Mass grave at Lewisburg unique among Confederate monuments

1982
Mass grave at Lewisburg unique among Confederate monuments
Pennies have been laid on a marker at the mass grave of Confederate Cemetery at Lewisburg. (Photo: David Sibray)

LEWISBURG, W.Va.—Of the many historic landmarks in Lewisburg, perhaps none is more remarkable than a cross-shaped Confederate grave on a hill above the city's downtown historic district.

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In a shady park setting ideally suited to contemplation, the remains of 95 unknown Confederate soldiers lie buried in a mass grave here that historians and travel ambassadors say is truly unique.

According to historian Mike Gioulis, the cemetery is singular in West Virginia and is the sole remaining artifact of the Battle of Lewisburg, fought in 1862.

"This is the only military cemetery with this landscaped configuration in West Virginia and is one of the state's only cemeteries of Confederate dead," Gioulis said in his nomination of the site to the National Register of Historic Places.

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Illustration of the Lewisburg Confederate Cemetery
Historian Michael Gioulis mapped the grave when nominating it to the National Register of Historic Places.

"It is also significant as the only physical reminder of any consequence of the locally important Civil War Battle of Lewisburg."

Beth Gill, marketing director for the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitor Bureau, says visitors to the cemetery are attracted by the site's mystique but come away with a feeling of awe.

"This mass grave holds a piece of our country’s story," Gill said. "These men were somehow left behind, unknown to those who buried them and lost forever to their families."

Shaped as a Christian cross, the grave mound measures 80 feet long and 53 feet across and is three feet high along its axis lines, according to Gioulis.

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The grave holds not only the remains of soldiers from the Battle of Lewisburg, fought May 23, 1862, but others from the nearby Battle of Droop Mountain, fought November 6, 1863.

Confederate Cemetery at Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, Greenbrier Valley Region
Decorative mulch marks the cross-shaped mass grave at the center of the cemetery.

After the Lewisburg battle, the Union commander ordered the bodies of slain rebel soldiers cast into a trench beside Old Stone Presbyterian Church, now in the downtown historic district. However, they were re-interred after the Droop Mountain battle.

A visit to the Confederate cemetery is often a highlight of a historical tour of the historic downtown area, though not every visitor walks the hillside up to the cemetery. Thus, the visit is often counted among the more immersive of Lewisburg heritage experiences.

Satellite image of Lewisburg Confederate Grave
A satellite image in grayscale shows the cross-shaped grave from above.

A walking trail from the Greenbrier County Public Library leads to the cemetery, also accessible by car by McElhenny Road off Church Street. Google coordinates for the site are 37.802058, -80.451655.

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Contact the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitor Bureau for more information and directions.


Windy nights recall legend of Sam Hart and race with the Devil

Old Stone Church Cemetery, Lewisburg, West Virginia (WV)
The Old Stone Church Cemetery lies on the edge of the Lewisburg National Historic District. (Photo: Foxfire Realty)

Windy nights such as come sweeping through the hollows in spring in West Virginia may put many residents of the town of Lewisburg in mind of the legend of Sam Hart. For it was there that the proud youth raced the Devil through the streets. Read the full story here.


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