth oldest in the United States.  Each of the 14 blocks bears the name of a state represented by soldiers buried here.  The order of states is based on the space needed for the lettering, not the number of soldiers from each state buried here.

In 1931 the large concrete bench, Veteran’s Bench, and the domed temple or belvedere, Speakers Belvedere, were built for the annual Memorial Day ceremony.  The Memorial Day ceremony has been held almost every year since 1866.  It is a most interesting and educational ceremony to attend.  Review the Old City Cemetery calendar of events for next year’s date and time.

In addition to the graves of individual Confederate soldiers is a section called Negro Row.  Ten African-Americans are buried within or adjacent to the Confederate Section.  Most of those buried in Negro Row were slaves who worked in the local military hospitals.  Others included body servants of Confederate military officers.  The only woman buried in the Confederate Section during the war was a slave known only as “Jane”.

The first Civil War soldier buried in Lynchburg was Pvt.Thomas P. Plunkett.  He died of disease at the old Lynchburg College hospital on June 17, 1862.  There are six known soldiers buried here who died in the Battle of Lynchburg, June 17-18, 1864.  Three known soldiers buried here were deserters.  All died when shot for desertion.

Using data from George A. Diuguid’s excellent cemetery records a six-sided kiosk and information display was erected in 1995. Descendants can use the kiosk to search for their soldiers name and burial location.

Throughout June, July and August when the Cemetery hosts free, walking tours (10:00 am each Saturday) of the cemetery time is always spent in the Confederate Section.  The Candlelight Tours, held during October, usually tell the story of a Confederate soldier buried here.  Or, if you would like to do research on your own burial records are available in the Cemetery Center.

During the past two summers local professors and students interested in archaeology have been conducting “below ground archaeology” surveys in the Confederate Section.  By removing and scraping the soil only six inches deep usually reveals very clear answers to grave locations and orientation.  The soil in a grave shaft is looser and a different color from the undisturbed “walls” of the grave shaft.  Although graves are traditionally six feet deep, graves found here are often only four feet deep or sometimes as shallow as one foot deep.

Almost every guest who has stayed with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast has visited the Old City Cemetery.  Some take advantage of the tours or events, others wander and enjoy the peacefulness of the cemetery grounds where they might take pictures or contemplate those who have passed on.