Tombstones overlooking the James.

As most of you know, I had a Valentine’s Day book signing at Shirley Plantation for my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray this week. With so much to see in Richmond, I went a day early–and stayed a day later. My first stop was Hollywood Cemetery.

Hollywood Cemetery is hard to describe. To say it is large and sprawling is an understatement, as every time I go there I have to give myself at least 30 extra minutes to find my way back out. Its paths wind through 135 acres of valleys, over hills, and beneath stately trees. The architectural beauty of the monuments, statues, buildings, fences, and tombs is just breathtaking.

Black monument in background
is President James Monroe’s
resting place. His casket is
entombed within.

In addition the beauty of the cemetery’s rolling hills and winding paths that overlook the James River, Hollywood has historic value as well. It is the resting place of two United States Presidents (James Monroe and John Tyler), as well as Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. It is also the resting place of 25 Confederate generals–more than any other cemetery in the country–and thousands of Confederate soldiers, 11,000 of whom are listed as “unknown,” killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. In addition, six Virginia governors are buried there as well as two Supreme Court Justices.

Hollywood Cemetery was started in 1849 on land once owned by William Byrd II that was known as “Harvie’s Woods.” It was designed in the rural garden style, with its name, “Hollywood,” coming from the holly trees dotting the hills of the property.

Pyramid to men of
Confederate army.

In 1869, a 90-foot high granite pyramid was built as a memorial to the more than 18,000 enlisted men of the Confederate Army buried in the cemetery. My picture doesn’t show how tall and impressive this monument is. The pyramid was erected from granite stones pulled from the nearby James River, and was built by labor from the nearby State Penitentiary. It has a supernatural story behind it as well, as there are claims from visitors that they hear soft moans coming from around and inside the pyramid. Some say it is the soldiers that have not ever been identified trying to make their presence known. It is also common for people to feel cold spots around the pyramid.

There are many local legends surrounding certain tombs and grave sites in the cemetery, including one about a little girl and the black iron statue of a dog standing watch over her grave. This one is a little creepy for me because I had never heard this story until I started writing this blog. However, when I was lost and trying to find my way out of Hollywood, I did a u-turn and this monument was right in front of me, so I stopped and took a picture.

Dog guarding a little girl.

I have since learned that this grave belongs to a Rees who’s first name was most likely Bernadine. The girl passed away of Scarlet Fever in 1862 at the age of three. Grounds people have told of seeing the apparition of the little girl playing with the dog at night, and visitors claim that they will pass by and it will be pointed one way and when they come back by it will be pointed another. It is also claimed that you can hear it growl when you get close to the girls grave. (It only wagged its tail at me 🙂

Just to give you an idea of the Civil War officers that are buried at Hollywood, they include Richard Garnett, Eppa Hutton, Henry Heth, Fitzhugh Lee, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Surgeon Hunter McGuire (who amputated Stonewall Jackson’s arm), John Pegram and George Pickett.

 Here are a few of the other photos I took of historical Civil War figures. Please stop by next week when I show some of the photos of the heart-wrenching and poignant epitaphs I ran across.

Gen. George Pickett. Grave beside
his monument is his wife,
moved  there in 1998.

Unknown soldier

Eppa Hutton

Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. His little
daughter Flora, who died during
the war, is buried behind him.

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