The Tombstone House in Petersburg, Virginia is a wonderful example of waste not, want not. Or is it waste not, haunt-not? Only the owners would know.  
Though it may look like a typical stone house, its foundation has macabre origins. The building was constructed in 1934 from the bottom half of government-issued marble tombstones that previously topped the graves of Union soldiers in Poplar Lawn Cemetery.
The soldiers all died in the siege of Petersburg, which lasted for nine months at the end of the Civil War. They were eventually buried at Poplar Lawn Cemetery. After their original wooden grave markers rotted away, the government installed upright marble headstones to take their place.
However, during the Great Depression, maintaining the cemetery and the headstones suffered because of scant funding. The city decided to cut the tombstones in half and lay the top halves, which were engraved with the soldiers’ details, on the ground so they no longer stood erect. These makeshift flat graves saved money on mowing and maintenance costs. 
The bottom halves of 2,200 slain tombstones were then sold for the princely sum of $45. Their new owner, Oswald Young, used them to build his house, chimney, and walkway. Must be nice and cool (ghoul?) in the summer, but it may not the most inviting door to knock on during Halloween.

Know Before You Go
Easy access from the Squirrel Level Road Exit 65, off I-85. Go north on Squirrel Level, through the traffic light. Squirrel Level becomes Youngs Road. Tombstone House is the third house on the left, not even a half a mile off the interstate.
Source: Atlas Abscura

Note: The article is incorrect in one respect as the tombstones were taken from Poplar Grove National Cemetery, not Poplar Lawn “Cemetery”. Poplar Lawn is located in Petersburg and is now Central Park. During the siege it was the site of one of the Confederate hospitals and burials from that hospital were at Blandford Church Cemetery. Thanks to Chris Bryce for the clarification. By the way, Poplar Grove National Cemetery had gone under a wonderful restoration project in recent years. It was rededicated in April, 2017 and if you are in the Petersburg area it is well worth a visit.


Bridge That Witnessed First Shots Of Civil War To Be Stabilized At Manassas National Battlefield


Pictured above: Stone masons will be making repairs on the historic stone bridge at
Manassas National Battlefield through the rest of the year/NPS

Bridge That Witnessed First Shots Of Civil War To Be Stabilized At Manassas National Battlefield

     Work is underway on nearly $1 million worth of repairs to the historic stone bridge that witnessed the first shots of the first battle of the Civil War. Located within Manassas National Battlefield in Virginia, the bridge will have its stone masonry repaired and the road surface repaved under an $817,000 contract.
     While the work is not expected to be completed before January, the bridge will remain open during most of the work, according to park staff.
     Missing and damaged stones on the exterior of the bridge will be replaced and repaired using techniques employed when the bridge was completed in the 1880s. Additional work includes repairing damage to the center pier caused by years of erosion and replacing the deteriorating cement coating on the underside of the bridge. While some contemporary methods and materials will be used to ensure long-term durability, this work will not change the bridge’s historic look and feel. 
     For one to two weeks in late November and/or early December, the bridge will close while crews replace the surface people walk across. For safety, visitors are reminded to remain cognizant of the construction work and follow any detour or routing directions. The parking area near the bridge will remain open throughout the project.
     During the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), Union artillerists positioned east of the bridge fired the opening shots of the battle over the stream crossing on the morning of July 21, 1861. Originally built around 1825, Stone Bridge survived the First Battle of Manassas only to have Confederate forces destroy the span in March 1862. Union army engineers constructed a temporary wooden span over the bridge ruins in 1862, and the Union Army of Virginia used this wooden bridge during the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) in late August 1862. The present-day Stone Bridge was completed in the 1880s on the site of the earlier bridge, and remained open to vehicles until the mid-1920s.
     This important project was funded, in part, through a Virginia Department of Transportation, Transportation Alternatives Program grant.

Below: The bridge was destroyed by Confederation forces in 1862/NPS


Acting Superintendent named for Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS

Charles E. “Chuck” Hunt Selected as Acting Superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site

Charles E. “Chuck” Hunt has been selected as the acting superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site. He will arrive on October 17 and serve in this position until January 2018.

Hunt currently serves as superintendent of the Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Park Service (NPS) where he leads the agency’s collaboration with partners to provide better access to the Chesapeake and rivers, to conserve important landscapes and resources, to engage youth in stewardship and place-based education, to improve recreational opportunities, and to interpret the natural and cultural heritage of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. He also manages the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Star-Spangled Trail as part of his current duties.

"I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve as acting superintendent for Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site for the next few months," said Hunt.  "The stories, landscapes and resources of these two parks have inspired generations."

