History of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, seen in tombstones
I'm tired of walking my usual routes, so this morning I decided to walk in Riverside Cemetery. Riverside is, by my estimate, about 1/4 mile wide and perhaps a little longer. It's on Hopkinsville's Main Street, just north of the Little River. Its boundaries are formed by Main Street, Little River, the railroad tracks, and the road to the Hopkinsville water plant.
As a rule, I'm not depressed by cemeteries (at least not by old ones.) I enjoy the names and dates on the tombstones and I wonder what those people's lives were like. Riverside Cemetery dates back to pre-Civil-War days, so walking there is a stroll through local history.
I noticed an interesting thing. In the decades from 1870 to 1910, many of Hopkinsville's fine old homes and buildings of commerce were constructed, and during the same years, a number of markedly large and tall gravestones were installed in Riverside Cemetery. It's quite obvious in Hopkinsville, as in most Kentucky towns, that some families prospered during the Reconstruction -- enough to build big ornate buildings and to erect big monuments to their families in the graveyard.
I used to come to Riverside Cemetery once in a while during my lunch break to walk, but I was always on a tight schedule and I didn't want to perspire much, so my visits were brief. Maybe that's why I had never walked past the Camp Alcorn Confederate Cemetery in a section near the river.
I saw the rows of identical stones this morning from a distance , and I wondered at first if it was Hopkinsville's "potter's field" for the indigent. As I came nearer, I was surprised to see that the rows of identical stones bear the names, ranks, and companies of Confederate soldiers.
The Jefferson Davis Camp #1675, Sons of Confederate Veterans, provided the granite grave markers and a monument that tells a bit about the men. The soldiers were stationed at Camp Alcorn in Hopkinsville, and most of them died from measles, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and other diseases. Over 300 died during the winter of 1861-1862. The remains of a few were taken back to their homes, but over 290 were buried in Hopkinsville. Many of them were from Kentucky but others were from Mississippi, Texas, and probably elsewhere as well. (This paragraph updated 1-02-10.)
One gravestone has an inscription on both sides. The front of the stone identifies the grave of Private Washington Hall of Hills Company, Gregg's Regiment, 7th Texas. The back of the stone notes that Washington Hall was a "man of color." The following is in quotation marks as if it might have come from the hospital records or perhaps a letter -- "This old man was a faithful servant to his master and died much beloved to his company."
550 feet to the northwest, there is another monument to unknown Confederate soldiers. Some remains were moved there in 1887. I did not see this monument, but I read on a historic marker near the front entrance that over 100 unknown Confederate soldiers are buried in Riverside.
Edgar Cayce, the famous psychic healer, is buried somewhere in Riverside, but I didn't see his grave. Also, there's a Union general buried there. I didn't read all the historic markers at the entrance in detail because some of my rambling needed to be a walk-for-exercise instead of a leisurely stroll. If I walk there again this week, I'm sure I'll be making additions and corrections to this report.
More About Riverside Cemetery
Civil War Graves at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, KY
Camp Alcorn at Hopkinsville, KY