When you approach the Richmond National Cemetery and see its sea of white stones forming perfect lines in every direction, you become aware that you are stepping into an area filled with the remains of a proud and patriotic people. Uniformity can evoke strong emotions due to its simplicity, and in the case of national cemeteries, its historical context. The Richmond National Cemetery is an interesting case because it maintains the sense of pride that is present in other national cemeteries, but it does not maintain the strict uniformity. In this view of three gravestones, it is clear that there are significant differences between all three.
When looking at the two stones that are next to each other, there is a lot more inscription on the left stone. The stone on the right only contains the deceased’s initials and last name in addition to”Ohio.” There is no date inscribed on this stone. The stone itself it much thinner, slightly shorter, and it appears to be more weathered than the other two stones in the picture above. Because of the extreme simplicity, one may be led to believe that it was hastily made during a time of war. More can be said about this simple stone after looking at the other stones in this first picture.
The stone at the back left of the picture to the right dates from the civil war. This stone includes the death date and military rank, yet excludes the deceased’s home state. Here is the first change we notice in attitudes towards military death during different time periods. The stone from the civil war places more importance on the individual as part of a larger whole in the military, while the other “Ohio” stone places importance on the deceased’s home state. By incorporating the military rank into gravestone inscriptions, the deaths are more militarized to show that this person died for a larger cause.
In the most decorated stone, it is clear that it is the most recent gravestone out of these three. Without looking at the date, one can date this stone to more recent times because of its smooth material and lack of decay. This stone contains several new additions such as a cross, full name, birth/death date, and war served in. The most striking difference is the religious symbol. It is difficult to imagine that deceased buried in the other two graves did not have religious beliefs, but their stones were not created by family who knew of their religious values. Yet the person in the more modern grave died after the war he served in, so his family was able to inform the government about the deceased’s religious beliefs. It was the military who decided not to include religious symbols on the earlier stones. This may be due to the enormous amount of burials required during earlier wars or less discussion and popularity of religion in those times. Ultimately, there are many differences in attitudes towards death that can be observed in a cemetery that attempts to promote uniformity and equality.