|Portion of the brick cemetery wall is torn down. (NPS photos)|
A contractor is replacing a deteriorated brick wall at Shiloh National Military Park’s national cemetery, the resting place of thousands of Civil War soldiers.
“There are large cracks, chunks are falling off, bricks have broken and fallen out,” park ranger Chris Mekow said of the section’s condition going into the project.
The wall, constructed in 1940, is on the cemetery’s western boundary and faces a parking lot. Extreme weather wore down the mortar, and there were no expansion joints or drainage weep holes. “Because the wall shifted… we could not shut the gate anymore. It actually moved part of the gate.”
|The view before the project began last week|
The 1911 gates will remain and the new wall will retain the design of the old brick structure, which was demolished late last week. Work is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The remainder of the cemetery at the federal site in Tennessee is protected by a utilitarian wall made of concrete and stone.
Shiloh’s cemetery, established in 1866, holds about 3,600 Civil War dead, two-thirds of them unknown.
In 1867, workers built a stone wall around the cemetery. A brick wall and ornamental iron gates were added at the entrance in 1911. While the stone wall and iron gates remain, the original brick wall eventually deteriorated, and in the early 1940s was replaced with the current wall.
A conservation team determined the best of several scenarios was to replace the brick, Mekow said. Officials thought the interior of the wall might be hollow, but that turned out not to be the case: It was solid.
Mekow said between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors annually attend a Memorial Day service within the cemetery. The plot holds about 300 veterans of other conflicts.
The two-day battle in April 1862 was the largest at that time in the western theater; the Confederate offensive, while it had successes, was finally stopped by a fierce Federal resistance. The Southerners had to leave the field, resulting in a Union victory. Casualties were staggering: 13,000 Federal troops, 10,700 Confederates.
Demolition of the wall unveiled no new artifacts, Mekow said. “We were hoping for some kind of time capsule but were disappointed,” he chuckled.