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Historic Richmond - The Confederate Pyramid
A Monument to Fallen Soldiers
One of the most historic sites in Richmond, Virginia is Hollywood Cemetery located on the James River. Among the hills, curving roads and elaborate statues and tombstones is the impressive stone Confederate Pyramid. The pyramid was completed in 1869 and was built as a memorial to the more than 18,000 confederate soldiers who died in batte.
The memorial was commissioned by the Hollywood Memorial Association that was formed May 3, 1866 by the Daughters of the Confederacy for $26,000.00 an amount that would equal $423,760.00 in 2008. The pyramid was built in an area of the cemetery where graves contains the remains of enlisted men of the Confederate Army who died at Gettysburg. 18,000 men including at least 2,000 unknown soldiers were removed from the Gettysburg's battlefield and buried at Hollywood cemetery. This is commemorated by the construction of the pyramid to honor the sacrifices of these Confederate soldiers. The Hollywood Cemetery Registry of Confederate Dead, printed in 1869, contains about 10,500 names of the 18,000 soldiers that rest here.
The monument was designed by civil engineer Captain Charles H. Dimmock (b. 1831 – d. 1873) of the former Confederate Army. The pyramid was erected from granite stones pulled from the nearby James River. It was built by labor from the nearby State Penitentiary. The granite blocks were cut unevenly and irregularly, many with drill holes clearly visible. The result is a quality that renders this monument distinct and reinforces its imposing presence of the monument as a dedication to the confederate dead.
Dimmock’s design was a 90 feet (27 m) tall and 45 feet square at the base. The cornerstone was laid on December 3, 1868. In the cornerstone are entombed various Confederate artifacts including a Confederate flag, a button from Stonewall Jackson's coat, and a lock of Jefferson Davis' hair. The cornerstone bears the inscription: “Erected by the Hollywood Memorial Association, A.D. 1869 to the confederate dead “Memoria in acterna numini et Patriac Asto” (in eternal memory of those who stood for god and country).
The memorial took a year to construct. There were accidents and injuries and the stone-hauling derrick broke several times. Further problems were expected on November 8 1869 when the moment came to place the capstone. This required someone to clamber to the top of the pyramid and guide the stone into position as the derrick lowered it.
There is a story that a convicted horse thief named Thomas Stanley from Lynchburg volunteered to help set the capstone. The knots in the hoisting ropes were tied too close the top and the stone wouldn’t go past them. Stanley poured water on the ropes causing them to shrink the needed inches. The story goes that Stanley put himself between the hanging stone and righted the capstone to its seat to the cheers of onlookers. This story was repeated for years and they say Stanley was granted a pardon as a result. However there are no official documents that support this particular piece of the pyramid’s lore.
The 140 year old pyramid also has its mysterious side. It is said that in one corner at the base of the pyramid you can actually feel "ice cold" spots, which are apparently areas where spirits of the thousands of dead soldiers reside. Visitors who have been near the pyramid at night claim that when the full moon shines they can hear soft moans from the fallen soldiers. There are visitors who say they could literally walk in and out of the cold spots. Others report falling ill after experiencing the close contact with the pyramid.
Hollywood Cemetery is a must visit spot for any walking tour especially for a ghostly walking tour in October.
- Hollywood Cemetery - Home
Richmond is made up of many architecturally significant areas. Each has it's own unique personality, which gives the city its diversity and captures the interest of locals and tourists alike.