Monday, April 25, 2011

Crazy History

One of the weirdest grave markers in the US is in a tiny family cemetery -- maybe ten total plots -- near the fields in a defunct plantation in Orange County, VA. The plantation, Ellwood, was home to a small family and their fifty to a hundred slaves. War came to that neck of the woods in May of 1863 when the Army of the Potomac, then led by "Fighting" Joe Hooker, clashed with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the area around the nearby home of the Chancellor family, known as Chancellorsville. The Battle of Chancellorsville is lesser known for being Lee's greatest victory, affording him the hubris to launch his ill-fated invasion of Pennsylvania a month later. The battle is better known for being the place in which the South's military prospects took a major hit, as their greatest tactician besides Lee, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, was shot by his own men late at night after a scouting mission. Two bullets ended up in his left arm and he was rushed to the field hospital, which was set up at the aforementioned Ellwood plantation house. Doctors amputated the arm and he was taken to a house some miles away where he would die about a week later from pneumonia, having never recovered from his wounds. The arm was left on the floor of the house -- the floor is still painted black to cover the bloodstains -- and one of the house's inhabitants picked it up, wanting to make sure it was properly honored. This proper honor meant that they buried the arm in their small family cemetery. In the 148 years since, it has been verified twice that the arm is, indeed, buried there, under the only marker in the cemetery. A marker that pays homage to the appendage of a Southern hero.

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