sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 29, 2005

battleground national cemetery
posted by soe 9:34 pm

In honor of Memorial Day, I decided for my ride today to bike up to Battleground National Cemetery on Georgia Avenue, since it’s considered an endangered location in D.C. (see my Friday post for more info).

I took the Rock Creek trail up as far as Peirce Mill, where I got confused and took a left instead of a right. The right would have put me on Beach Drive, which meanders along the creek. The left put me on Ross Drive, which zig zags up the ridge along the creek. The important thing to note is that although I did have to stop at the first picnic area, I DID NOT WALK THE BIKE UP THE HILLS. Of course, after I got to the bottom and discovered I had taken the wrong road, I did walk up the next hill. But only until I realized that walking was even slower than riding as slow as I go up endless hills (3 mph vs. 5 mph).

graves at Battleground National Cemetery

Battleground National Cemetery is about the size of three housing plots. Maybe an acre of land. Only 40 graves of Union soldiers, arranged in a circle around a flagpole. Three monuments stand at the front of the plot, as does a little building, which I believe houses information on the Civil War battles in D.C. A plantation-like bandstand sits at the rear of the property. Old, full-leafed trees dot the property.

It has not been forgotten. One of the nation’s smallest national cemeteries, it had been decorated carefully for Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it once was known). A flag adorned each grave. And a yellow-flowered wreath had been placed in front of the flagpole.

tattered flag at Battleground National Cemetery

It was beautiful. It was peaceful — as cemetaries inevitably are. But it was a little … decayed. The ceiling of the bandstand and the flagpole need to be repainted. The bronze plaques, located under trees, need to be cleaned. The flag needs to be replaced.

But I like how it sits on one of the city’s busiest streets relatively unaccosted. A large Safeway is only a block away. There is an apartment building across the street. Houses sit to either side of the field and along the backside. The nineteenth century is surrounded by twentieth-century buildings in a twenty-first century neighborhood. Somehow it works.

On the ride home, I took a right turn off 16th Street and ended up in a well-off gully where I rode past a castle (or at least a mansion designed to look like a castle, complete with turret and stained glass). The gully led me back to the Rock Creek path, where I pedaled through thickets (an under-used word) of sweet-smelling white flowering bushes. And then past a large wading bird. Turns out it was a Great Blue Heron, just hanging out in Rock Creek! I never would have seen it if I’d driven or taken the Metro up to the cemetery.

Memo to self: go looking for (or, at least, stumble across) nature more often.

Great Blue Heron

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