Hunt brings with him leadership experience in the NPS and as regional director in Western Europe for the American Battle Monuments Commission. In that role, he managed 23 geographically dispersed sites in France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. Hunt directed all aspects of management including diplomatic affairs, intergovernmental relations, partnerships, budget formulation and execution, personnel management, resource management, interpretation, and special initiatives. Hunt's previous NPS experience includes assignments as superintendent of Fort Davis National Historical Park, management assistant at Big Thicket National Preserve, and special assistant within the Department of the Interior where he engaged in high-level policy and political issues and support to the Clean Water Action Plan.

Gay Vietzke, regional director for the NPS Northeast Region, said, "Chuck Hunt’s experience managing national parks, as well as major partnership and collaborative efforts, makes him particularly well suited for this temporary assignment, especially as we approach next month’s commemoration of the anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address."

Ed W. Clark, Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site superintendent, is on detail as the acting chief for the Park Planning and Special Studies Division of the Northeast Regional Office.

Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects and interprets for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, during the American Civil War, the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and their commemorations. Learn more at

Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and farms of the Eisenhower family as a fitting and enduring memorial to the life, work, and times of General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, and to the events of far-reaching importance that occurred on the property.  Learn more at


Thomas Fleming, Historian of the Revolution, Dies at 90

Thomas Fleming, shown bleow in 1999, insisted that the American struggle for independence continued to inform much of the nation’s subsequent history. NYT photo by Chester Higgins Jr


Thomas Fleming, Historian of the Revolution, Dies at 90

Article by Richard Sandomir      July 27, 2017

Thomas Fleming, a prolific historian with a zealous interest in America’s founding fathers and a historical novelist whose plots included a British conspiracy to kidnap George Washington, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son Thomas Jr.

Mr. Fleming, the loquacious son of a tough New Jersey pol, viewed America’s struggle for independence as essential to understanding the history that followed. “So much of what happened later is virtually anchored in the Revolution,” he told the Journal of the American Revolution in 2013. “The whole Civil War pivots on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

He added: “Even Woodrow Wilson’s wild claim that we were in World War I to make the world safe for democracy goes back to the sense that we were launching a revolution that would change the world. And it has!”

Mr. Fleming wrote biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. He chronicled the battles of Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord and a lesser-known one in Springfield, N.J., in 1780. He wrote about the seminal year 1776. And he looked back at the duel in 1804 between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

In her review of “Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America” (1999), Katharine Whittemore wrote in Salon that Mr. Fleming had created a “stunning panorama of the fledgling nation” and “a parable of titanic intellect and potential subverted by ambition; of vindictiveness, venality, lust, chimerical visions of empire and, finally, murder.”

Mr. Fleming had been writing history books filled with powerful men for nearly 50 years when, in 2009, he chose to focus on the influence of the wives, mothers and girlfriends of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Adams and James Madison.

He chronicled the women’s stories collectively in “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” which The Washington Post called it a “well researched peek into the boudoirs of America’s political architects.”

Mr. Fleming had already written novels from a female perspective; one was “The Officers’ Wives,” a bestseller in 1981. He also benefited from the increasing availability of the women’s letters.

One powerful woman in “Intimate Lives” was Mary Ball, Washington’s mother. Mr. Fleming told C-Span in 2010 that she “had a ferocious temper and was very strong-willed, and she tried to make George her faithful servant.”

To escape her influence, he said, Washington wanted to join the Royal Navy, but his half brother Lawrence intervened. “Imagine how different the country would have been” if Washington had served Britain, Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Fleming sometimes departed from the Revolutionary era, taking on the Civil War, both world wars and the histories of West Point and New Jersey. But he would return to the period that most fascinated him, as he did in “The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation” (2015) and “The Strategy of Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution,” which he completed in March. It is to be published in October.

(for rest of article click on this link to the NYT)

World War II Weekend set for September 16 and 17 at Eisenhower National Historic Site


GETTYSBURG, Pa. – On September 16 and 17, the National Park Service will sponsor its 21st annual World War II living history weekend at the Eisenhower National Historic Site.  The public is invited to tour World War II encampments of over 700 living historians portraying Allied and German troops. The camps are authentically recreated by over 90 living history units and include original World War II vehicles. 
Living history volunteers will present programs throughout the weekend on WWII weapons and equipment, communications, medical services, military vehicles, and the life of the common soldier. Dozens of operational WWII vehicles will be on display, including a Sherman tank and a tank destroyer. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in an Army Air Force mission briefing, join an infantry platoon on patrol, and listen to stories of civilians from the Home Front.

The weekend also features book signings, special guided tours of World War II burial sites in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and a World War II style “USO” dance. Both days, visitors may purchase lunch at the site courtesy of the Heidlersburg Volunteer Fire Company.

