Working on Hallowed Ground

Stones River National Cemetery
Superintendent William Earnshaw (center with arm raised) supervises the 111th United States Colored Infantry as they rebury soldiers in Stones River National Cemetery in 1866.

National Archives


After rejoining his unit, William Holland helped to create the Stones River National Cemetery under the supervision of Chaplain William Earnshaw. Until their Army service ended in 1866, Holland and his fellow black soldiers reburied the remains of thousands of Union soldiers and began building a stone wall surrounding that hallowed ground.

After the war, William Holland worked at the National Cemetery as a laborer, and was paid $1 a day for his work. Holland was thrown from a wagon in the early 1880s while carrying a “brush load” of tree limbs and sticks in the cemetery, and was dragged by a mule, hurting his left ankle and badly spraining his right shoulder, arm and hand. His days as a laborer were over. His doctor, J.F. Byrn, wrote that since these injuries were of a “serious character” and caused pain in his joints, Holland could not work at the cemetery or do any hard work at all after the accident. With two young children at home, Holland must have struggled to provide for his family.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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