Visiting the Dead

Civil War soldiers, Union and Confederate, are buried in Harrisburg Cemetery.

Civil War soldiers, Union and Confederate, are buried in Harrisburg Cemetery.

Yesterday (September 8, 2013) I drove over to Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to take a tour offered by the Camp Curtin Historical Society. Our guide was Jim Schmick, the society’s founder and president. Jim is also the owner of Civil War and More in Mechanicsburg and a seemingly inexhaustible source of knowledge about the Civil War and local history. For more than two hours Jim showed us around the cemetery as he told stories about the people buried there and tied in their lives to the places and events of Harrisburg’s past. There was nothing here particularly Meade related, but we visited governors and the city of Harrisburg’s first mayor, stopped by the grave of Andrew David Porter, who served on George Washington’s staff, and saw the grave of Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s first secretary of war.

Of course, we went to see John Geary’s grave. Geary commanded a division of the XII Corps at Gettysburg (where he unfortunately got lost while leading his men to reinforce the Union left on July 2) and was also the mayor of San Francisco, the territorial governor of Kansas, and the governor of Pennsylvania. Quite a career.

The cemetery, founded in 1845 on 12 acres, has grown to cover 35 acres. It’s still an active cemetery and it is suitably atmospheric. I’ve posted a few photos–click on them to see larger versions.

The cemetery gatehouse. Harrisburg Cemetery is a stop along the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails (and I wrote about it in my book of the same name).

The cemetery gatehouse. Harrisburg Cemetery is a stop along the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails (and I wrote about it in my book of the same name).

Jim Schmick shows us a brochure from the cemetery's 150th anniversary in 1995.

Jim Schmick shows us a brochure from the cemetery’s 150th anniversary in 1995.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is visible through the trees. George Grey Barnard, who created some of the statuary for the building, is buried here.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is visible through the trees. George Grey Barnard, who created some of the statuary for the building, is buried here.

John White Geary had an impressive life as a soldier and a politician.

John White Geary had an impressive life as a soldier and a politician.

In this closeup of the Geary statue, you can see the dings from bullets that someone recently fired at it.

In this closeup of the Geary statue, you can see the dings from bullets that someone recently fired at it.

Jim tells us about Joseph Knipe, the officer who named Harrisburg's Camp Curtin after the then-governor of Pennsylvania.

Jim tells us about Joseph Knipe, the officer who named Harrisburg’s Camp Curtin after the then-governor of Pennsylvania.

Simon Cameron, Lincoln's first secretary of war, is buried here. Cameron's combination of corruption and incompetence forced Lincoln to replace him with Edwin Stanton and ship Cameron off to Moscow to serve as envoy there.

Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s first secretary of war, is buried here. Cameron’s combination of corruption and incompetence forced Lincoln to replace him with Edwin Stanton and ship Cameron off to Moscow to serve as envoy there.

The only Medal of Honor recipient buried here, Charles C. Davis earned his honors with the 7th PA Cavalry at the Battle of Shelbyville.

The only Medal of Honor recipient buried here, Charles C. Davis earned his honors with the 7th PA Cavalry at the Battle of Shelbyville.

As good a place to end the tour as any.

As good a place to end the tour as any.

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