Celebrate Independence Day, July 4th, by being thankful to all those who have made it possible throughout our country's history.
The Civil War (1861 – 1865) was the bloodiest conflict in American history with an estimated 620,000 deaths. During the war, with no official-issued identification, about half of the soldiers killed were buried in unmarked graves, leaving families bereft and without knowledge of their passing or internment.
Without a place to mourn their fallen soldiers, “effigy graves” were created. Although no bodies were buried beneath the headstones, these gravesites provided a much-needed place to recognize and mourn the young lives so cruelly taken before their time.
This image is s Civil War effigy gravesite in Soldiers’ Lot in West Cemetery in Litchfield, Connecticut. The memorial site, erected in 1894, contains 23 headstones marked by four 14-inch diameter cannonballs in each corner, about 50 feet apart. Most grave markers list only the name, rank, unit, and date of death. A few record the known place of death with specific battlefields and even the notorious Andersonville Prison where more than 45,000 Union soldiers suffered under the most inhumane conditions.
A granite monument of a Civil War drum with the raised words, “Mustered Out” overlooks the site. This is so fitting as drums played a prominent role in the military ceremony when a unit was mustered out at the conclusion of its service.
The deaths of these brave soldiers ended their service to our country all too soon. Their sacrifice demands we continue their battle to fight for freedom for all and remember the lessons history has taught us so that they have not died in vain.
Photo and story by
Colleen B. Reilly, Cheshire