Statue of a Female Gravedigger

Mon chéris,

You’ve heard of Gettysburg, right? Of course you have, why did I even ask?

Gettysburg, for its notoriety, is a rather small town, so what interesting attraction could be here that is perhaps commonly overlooked?

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I know, ANOTHER cemetery! Considering the town’s bloody past, though, you can understand why there might be interesting tidbits revolving around THE EVERGREEN CEMETERY- 799 Baltimore St., Gettysburg, PA.

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This cemetery, positioned conveniently across the street from the Gettysburg Address site, contains many historic gravestones, including that of Jennie Wade, the only direct civilian casualty of the Civil War.

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An often overlooked monument in this cemetery is the statue of Elizabeth Masser Thorn (1832-1907).

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Often referred to as the “Angel of Gettysburg,” Elizabeth emigrated from Germany in 1855 with her husband, Peter Thorn. Within a few months, Peter became caretaker of the newly established cemetery. When Peter went off to join the Union army, Elizabeth and her father assumed the responsibilities of the cemetery. In 1863, Confederate armies began moving in on Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth and the rest of her family fled to a nearby farmhouse when the fighting began on Cemetery Hill. After General Lee and his Confederate armies retreated back to Virginia, Elizabeth and the family returned to the house to find a vast number of bodies had been dumped in front of the house, including many dead horses. The stench was overpowering, and despite the obvious need, volunteers to help bury the dead quickly abandoned Elizabeth and her father due to the overwhelming work.

Gettysburg was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle; Elizabeth ended up digging over 100 graves in the weeks after the war.

Oh, did I mention that, during all of this, Elizabeth was six months pregnant?!

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Pennsylvania has some incredibly rocky ground, and this was in the days before heavy duty construction equipment. This would have all been done by hand (or shovel, that is). For her incredible efforts, this memorial statue was erected towards the front of the cemetery.

Go visit this amazing woman. She’s earned it.

Until next time, dahlings…

 

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