The Civil War Women’s Memorial in Gettysburg’s Evergreen Cemetery was dedicated in 2002. It depicts Elizabeth Thorn – who carried out the burials during the war – pregnant and leaning on a shovel. As a result she came to be known as the Angel of Gettysburg.
Born in 1832 this German immigrant was the wife of the cemetery’s caretaker and also took care of three sons and aged parents while her husband Peter served with the Pennsylvania Infantry in Virginia.
As caretaker and while pregnant she buried the dead. Although she paid a few men to assist her, they and some community volunteers found the job unbearable and soon left her on her own. She did receive some assistance from her elderly father. With him, she was reported to have buried approximately 109 battlefield bodies.
Here is an excerpt of what she wrote about that time:
“…kept on burying the soldiers until they had the National Cemetery ready, and in that time we buried one hundred five soldiers. In front of this house there were fifteen dead horses and beside the Cemetery there were nineteen in that field. So you may know it was only excitement that helped me to do all the work, with all that stench.”
One observer’s account notes, “she dug graves in the rocky soil and buried over one hundred soldiers.”
This Gettysburg Angel remained uncompensated for her efforts. Her husband returned from battle in 1865 and in 1874 they moved away from the cemetery.