Yesterday was my last day working at Andersonville. The two months flew like the wind but in that brief time I learned more about the Civil War than in all my time in school. This morning I finished a book called Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy by Peter Carlson, a nonfiction account of two New York reporters who were captured by the Confederacy and held for 19 months in Southern prisons, most notably Salisbury Prison, North Carolina. Salisbury was brutal even by Andersonville standards. It's an easy read, mostly reconstructed from their correspondence, but what I liked best about it was how it brought the war down from the Generals, big battles, death rates, and chronicles of disease to the people who lived in it and through it: those who participated in the Underground Railroad not only to help slaves escape north but also to protect Unionists, Confederate deserters, Union soldiers who came home to the south on furlough, and New York reporters who wanted to go home.
But I digress.
While at Andersonville I found myself collecting tombstones. I've been accused of having "all these hobbies" and he was probably right, but I've enjoyed them all, including my fascination with cemeteries. While wandering the rows in the cemetery I started noting the different faiths represented at the top of most markers, birth and death dates, wars participated in, and what I call tombstone sayings. Families apparently have a designated number of spaces and lines in which to record something about their loved one. Lots and lots say things like BELOVED WIFE MOTHER AND NANA (punctuation not allowed). I don't plan to be planted but rather scattered so there won't be anything said about me that won't be carried on the wind, but I'd still like to think my kids or I could come up with something more original and on the far end of the sassy spectrum. One note, before I show a sample of the tombstones I've "collected," and I don't mean disrespect, but in the thousands of grave markers I walked among, not one said, HE WAS AN SOB.
So here are some that struck my heart or piqued my interest, leaving me with questions that likely will never be answered. I will apologize in advance for the funky spacing of the photos. It took me more time to try to place these in some kind of order than it did to take the photos and process them. Thanks, Blogger, for making it hard.
|Gone fishing with the Lord.|
|I'm as free as a bird now.|
|A bag of tools by R.L. Sharpe.|
|All good Navy men rest in peace.|
|Beloved son and brother. God bless you, shining star.|
|He ain't heavy, he's my brother.|
|I wonder what significance the lion and the lamb, with a child between them, has to the family.|
|The symbol for atheism.|
|Eagle, globe, and anchor - Shanghai.|
|I love you until the 12th of never.|
|The same on his. Note they died within weeks of each other.|
|A Civil War era marker, I think a reinterment from another cemetery, but almost none of them have the date of death noted.|
|May your garden grow in heaven.|
|Purple Heart. POW. Say goodbye, Ed.|
|You're one of a kind.|
|Beloved father, pilot, & golfer. Bit of a rascal.|
|The giant is home.|
|I am with you at each new dawn.|
|A Southern lady of style & grace.|
|We love you. PS, God loves you.|
|The sunshine lady.|
|Don't worry, be happy.|
|Forever a song in my heart.|
|Her life touched many.|
|Volunteer American field service. Killed in action. Ambulance driver in Burma.|
|The first man to die at Andersonville. Subsequent graves were numbered.|
Thought of the day:
Isn't it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.