It’s got to be tough to be Shockoe Hill Cemetery, always in the shadow of it’s more famous big brother Hollywood Cemetery. Let’s see if we can shed some light on the situation with a little compare and contrast…
1. Hollywood Cemetery is known for it’s beautiful stone work and carvings.
2. Hollywood Cemetery is known for being the final resting place of many Union and Confederate Soliders.
And here’s a fascinating bit of history regarding Private Crittenden: He had been captured by the Union and sentenced to execution by firing squad with Private James J. Hartigan. According to a family newsletter: “”At noon Crittenden and Hartigan were set before a firing party of twenty-five and told to run for their lives. Hartigan ran and fell, pierced by many bullets. Crittenden stood with folded arms, facing his executioners. Again the order to fire was given, but not a trigger was pulled. The Union officer in command then addressed his men saying he would repeat the order once more; they were soldiers and must obey, and should any man fail to respect the command, he should suffer the penalty of death himself for disobedience.” During the harangue, Crittenden seated himself on a rock, calmly looking at the squad and awaiting his end. Then he rose. ‘Ready! Aim! Fire!’ rang out the third command. A line of leveled rifles greeted him as he rose and faced them. Down dropped twenty-four silent rifles, their owners unwilling to harm the quiet man before them. One alone of the twenty-five pressed a trigger. A single flash, a little smoke, a sharp report, and Churchill Crittenden’s life blood flowed for the cause he loved.”
Wow. In addition, Shockoe Hill Cemetery is the final resting spot of some 220 Confederate Soldiers and some 577 Union soldiers as well as many more that were not recorded. A figure only slightly less than the 18,000 or so buried in Hollywood. (Ok, maybe more than slightly, but still significant.)
5. (3, sir!) Hollywood Cemetery is known for its famous residents.
John “Silverheels” Marshall was also the longest service Chief Justice in US Supreme Court history and served as a Captain in the Continental Army. He was friends with George Washington and survived the long winter in Valley Forge with him.
And perhaps one of the most interesting people buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery:
Ms. Van Lew ran a ring of spies during the Civil War. She gained the trust of the CSA and was allowed to bring food, clothing, and other provisions to the Union POWs being held at nearby Libby Prison to arrange for escape. Mary Bowser, a former slave that was freed by Van Lew, was one of her operatives and routinely gave reports from inside the White House of the Confederacy where she worked for CSA First Lady Varina Davis. Van Lew was supposedly so good at her job that she was able to send freshly cut flowers, a copy of the Richmond paper, and ciphered messages hidden inside hollowed out eggs directly to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant!
4. Hollywood Cemetery is known for stunning views of the James.
Shockoe Hill Cemetery, located at the intersection of Hospital and N 2nd Street, has stunning views of the Shockoe Hill Low Income Housing Project. Perhaps not as good of an area… but, the cemetery itself is an open and peaceful oasis… and there’s a Police Station right across the street!
All in all, Shockoe Hill Cemetery has a lot to offer and should not be overlooked by it’s bigger brother. The surrounding area might not be as nice, but if you enjoy strolling with the dead it is a nice alternative and houses a lot of RVA history.
Next up, we will go across the street to Hebrew Cemetery!