LEWISBURG, W.Va.—Of the many historic landmarks in Lewisburg, West Virginia, perhaps none is more remarkable than a cross-shaped Confederate grave on a hill above the city's downtown historic district.
As it turns out, it may be among the most remarkable in the nation, as far as burial grounds go, according to a prominent West Virginia historian.
In a shady park setting ideally suited to contemplation, the remains of 95 unknown Confederate soldiers lie buried in a mass grave 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.
"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.
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.
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.
Contact the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitor Bureau for more information and directions.
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