Richmond Cemeteries is truly wonderful, I was really taken by it. Never having visited Richmond, I was quite curious about the city and its famous cemetery, Hollywood. Before I set before you the transcription of my dialog with the authors, let me give you a synopsis of the book based on the Arcadia press release:
Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy and once one of the most prosperous cities in the United States, is home to a range of cemeteries that tell the story of American trends in honoring the dead. The book boasts 200 vintage images, many of which have never been published, and showcases memories of days gone by.
African slaves were interred in Shockoe Bottom’s so-called “burial ground for negroes,” U.S. presidents James Monroe and John Tyler were buried in Hollywood Cemetery, and Civil War soldiers were commemorated throughout the metropolis. During and shortly after the Civil War, Richmond worked to accommodate thousands of new graves. Today, Richmonders work to preserve and celebrate the past while making way for the future.
Highlights of “Richmond Cemeteries” include details of urban legends of Richmond, historical figures buried in Richmond cemeteries, and stories related to Edgar Allan Poe, who was a Richmond resident.
|Ruins after the burning of Richmond, 1865|
Interview with authors Christine Stoddard and Misty Thomas
CT: Cemetery Traveler
|As the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was at the heart of the Civil War|
CT: Richmond having been the capital of the Confederate States of America, I was intrigued by the wartime photos of the city in your book. Also, the related wartime history in Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery, such as the Union Army soldiers buried there. Can you comment for our readers on why Union soldiers would be buried south of the Mason-Dixon Line and Confederate soldiers buried in the north? This is something people generally don’t think about.
CT: In your introduction, you talk about the African American Burial Ground that was paved over by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to build a parking lot. A similar situation occurred in Philadelphia in 1956, where Temple University wanted the nearby land occupied by Monument Cemetery for a parking lot. They convinced the city to condemn it. Since I do a lot of research into abandoned cemeteries, I find it wonderful that you would mention that travesty right there in your introduction. Why did you do that?
|Jefferson Davis and family, post-war (1884 or 1885)|
CT: Your stories about famous people related to the stones and monuments in Richmond cemeteries are wonderful. I never saw the document reproduced on page 38, “An Address to the People of the Free States,” by Jefferson Davis. Being a northerner schooled with northern history books, this sort of document makes you realize how biased history books are. What is your take on that?
|Confederate Army Gen. J.E.B. Stuarts's temporary grave|
|Poe's grave in Baltimore|
CT: I have friend who is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization and his current project is documenting (with GPS positioning and database entry) the locations of Jewish Confederate Civil War Veterans buried in Philadelphia. I believe he has so far documented about 200, which were not previously in the database. I will loan him your book and point out the photo of the “Hebrew Confederate Soldiers Cemetery” (p. 119). How did you find out this is the only Jewish military cemetery located outside Israel?
|Walkers at family plot (around 1903)|
|U.S. President James Monroe's cast iron tomb in Hollywood Cemetery|
A: One of the reasons I decided to pitch and pursue the project was because I had noticed so many books and articles about Hollywood and, to a lesser extent, Shockoe Hill and St. John's Church graveyard, with comparatively little attention paid to Richmond's other cemeteries. I wanted to put Hollywood in geographic and cultural context. It may be the city's most popular cemetery, but I wanted readers to know that it is not the only notable burial ground. Other cemeteries, especially ones established for or by Richmond's African-American community, have too often been neglected from public memory and basic care. Perhaps by raising awareness of these other cemeteries, the public will feel compelled to better maintain their graves and grounds.
|Memorial Day, the tradition of remembering our American armed forces dead, began at Hollywood Cemetery|
CT: Do you have any advice for people who want to visit these wonderful Richmond cemeteries? A starting point, perhaps?
CT: I thank you for introducing me (and hopefully many other readers) to the cemeteries of Richmond besides Hollywood Cemetery! That is the one everyone talks about. A couple I know used to live near there and have taunted me with stories of its grandeur, and how they enjoyed strolling its grounds. I have another friend who has done restoration work there. Unfortunately I’ve never been to Hollywood Cemetery or Richmond itself. Your book has whetted my appetite! Thank you!