Civil War Cemetery Meditation

in dark shadows cast
by a cemetery sun,
Spirits of the past
stand by nameless headstones
whispering sad stories
of young lives prematurely
lost to death’s cold hand
on Civil War battlefields.

Courageous in the battle,
Confederate and Union
brother against brother,
these soldiers did their best
and prayed a loving God
would someday give them rest.
Now weathered by the years,
an old stone angel
still guards these forlorn graves
giving lost souls direction
with her missing hand. ~ms



Graveyard-CrossWe moved to the Fredericksburg / Spotsylvania Virginia area about 10 years ago, and we are surrounded by Civil War Battlefields. In fact, I recently found out that we are actually living on the Chancellorsville Battlefield.  (The battlefield encompasses a rather large area of land, and some houses were built on part of it before the National Park Service purchased the rest).

Because I am living on a battlefield, I often think about the war, even though I don’t know much about the specific battles.  Sometimes—when it is damp, cold, and rainy like today—I look through my kitchen window and imagine young soldiers wandering around out there (a few no older than 10 years old), far from the comfort of home. Tired, wet, and probably feeling lost.

There is also a long trench hidden in the woods of our backyard. I think of the soldiers lying there on wet leaves trying to sleep, most likely dealing with spiders, mosquitoes, deer ticks, and an occasional snake. I’m sure that many of them, when no one else was looking, laid there and cried uncontrollably.

When good people are born into difficult situations, hard decisions often have to be made. I am sure that all of the soldiers of the American Civil War spent many a dark night wishing they were in their warm beds at home, with a comforting fire burning in the family hearth. But fate, and the unsettled sociopolitical atmosphere of those times, pulled their lives in a different direction. Both sides courageously did the best that they could.

God bless them all.

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Civil War, photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Civil War Cemetery Meditation

  1. That was very well written, and very moving!


  2. Mary, this is so beautiful! My husband is a huge Civil War buff…he will love this!


    • Thanks Jennifer. I thought I was “surrounded” by the Chancellorsville Civil War battlefield until I went to the Visitor Center (about 2 miles from here). When I told the tour guide where I lived she said, “OH….You are one of those people who live ON The battlefield.
      Yep. Seems that I am actually “in” the Civil War.
      Apparently, a few houses were built before all of the land around here was set aside and became a National Park (that’s why I have so many pictures of deer). People say that I should not be surprised if the ghost of Stonewall Jackson comes to my door one night looking for his arm….


  3. ajaytao2010 says:

    Beautiful post Mary

    I Nominate you for the prestigious Hug Award – Hope Unites Globally
    Please accept & oblige.


    Please read the instructions carefully in the link provided
    on the awards page and follow suit


  4. Pingback: The Hug Award – HOPE UNITES GLOBALLY | Ajaytao 2010

  5. Enjoyed reading this. There was a Confederate cemetary right across the street from my brother’s house in Alton, IL.


    • The Union cemetery in downtown Fredericksburg is very large and well-maintained, because it is part of the National Park Service. On the other hand, this Confederate cemetery is rather unkempt and overgrown because it is not part of the National Park Service (or so I am told). As a result it is more “hauntingly” beautiful, with dead limbs on the ground and a few headstones broken and fallen over. Nature seems to have had the final say here.


      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        I visited Fredericksburg when I went to North Carolina to visit my friend Paul in 2011. I will write about it when I will post something more on my blog.


    • Thanks! Fredericksburg Virginia has many Civil War battlefields, but I am not as familiar with the war as the people who grew up in this area.
      And, I did not find out until recently that our house is actually sitting in the Chancellorsville battlefield. Apparently, this small subdivision was built before the surrounding area was bought by the National Park Service. As of yet, I haven’t seen any ghosts wandering around in the yard at night. 😉


  6. Mohamed Arafath says:

    Respect to those Heroes


  7. bunkerville says:

    Very moving post. Thanks.


  8. robert87004 says:

    Excellent photos and poetry, unfortunately war is a horrid act of man.


    • Within all things, there is good and bad.
      If history is not remembered, the same mistakes are often repeated again and again. By examining history and remembering the circumstances that led to war, we learn.
      And if we take the time to learn from past mistakes, we may be able to avert wars in the future. We may be able to keep more young lives from being lost prematurely.
      Or maybe not.
      There is sadness in this post.
      It does not glorify war.