Guest speakers for the event include World War II veterans, authors, camp survivors, a playwright and more:

Saturday, September 16

10:00 a.m. – Kenneth Weiler, author of several books on World War II, will speak on why the Normandy Invasion was closely tied strategically to what was happening on the Eastern Front.

11:00 a.m. – Colonel Dick Camp is an author, historian, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. He will discuss the daring U.S. Marine raid on Makin Island that took place in August 1942.
12:00 noon –  David S. Wisnia is a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  During a transfer from Auschwitz to Dachau, he escaped and was “adopted” by the 506th Parachute Infantry Reg., 101st Airborne Div.  for whom he served as interpreter. 

1:00 p.m. – Catherine Ladnier has written a play, Letters to Eva, based on the life of a Jewish soldier in the U.S. Army, Corporal Herbert Rosencrans, and the letters he sent home to his mother. Her program focuses on the Jewish contribution to Allied victory in the war.

2:00 p.m. – Bill Wagaman served with the 36th U.S. Infantry Div. in Italy and France during 1943-1944.  Shortly after the Allied landings in the South of France, he was wounded and captured by the Germans and spent most of the rest of the war as a POW. 

3:00 p.m.  - Bob Stanley will discuss U.S. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright who was captured in 1942 when the Philippines fell to the Japanese. 
Sunday, September 17

10:00 a.m. – Bob Cutler has written a book about the Bakers Creek air disaster that took place in Australia during World War II.  The crash of an American military plane was kept top secret so the Japanese would not be aware that the U.S. was sending over troops and supplies with the intention of using Australia as a major base of operations.

11:00 a.m. – Suzi Camp, author of several books, will give a talk entitled “A Marine at Nuremberg,” about Marine Sergeant Stuart Schulberg who was with the OSS’s photographic branch and provided film evidence used against Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

12:00 noon – Harold Angle served as an infantryman in the 28th Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  His unit suffered so many casualties in the Battles of Hurtgen Forest and the Ardennes that it was nick-named “The Bloody Bucket” by the enemy.

1:00 p.m. – Mary Murakami will share her experiences as a Japanese-American during World War II when she and her family were placed in relocation camps due to Executive Order 9066.  She spent all of her high school years at camps in California and Utah.

2:00 p.m. – Darrell Blizzard was a B-17 pilot in the 8th U.S. Army Air Force in Europe who flew numerous combat missions. Orphaned as a child, he had attended school in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

3:00 p.m. – John Schaffer fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the ill-fated 106th Infantry Division, the rookie unit that bore the brunt of the German attack on December 16, 1944.

Both days, retired National Security Agency employee Rick Henderson will be on hand to demonstrate a captured German Enigma Code Machine, the code of which was cracked by the Allies, allowing them to intercept and decipher important messages transmitted by the Germans. 

Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel will present free guided tours of the World War II burials in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Though well-known for Civil War burials, the National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who died between 1941 and 1945. The interments include men who fell at Pearl Harbor and on D-Day in Normandy. These hour-long free guided walks are offered Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The tour begins inside the Taneytown Road cemetery gate.
Saturday night, a World War II style “USO” dance will be held at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., featuring 1940s music by the Gettysburg Big Band.  Open to the public, tickets will be sold at the door for $10.00.  A cash bar will be available. 

The encampment will be open Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Shuttle buses for the event depart from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center located at 1195 Baltimore Pike.  Cost of shuttle bus tickets are: Adults, $9.00; Children 6-12, $5.00; Children age 6 and under are admitted free. Weather permitting, free on-site parking for passenger vehicles only will also be available in a farm field accessible off of Emmitsburg Road, Business Route 15.  Bus groups and visitors using wheelchairs should plan to use the shuttle system.  For reservations, call 1-877-874-2478.  

Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and the farm as a fitting and enduring tribute to the life, work, and times of General Dwight David Eisenhower and to the events of far reaching importance which occurred on the property.  Learn more at

Photo below: An M4 Sherman Tank and M36 Tank Destroyer owned by Frank Buck, of Gettysburg, will be on display September 16 and 17 at Eisenhower National Historic Site.


Hunley Mystery NOT Solved Yet According to Hunley Project

Hunley Mystery NOT Solved Yet:
Researchers Continue Investigation into What Really Happened

Recently, Duke University issued a press release claiming one of their student’s discovered what caused the Hunley’s crew to perish and the submarine to sink in 1864. In today’s digital age, the story spread across the internet quickly due to the sensational headline. However, a spokesman for the Hunley Project said today, the story is not accurate.

