Category Archives: Not Green-wood

Guest Blog! The First and Among the Last

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at Green-Wood’s table at the grand re-opening of Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace in Manhattan (which is a whole other story).  And while I was there, I met Trish Mayo who was also volunteering. We got to talking, and she knew a lot about  Green-wood and the history of New York.  She said she likes to wander around the cemetery taking pictures, and when she sees something interesting she goes home and looks it up. I was like, “SEPARATED AT BIRTH” and of course tried to rook her into writing for my blog. And it worked! Here’s her first entry. 


No matter where I go I seem to end up finding graves, sometimes I’m not looking for them they just are on my path to somewhere else.  

Recently,  I traveled to Boston and decided to spend a day in nearby Concord, MA–home to Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Concord is also the site of the first battle of the American Revolution fought on April 19, 1775.  The battle is commemorated in Minute Man National Park.  

There’s a reconstruction of the wooden bridge where the British and American soldiers met:  

wooden bridge Concord, MA

What I didn’t expect to see was a grave for 2 British Soldiers killed on that day in 1775:

grave of British soldiers

The inscription reads:

They came three thousand miles and died,
To keep the past upon its throne.
Unheard beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.

From the poem “Lines” by James Russell Lowell

According to the park’s website “British military records indicate that there were three soldiers (all privates in the 4th Regiment) missing and presumed dead after the North Bridge fight: James Hall, Thomas Smith and Patrick Gray. One of these three men is buried in Concord center; there is a stone marker for him on Monument St. The other two are buried here.”

These 3 soldiers James Hall, Thomas Smith and Patrick Gray are among the first casualties of the War for Independence. The people of Concord arranged for their burial and later erected this monument to mark their final resting place.

A few weeks later, I’m back in New York and decide to go for a walk in Green-Wood Cemetery.  I locate a group of headstones that predate the founding of the cemetery.  That’s not uncommon, for various reasons churches and congregations decide to move and arrange for the headstones and graves to be relocated to another cemetery.  While reading these old headstones I see the word “Rhinoceros” and think, what’s that all about?

edward morley grave green-wood cemetery

The inscription reads:

To The Memory of Edward Morley, Late Master of His Majesty’s Ship Rhinoceros who departed this life on August 8, 1783

The only reference to the HMS Rhinoceros that I can find is that it was a store ship and used as a floating battery in defense of New York towards the end of the American Revolutionary War.  The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the Treaties of Versailles on September 3, 1783, less than a month after this man’s death on August 8, 1783.  The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783.

For this man to have died so close to the end of the war makes this marker and the story it tells especially poignant.  There’s no mention of how he died – I can’t find any reference to battles or skirmishes that would have involved his ship near the August 8th,1783 date, so the question is,  was he gravely wounded in battle? A victim of disease or an accident? 

So there you have it two Revolutionary War graves, hundreds of miles apart but bookmarking the beginning and the end of America’s struggle for independence.   What makes them amazing is that they are memorials to the other side in that conflict – British soldiers and a British sailor still remembered over 240 years later and given a final resting place in the country that was formed from the conflict that cost them their lives. 

Our Most Holy Trinity Cemetery

I decided to go on a little adventure today, so I took a trip out to see the Our Most Holy Trinity Cemetery here in Brooklyn. It is way to hell out on the outskirts of Bushwick, located on the end of a desolate street. I’ve included a map of where it’s located, in case anyone is interested in seeing this strange little cemetery. It’s worth the trip–and if you are in Manhattan, you can take the L train directly there. (Or you can drive like I did, and end up getting hopelessly lost on your way home.)


While this little Roman Catholic cemetery is not nearly as huge or beautiful or just plain nuts as Green-Wood, it has one unique characteristic: almost all of the monuments are made out of metal.

According to the Our Most Holy Trinity Cemetery web site “…from the earliest days, stone monuments were not allowed because no distinctions were permitted to be made between the rich and the poor.”

I found this cemetery wonderfully strange and serene. There were no other people there besides me and a very bored looking security guard. I asked him if a lot of people visited, and he answered, “over 100 years old”. Then I asked him why there were so many Virgin Marys sunk in the ground and he replied, “people buried underground.” So needless to say, I quit trying to ask the security guard questions.

William Tecumseh Sherman & Family

I try not to get too personal here because I know that the Internet is made up of 90% axe-murderers, but in this case it can’t be avoided. I do not spend all of my time getting lost in cemeteries–I am also a painter. And a few years ago, I found myself captivated by Mathew Brady’s photographs of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

These may be my favorite photographs of all-time. They are just endlessly fascinating. When you look at Sherman, you see his entire crazy, mixed-up world come shining through. You see the past and present weighing on him. You also see a number of raw emotions, including a rage that seems to simmer just below the surface. I could look at these photos forever.

So I painted one:
And another:
And another:

And from there, I was off and running. I painted 14 more portraits (not all of Sherman, of course), and created The American Civil War series, which you can see on my web site.

So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited (and a little bit surprised) to find out that General Sherman was buried in Calvary Cemetery, in my hometown of St. Louis, MO.

The Sherman family plot is located somewhat close to the entrance to Calvary–it was pretty easy to find (despite the fact that I am hopeless at reading a map, ANY map, and cemetery maps are the worst). William Tecumseh Sherman is buried alongside his wife, daughter, son, and a number of other relatives.

Sherman’s stone itself can best be described as venerable-looking. Located at the top between two American flags is the badge for the XV Corps, which had been commanded by Sherman in Vicksburg.