      • robert87004 says:

        I have written you a reply twice, in depth. Both times it has disappeared from WordPress as I was finishing. Perhaps I should just say that my comment was thoughtless and that I apologize for not taking a moment’s time to think. The comment did not refer to your poetry nor your photos, just a non-specific statement that served no purpose here.


      • It’s OK, Robert.
        Perhaps I should have written an epilogue under the poem and the photos—to explain.
        I think that is what I will do. Thank you for giving me the idea.


  9. Such an honoring post – thank you for the great photos and beautiful words!


  10. Evocative – in words and images.


  11. I can relate to how you imagine the soldiers in the trench and battle fields next to your home. There are places so steeped in history that is almost impossible not to ‘see’ the past in them.


  12. Galen says:

    I love visiting Civil War sites and their associated graveyards. We had an incredible visual experience at Gettysburg once. I’ve never been to the battlefields in your area, but some day I hope to!


  13. Pierre Lagacé says:

    A reblogué ceci sur Our Ancestors and commented:
    A post on the blog of a blogger who posted a comment on one of my posts about the Civil War.


  14. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog Our Ancestors.


  15. Reblogged this on The First Gates and commented:
    We are barely a month shy of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville, one of the key clashes of the Civil War. At the Chancellorsville Visitor Center, Mary Stong-Spaid discovered her home is actually on the battlefield. Earlier this month, she offered these moving reflections and photographs of Civil War graves and monuments.


  16. Lois Farley Shuford says:

    Hello Mary – I found your post in the re-blog on Morgan Mussel’s site. Glad to find your blog.
    My g-grandfather was in both Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville battles (an Irish immigrant fighting on the Union side). You might want to take a look at Ken Burns’ fine PBS documentary on the Civil War. It will give you some background on your backyard!


  17. John says:

    Marvelous Shots. We have a small private civil war era cemetery here on the farm where vets of the North Carolina Infantry and their spouses are buried. I’m familiar with the Fredericksburg / Spotsylvania Area having worked in broadcast news in Richmond for many years. Thanks for the follow.


  18. bluebee says:

    A beautifully wrought contemplation. “I think of the soldiers lying there on wet leaves trying to sleep, most likely dealing with spiders, mosquitoes, deer ticks, and an occasional snake.” This is the kind of thing I would wonder about 🙂
    What a fascinating place to live.


    • It is very interesting to think about. All the things that are around here now (Subway, Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Giant Food, Home Depot, Burger King, the Spotsylvania mall–etc., etc. etc.), were certainly not around back then. The soldiers had no place to quickly grab a hot sandwich and a drink. Probably took most of their baths in the Rappahannock river or the pouring rain. Couldn’t send a text message to a buddy, email a friend, or call home to mom. Couldn’t jump on Facebook to see how their friends were doing. The young men (many young boys) of the Civil War were totally out on their own–trying to deal with the environment, the “enemy”, and themselves. They had to grow up fast.


  19. Patty B says:

    Very moving and beautiful. We live near Gettysburg and have traveled to other Civil War sights and often the Confederate Soldiers seem to be forgotten – that was a lovely tribute to their bravery.


    • Thanks, Patty.
      When we first bought this house, I knew we were surrounded by the Chancellorsville Battlefield.
      I eventually found out that the reason we are surrounded by the battlefield, is because we are actually in it.
      Which kind of explains why I kept seeing the shadow of a man playing a piano (in the living room)—while this house was being built.
      Now I have a piano in that room. I positioned it exactly where I saw the shadow of it. I am a singer, so having a piano is a good thing. Once I brought the piano in the house, the shadow man with the wide brimmed hat disappeared. 😉 I guess he was happy? And me? I had always wanted a piano……


  20. gdmkimages says:

    Great post and how incredible to be living in such an interesting location. I have been lucky enough to visit some of the WW1 battlefields where my great grandfather fought and died. I have also visited a lot of the Normandy sites and am always struck with how quiet and peaceful they now seem. Yet not too long ago they were filled with noise, smoke, fear, heroism, tears, bravery and so many other emotions. I always feel in awe at these hidden scenes and have the utmost respect for what were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I would love to come over some time and see some of the civil war sites.


    • I agree. Standing here—feeling the warm sunlight and soft breezes, and the birds singing in the trees–and then remembering that this same place was once a battlefield,with gunshots, fear, sadness, and death. Now It is almost hard to believe that all that happened then. Sometimes in my thoughts I see young soldiers leaning up against the oak trees and sitting in the leaves, completely exhausted. Wishing the war would end; wishing they could go home again.


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