The pioneering submarine and her history have captured the imaginations of people across the globe. The Hunley Project regularly receives theories from the public about what led to the submarine's loss and other ideas related to their research. "The case of Duke University’s press release is a bit different as it has created quite a stir,” said Kellen Correia, Executive Director of Friends of the Hunley. Duke University is not part of the Hunley Project’s investigative team. They don’t have access to the detailed forensic and structural information related to the submarine, which would be essential to draw any sort of reliable or definitive conclusions.

The Hunley Project said they felt the need to issue a statement today to make sure the unsubstantiated theory claimed by the Duke University student does not continue to spread, in view of the comprehensive research conducted by the Hunley team on the submarine for more than 15 years. The idea of a concussive wave from the torpedo explosion killing the crew, as outlined in the Duke University release, has been previously considered and is one of many scenarios the Hunley Project team has been investigating.

“The Duke study is interesting, they just unfortunately didn’t have all the facts. If it were as easy as simple blast injuries, we would have been done a while ago. Though a shock wave can cause life-threatening injuries, this is something we discounted quite a while back based on the evidence,” said Jamie Downs, former Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Alabama.

The Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine in 1864 and then mysteriously vanished without a trace. She remained lost at sea for over a century and was raised in 2000. Since then, a collaborative research effort with the U.S. Navy, the Smithsonian Institution, Clemson University and others has been underway to uncover the reasons for the Hunley’s loss and conserve the vessel for future generations.

Using detailed information about the composition and dimensions of the Hunley’s iron structure, forensic analysis of the crew’s remains, and other research and archaeological data, the Hunley Project and its partners have conducted comprehensive digital and physical simulations for the past several years. While the likely cause of the submarine’s demise has not been concluded, the scenario of a concussive wave killing the Hunley crew has been deemed not likely by those working on the actual submarine and who have access to this key data.

Their most recent study was issued by the U.S. Navy this month and was conducted in collaboration with the Hunley Project. “Given the amount of uncertainty surrounding the vessel’s final mission, a bottom-up technical analysis was commissioned alongside ongoing archeological investigation of the Hunley. Calculations of Hunley’s engagement with the Housatonic were successfully completed and it was observed that the engagement would have been devastating to the Housatonic while resulting in relatively low levels of loading on Hunley,” according to their report. For the full report, go to:

The Hunley Project remains committed to sharing the most accurate information about the submarine that is available and welcomes discussion and ideas from the public and other academic institutions about the Hunley and her history. Still, Correia cautions, “As tempting as it may be, we are careful not to jump to definitive conclusions until all the research has been evaluated.”

The Hunley Project
On the evening of February 17, 1864, the H. L. Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine by sinking the USS Housatonic. After signaling to shore that the mission had been accomplished, the submarine and her crew of eight mysteriously vanished. Lost at sea for over a century, the Hunley was located in 1995 by Clive Cussler’s National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA). The innovative hand-cranked vessel was raised in 2000 and delivered to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where an international team of scientists are at work to conserve the submarine for future generations and piece together clues to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The Hunley Project is conducted through a partnership with the Clemson University Restoration Institute, South Carolina Hunley Commission, US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command, and Friends of the Hunley.

Stolen bust of Civil War general found under I-95 in Philadelphia

General James Beaver

General James Beaver

Stolen bust of Civil War general found under I-95
Updated: AUGUST 25, 2017 — 7:13 PM EDT
by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |
Link to article in

Philadelphia police on Friday were investigating the theft of a bust of a Civil War general that was later found under an I-95 bridge in South Philadelphia near FDR Park.

Fairmount Park officials said they believe the bust of Gen. James A. Beaver was stolen from the Smith Memorial Arch in West Fairmount Park late Thursday night.

The bronze bust was found by a police officer early Friday, said Alain Joinville,  a spokesman for Parks and Recreation.

“Vandalism and theft are illegal, and people who commit these crimes will be treated accordingly,” Joinville said, adding that the staff has “retrieved the statue, and we’ll assess whether any conservation is needed.”

Beaver was a general in the Union Army. Officials do not know whether the removal of his bust was connected to the current controversy over whether the statues of Confederate officers and depictions of others with racist views should be removed.

A native of  Perry County, Beaver commanded the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers and later became the state’s 20th governor.

During his term from 1887-91, Beaver was credited with obtaining state funds to improve Penn State’s football field. Beaver Stadium is named in his honor, and a tablet bearing his likeness is in the southeast corner of the stadium.

The Smith Memorial Arch was created to honor Pennsylvania’s Civil War heroes. Located near the near the Please Touch Museum, the memorial has two tall columns supported by curving arches, and adorned with portrait sculptures  including two equestrians statues, three figures and 8 busts. Beaver’s bus was installed in 1912.

Joinville said the memorial  is owned by the Smith Memorial Trust. The estate of Richard and Sarah Smith established the creation of Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, in East Fairmount Park.