The tears blurred my vision as I stood before the marker which read 357 to 360.  David Ganus was number 358.  I had known before we arrived that he was buried in a “mass grave” in Hollywood Cemetery, and yet the hard reality of it really hit me when I found the marker.  I realized that he died in Virginia in December, and that the ground was likely frozen.  I realized that it was difficult for those of the time to keep up with the large numbers of the dying men in Winder Hospital and more specifically in the Civil War, and  I realized that they couldn’t possibly provide caskets for each soldier, but it was difficult to see a number and realize that that was all that remained to mark the end of David’s life.

David Ganus #358
Hollywood Cemetery

I reminded myself that as the war had raged on, that those regiments in battle had had little time or resources to do more than just bury the dead and even that created a huge challenge. The numbers of dead surged beyond anything they had anticipated and the lack of man power and materials with which to dig a grave made it difficult if not nearly impossible.  Consequently, many lie within the earth, their location still unmarked and unknown, and so I felt grateful that at least there was a record of David’s death and a marker to indicate where he lay.

On our recent trip to Virginia, we took a Confederate Tour that ended at Hollywood Cemetery.  While there are many others buried there, including past residents of Richmond, and several US Presidents, a substantial portion of the cemetery is a burial ground for Confederate Generals and thousands of Confederate soldiers.

Our guide told us that the men were buried like they fought, shoulder to shoulder.  As I scanned the rolling hills of the cemetery,  I was amazed at the number of visible markers.  I  knew that the number buried there represented a small fraction of those that had died during the Civil War and that while some soldiers at Hollywood Cemetery had their own headstones, many others, like David, were buried in groups.  I decided to return another time to visit David’s spot.

Hollywood Cemetery

My husband and I did return a few days later and I was able to find David’s marker and had time to think and to feel.  It seemed that so much of that trip had been about thinking and feeling.  Thinking about those who had sacrificed all for a cause they believed in, thinking about what they had experienced,  thinking about what I knew about their families and what had come of the generations that had followed.  Being there and seeing where they had fought and where they had died brought about feelings that were deep and went way beyond anything I had experienced as I had read about their battles within the comfort of my own home.

As I thought about David’s wife, Malinda and considered that she never remarried and died very poor, I realized that more than likely she never visited the grave of her husband buried nearly 600 miles from her home in Georgia.  Had any member of his family been able to stand at that spot?   Was I the first?

Hollywood Cemetery 

Those that take that solemn walk through the soldiers section of Hollywood Cemetery see a sea of stone set with numbers, each number representing a life.  For most soldiers there, there is no individual headstone with name, date of birth and death, no mention of children, parents or hobbies.  If each life was marked as they are today, what would those markers tell us of those that lie there?

 #358,  David Ganus was born in Fayette County, Georgia on October of 1836 to James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey and died on 23 December 1862 in Winder Hospital, Richmond, Virginia at the age of 26.   He was James and Elizabeth’s fourth child and a brother to Mary, John, Margaret, Rebecca, Jackson, James, Calloway, Martha and Addison.  He married Malinda Davis on 14 March 1857 and was father to Mary, Nancy and Burton. He was a farmer and a Georgian and had a whole life ahead of him when he enlisted.  He was loved and undoubtedly as the war ended and men returned home ……… he was very missed.   He was so much more than a number.

To read more of David’s story from an earlier post,  click here .

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

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16 thoughts on “358…More than a Number

  1. Wonderful wonderful post…thank you for sharing. My Great grandfather was one of the lucky ones, he fought for the Union out of Iowa and made it back…I have letters he wrote during the war. On my bucket list is a trip to Iowa to see his grave.

  2. The ancestors that I KNOW served during the Civil War all survived, but probably because they were often "absent without leave." However, one was present at Appomattox for the surrender, something I didn't know when I did the battlefield tour last summer. You can read all the history books in the world, but there is nothing that brings an ancestor's story to life like walking on the ground where they walked.

  3. I need to look into some of the others that I suspect served during the war. I read one account for a battle where a man recorded that there were sometimes about as many men going the opposite direction as running towards the action. I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been. The video they show at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor's Center portrayed the battle there and really made me realize how overwhelmingly terrifying it must have been.

    You are so right Wendy—nothing brings their story to life like walking the ground they walked. Even though I didn't learn any more facts about them personally, understanding their circumstances taught me volumes.

  4. You can apply to the VA and they will issue a tombstone for him. The office there at Hollywood has the forms. A cousin was able to get one issue for a great uncle that is buried in Hollywood.

  5. I will have to look into it Charlie. I wonder if he was buried in a mass grave like David was? I noticed there were no individual markers in that section of the cemetery, but it is definitely worth checking into. Thank you for the tip!

  6. Michelle, This is wonderful! Your stories are teaching me a little more each time about how to write my own stories, to be interesting and have feeling!

    Thank you!

  7. What a moving remembrance of someone whose remains seem forgotten, Michelle. I do hope Charlie's suggestion yields a decent monument for your David Ganus. He certainly paid the supreme price for it.

  8. Thanks Jacqi and I am going to see what I can do about a headstone. I've read that up until a certain point in time, they didn't help set Confederate headstones, but it appears that has changed, so I will look into it.

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