It was a lot of work–but it certainly was worth it. And nothing compared to the sacrifice made by the men and women who played a role in the Civil War and are interred at Green-Wood.
This spring marks the 150th anniversary of the end of America’s Civil War. Green-Wood pulled out all the stops to commemorate the 5,000 individuals interred at Green-Wood who took part in the Civil War: soldiers and sailors, nurses, inventors, manufacturers, and more.
It all goes back to August of 2002, when Green-Wood restored and rededicated New York City’s Civil War Soldiers’ Monument. Inspired by the ceremonies that day, we launched Green-Wood’s Civil War Project. The thought at the time was that there might be 500 Civil War veterans interred at Green-Wood; since then, we have identified ten times that many: 5,000.
Over the years since, volunteers have written 5,000 biographies of these men and women. Each grave has been visited; those that were found to be unmarked, and were those of servicemen–2,200–have had Veterans Affairs gravestones or bronze plaques applied for. As of this writing, most of those–almost 2000–have been installed on the grounds by Green-Wood staff.
Preparations began for our Memorial Day Weekend commemoration months ago when Green-Wood Historic Fund volunteers gathered on several Saturdays to update our maps of every grave of a Civil War veteran. These maps, last used in 2011, had to be brought up to date with additions and deletions–a net gain of 600 or so individuals. Then volunteers–Historic Fund members, long time Green-Wood volunteers, high school students, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Explorers, and Cub Scouts and Brownies, gathered on May 9 to place flags on each of those 5,000 graves.
The Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, May 23, was the first day of our Civil War exhibition, To Bid You All Good Bye: Civil War Stories. The exhibition features the most poignant and moving stories of 20 of the 5,000–much of it in the words of their subjects.
On May 23, a luminary (paper bag, with sand and a lit battery-powered candle) was placed with each flag at the graves. That night, about 600 people walked the route as musicians–and an artillery gun– serenaded them. Re-enactors, in uniform and in costume, stood along the side of the road as the procession passed.
On the morning of Memorial Day, descendants of Civil War veterans interred at Green-Wood, who had come in from all over the country (one flew in from Green Bay, Wisconsin, another from Seattle Washington) joined in the Honor Walk. Led by 11-year-old drummer Steven Badamo, who beat the cadence, we walked out to the Civil War Soldiers’ Lot, where each descendant recited the name, rank, and regiment of his or her ancestor, shared photographs, and told their story.
The program at the Soldiers’ Lot included interludes of Civil War songs by balladeer Linda Russell, playing the dulcimer and guitar.
At 2:30, Green-Wood’s 17th annual concert kicked off, featuring the music of composers Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Graffula, and Louis Moreau Gottschalk, as well as the work of lyricist Fred Ebb.
All of this, to honor the service and sacrifice of so many who are interred at Green-Wood.