Dec 5

The Christmas wreaths have returned to Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

For the fourth straight year, the Sgt Mac Foundation’s National Wreath Project brought wreaths to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg. This year approximately 1,620 wreaths were placed in Gettysburg and approximately 3,400 in Quantico National Cemetery located in Virginia. As in previous years, we’ll follow Lower National Cemetery Drive from the Taneytown Road entrance through the cemetery and show you a few pictures.

To see previous related posts:

Gettysburg National Cemetery Christmas Wreaths on December 8, 2008
Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery Christmas Wreaths 2009 on December 6, 2009
Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery Christmas Wreaths 2010 on December 9, 2010

This map shows the sections of the National Cemetery where the wreaths were placed. They were mostly placed in Sections 1, 2, and 3. Those sections contain individuals who served from the Spanish-American War to Vietnam. The wreaths were not placed in the Civil War section of the cemetery, which are the semi-circled sections numbered 1-22. This map is courtesy of Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel for his series World War II at Gettysburg.

We’ll begin our visit to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the Taneytown Road entrance. This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

We’re entering the cemetery… This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

… and we’ll be going up to the right. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The first wreath that we saw was at the Lincoln Address Memorial, which was dedicated in 1912. This view was facing south at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

Behind the memorial is Section 3 of the cemetery. It contains the graves of soldiers from wars after the American Civil War. This view was taken facing south at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

To see Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel’s post on World War II soldiers buried in this section, click here. This view was taken facing south at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

In his World War II at Gettysburg series, Ralph Siegel talked about how dirty some of the stones, especially in this section were. Compare the new stone on the left, to the older stone, on the right for example. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

We’ll head back towards the northern sections of the cemetery, and walk past the Rostrum constructed in 1879. It is scheduled to be refurbished in 2012. It is to look more like the rostrum at Antietam National Battlefield. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

We will take a left and walk along Lower Cemetery Avenue past the rostrum and the monument to Edgell’s First New Hampshire Battery. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

One of the first things we notice is what we thought was a brown bald cypress tree. We thought it was dying. Gettysburg Photography Historian Michael Waricher, however, informs us that the tree turns orange every year and drops its needles. This view was taken facing west at approximately 10:30 AM on Sunday, December 19, 2010.

Of course the only reason that we know it is a bald cypress tree is because the National Park Service has labeled the trees in the National Cemetery. This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The Soldiers’ National Monument is to our right, among the Civil War era graves. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The post Civil War graves with the wreaths are coming up on our left in Section 1. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The wreaths are the gift of the foundation began by the family of Marine Sergeant Jonathan Eric McColley. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The 23 year old McColley was killed in a helicopter accident on February 17, 2006 off the coast of Djibouti. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The McColley’s created the National Wreath Project, a program from the non-profit organization they set up to honor veterans, the Sgt. Mac Foundation. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

In Christmas, 2007, donations and volunteers led to the placement of over 2100 wreaths at Quantico, Virginia where Sergeant Eric McColley is buried. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

In 2008 the project expanded into Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery because Gettysburg was Eric’s childhood home. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The Collis Monument restoration in the Pennsylvania section still hasn’t been finished. This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The first Thanksgiving after Sergeant Eric McColley died, his family visited his grave at Quantico and brought a Christmas wreath. This view was taken facing west at approximately 10:30 AM on Sunday, December 19, 2010.

They visited frequently, brought a new wreath each time, and placed the old wreaths on the graves next to Eric’s. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

Eric’s family then noticed that many other graves were not decorated, and wondered what the best time was to buy the most wreaths at the cheapest price. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

We’ll be back to the wreaths in a little while, but first we want to walk to the Soldiers’ National Monument, dedicated in 1869. This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The Soldiers’ Monument does have a wreath placed at its base. The monument has had problems with vandalism over the years. This view was taken facing east at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The Civil War graves, such as the New York section, shown here, do not have wreaths. This is because the wreaths would not be “propped up” by the headstones. Of course the Civil War section is decorated with flags at the major holidays, and has candles at Remembrance Day, November 19th. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

There are some exceptions to no wreaths in the Civil War section. Here is the Illinois Civil War section of the National Cemetery. The four headstones with wreaths in the front row are Spanish American War soldiers from Illinois. The six graves without wreaths in the back row are Civil War soldiers from Illinois. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

This section, which is on the northern part of the cemetery also has wreaths placed on stones that are mostly post-Civil War graves with some Civil War burials intermixed. The tallest monument is the New York State monument, dedicated in 1893. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

We have now reached Section 2 of the National Cemetery. In the foreground is the right flank marker of the 74th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, whose monument on the first day’s battlefield has still not been repaired after its latest incident of being hit by a wayward vehicle. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The left flank marker of the 61st Ohio Infantry Regiment. Neither the 74th Pennsylvania or the 61st Ohio have monuments in the National Cemetery, they only have flank markers. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

Back to the McColley’s story: They purchased over 500 wreaths on sale for $1 each on Christmas Eve, 2006, and decorated most of the graves in Eric’s section at Quantico that Christmas Day. This view was taken facing north at approximately 10:30 AM on Sunday, December 19, 2010.

The McColley’s created the National Wreath Project, which is a program from the non-profit organization they set up to honor veterans, the Sgt. Mac Foundation. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

By Christmas, 2007, donations and volunteers led to the placement of over 2100 wreaths at Quantico. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The project expanded to Gettysburg with approximately 400 wreaths in 2008. The Friend to Friend Memorial is in the right bakground. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

This year and last year, 1620 wreaths were placed by the headstones. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

Volunteers placed the ribbons on the wreaths. This view was taken facing north at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The volunteers placed the wreaths on the headstones last Friday, December 2, 2011. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

There are over 6000 individuals buried in the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

Approximately 3500 of the National Cemetery burials are Civil War era dead, and the rest, such as these, are post Civil War. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

The National Cemetery was closed to further burials in 1972. This view was taken facing west at approximately 10:30 AM on Sunday, December 19, 2010.

To see Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Roy Frampton’s series on the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, click here. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

To order Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides Roy Frampton and Jim Cole’s book on the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery, click here. This view was taken facing west at approximately 2:45 PM on Saturday, December 3, 2011.


About Us  •  Support  •  Archives  •  Subscribe  •  Creative Commons License