Knoxville’s National Cemetery, established during the Civil War and one of the oldest national cemeteries in America, is the final resting place of veterans from most of America’s wars, and still sees a burial now and then.
The contrast between these photographs, one taken around 1902, the other a few days ago, shows a century’s accumulation of gravestones, but also, at the top, an odd incongruity. The original monument, paid for by thousands of Union veterans and their families and completed in 1901, featured a bronze eagle—anchored in the monument, perhaps unfortunately, by an iron rod. The monument survived intact for less than three years.
During a summer storm on the early evening of August 22, 1904, a lightning bolt hit the monument, ripping it apart and sending chunks of marble into the neighborhood, damaging houses on Tyson Street. After the bizarre incident, Knoxville Republican congressman Henry Gibson secured federal funding to rebuild the monument, this time with an eight-foot marble statue of a Union soldier, less attractive to lightning. Completed in 1906, it has survived 105 summers.