This badge has a great story behind it–from Sherman’s Memoirs:

“It was on this occasion that the Fifteenth Corps gained its peculiar badge: as the men were trudging along the deeply-cut, muddy road, of a cold, drizzly day, one of our Western soldiers left his ranks and joined a party of the Twelfth Corps at their camp-fire. They got into conversation, the Twelfth-Corps men asking what troops we were, etc., etc. In turn, our fellow (who had never seen a corps-badge, and noticed that every thing was marked with a star) asked if they were all brigadier-generals. Of course they were not, but the star was their corps-badge, and every wagon, tent, hat, etc., had its star. Then the Twelfth-Corps men inquired what corps be belonged to, and he answered, ‘The Fifteenth Corps.’ ‘What is your badge?’ ‘Why,’ said he (and he was an Irishman), suiting the action to the word, ‘forty rounds in the cartridge-box, and twenty in the pocket!'”

A number of people have left coins on the stone:


I noticed that a lot in the cemeteries I visited in St. Louis: People leave coins rather than pebbles–and not just on military stones, on all graves. I rarely see coins on graves in Green-Wood. Huh.

eleanor shermanSherman’s wife, Eleanor “Ellen” Boyle Ewing Sherman is buried next to him.

Ellen was from a prominent family; Her father was Thomas Ewing, an important Whig politician, and three of her brothers served as generals in the Civil War. Thomas Ewing was good friends with Charles Sherman, William’s father. When Charles Sherman died suddenly in 1829, Thomas Ewing adopted the young William and raised him as his own.

Wiliam and Ellen grew up together in the same home, eventually falling in love. Oh, the drama in that house must have been grand! They were married in 1850. From what I’ve read, her father did not quite approve.

Ellen was a devout Catholic, and one of the key organizers of the Catholic Indian Missionary Association. She was also active in politics; she was a staunch supporter of Abraham Lincoln, despite the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote at this time.

Ellen and William had eight children together. Their second-oldest daughter Mary Elizabeth Sherman (a.k.a., “Lizzie”) is buried to the left.

I couldn’t find out much about her other than the fact that she never married, and died in Massachussetts in 1925.

But perhaps the most poignant part of the Sherman family plot is the stone for Sherman’s 9-year-old son, “Our Little Sergeant Willie”. Willie and his brothers and sisters had joined their father in Mississippi after the surrender of Vicksburg. They stayed with him at the military camp on the Big Black.

Apparently, Willie loved the military, and was a great favorite with not just his father, but with all of the soldiers, who made him an honorary sergeant.

He died from “Camp Fever” while bound for Memphis on the steamer Atlantic:

Apparently, Sherman held himself responsible for his son’s death. He believed it was his fault for bringing his family down to Mississippi and exposing them “to so fatal a climate at so critical a period of the year”. Many believe that he was driven mad with grief, which explains why he marched through the South burning and killing with a vengeance.

Here’s an article about Sherman’s funeral from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


Nez Perce Monument

I recently traveled to St. Louis and had the opportunity to visit Calvary Cemetery. Calvary is pretty much the Green-Wood of St. Louis, and is a very well-kept and serene 470 acres. It seems a lot less dramatic than Green-Wood by comparison (nothing too big or crazy), but it is nonetheless a gorgeous and historically rich place. I spent a couple of hours in there and managed to locate several interesting sites, including this tribute to the Nez Perce Indians who traveled to St. Louis in 1831.

The Nez Perce were a fairly peaceful tribe of about 4,000 living in villages just west of the Rocky Mountains. They hunted buffalo, fished for salmon, and did some light farming. When Lewis & Clark first explored the West, they became quite close with the Nez Perce–in fact, Clark later had a child with a Nez Perce woman.

Decades later, four warriors from the Nez Perce tribe traveled over 2,000 miles to St. Louis: Black Eagle, Speaking Eagle, Rabbitskin Leggings, and No Horns on His Head. The fact that no one spoke their language made communication nearly impossible for them, so it remains a bit unclear as to why they traveled so far. Many claim they were seeking to be converted to Christianty, other stories say they were interested in simply learning.

According to Black Eagle descendant Allen Pinkham on the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers site:

“They were wandering around St. Louis, and no one could understand their language or their sign language. Finally some people got the idea that they were looking for the Bible. That was the beginning of us being inundated by missionaries. Black Eagle and Speaking Eagle said they were looking for the book of Heaven. There are five versions of what that is. My father told me it was the book of knowledge, that they were looking for what went into a book and how you convey knowledge. We didn´t need a new religion. We had our own ways that were a way of life.”

Unfortunately, their bodies were not accustomed to being exposed to the kinds of diseases that ran rampant in a predominantly white urban population in the 1800s. Within the first two months of their visit, both Black Eagle and Speaking Eagle died. The other two warriors–Rabbitskin Leggings and No Horns on his Head died on their journey back West. As the monument notes, their burial place is unknown.

Black Eagle and Speaking Eagle’s final resting places were moved a number of times over the years. Finally, in 2000, National Park Service researcher Robert Moore located the two unmarked graves in Calvary Cemetery in this mass burial site for Native Americans.

According to the monument, this site contains 15,000 graves. As you can see from the picture, the monument sits alone in the middle of a large, empty field (empty except for a million ghosts!). This beautiful monument was erected in 2003, and features a carving of two eagle feathers designed by Lapwai historian Crystal White.