One of Rome’s most famous hills is also the home to some of its most famous past citizens. Located in the heart of downtown at the confluence of the rivers, it is hard to miss; and to be in Rome means that one must eventually drive past it somehow. Its distinctive gated and terraced look makes it stand out from the other landmarks in the area, not to mention all the gravestones and mausoleum that populate it.
Myrtle Hill is open to visit for the public during normal daylight hours, but the more adventurous of us may want to try out one of the themed and guided tours offered several times a year instead of venture into it alone. This past week, I trekked to Myrtle Hill for Spirits of the Civil War: Myrtle Hill Cemetery tours.
I usually don’t trust anyone in costume outside the holidays, but this Saturday morning I decided to make an exception. Turns out I didn’t have to compromise too much because the only costumes were on the civil war era military band playing just inside the cemetery’s gates. The band played Civil War era music on original instruments while explaining the meanings of the various songs. It was interesting to learn that the Civil War band has both a set of Confederate and Union Uniforms – and they play in each uniform multiple times throughout the year.
I sweated throughout the first part of the 90 minute tour. I wasn’t sweating because it was necessarily hot outside or that the tour was physically strenuous, it’s because I came with pen and notebook. Originally my plan was to take detailed notes for this blog entry in the hopes to transfer the cemetery trivia I learned during the tour to this review.
BUT – take my word for it, trying to take copious notes while experiencing Myrtle Hill is not recommended – you simply miss out on too much. To do so means to missing the thousands of intricate grave stones, First Lady Ellen Axon Wilson’s resting place, and dozens of monuments including the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument. As soon as I put away my notes and pen, I was able to start noticing the details.
The Cemetery on Myrtle Hill is Victorian, but that label could be misleading, conjuring up images of Southern Gothic literature. Rather, this antebellum cemetery never had a downfall…no tragic consequences or peculiar character that could give weight to something gothic. Rome’s respect for its past citizens shows in the diligent upkeep, sunny views of downtown, and family legacies that are all evident if one takes the time to visit.
What I learned about a themed tour like Spirits of the Civil War: Myrtle Hill Cemetery is that the point is not to sentimentalize the history of the town in a way that the guest is supposed to connect in some watered down and copacetic fashion. Instead, the theme of the tour shows people, literally in costume and all, the direct connection history has with this town and the cemetery on Myrtle Hill.
These are the things I take away from Myrtle Hill Cemetery, what will you take from it?