There Are Centuries-Old Grave Sites Just For Amputated Limbs That You Can Still Visit

Plenty of well-known grave sites for people exist, but there are also graves famous for containing only parts of people. General Stonewall Jackson's arm, for instance, lies buried apart from the rest of his body - and even has its own monument. And it's not the only one, as you can find graves for amputated limbs all over the country.  

Why does this happen? Over a century ago, people believed particular things about amputated limbs. In some cases, laws or religious beliefs required the burial of limbs. So while it may seem strange today, these creepy graveyards and monuments dot the United States and other countries. It's just another weird thing people do with bodies - and body parts.

  • The Law Once Required Severed Limbs Be Given A Burial

    The Law Once Required Severed Limbs Be Given A Burial
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    Why did people once give their amputated limb a burial? In some places, the law required it. In the case of Bert Barrett, he buried his arm to avoid running afoul of the law. The rule may have been for sanitary reasons or to stop anyone from displaying their limbs in homes or museums (something people did). But there's no record of why these laws existed.

    In modern times, no United States federal law addresses the ownership of human remains, unless they belong to Native Americans. So, in many states, you can take your amputated limb home and do whatever you choose with it.

  • People Believed They Would Reunite With Lost Limbs In The Afterlife

    People Believed They Would Reunite With Lost Limbs In The Afterlife
    Photo: Currier & Ives / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Even when the law didn't require it, people buried amputated limbs because of religious beliefs. Certain Christians believed their bodies would be resurrected during a second coming or rapture, and wanted to be whole when it happened.

    Those of other faiths, including Judaism and Islam, define proper processes for burying severed limbs. Many believed a person missing a limb in their Earthly grave would lack it in the afterlife. So, buried limbs were dug up and re-buried with the rest of the body when someone died.

  • Mass Graves Of Amputated Limbs Exist

    The burial of a severed limb wasn't the fanciest affair. Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War. After an amputation, surgeons buried the limb somewhere nearby - unless the soldier wanted to take it with them. In massive battles, the number of amputations led to mass graves of limbs.

    In June 2018, researchers found the first confirmed Civil War limb pit in McLean, VA. Inside, they discovered two dead bodies and 11 partial limbs that showed signs of amputation from surgical instruments of the time. Located in Manassas National Battlefield Park, researchers believe the grave is from the Second Battle of Bull Run.

  • We Don't Exactly Know The Location Of Stonewall Jackson's Arm

    We Don't Exactly Know The Location Of Stonewall Jackson's Arm
    Photo: olekinderhook / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    The tale of Stonewall Jackson's amputated arm is a long and confusing one. His own men accidentally shotted the Confederate general on May 2, 1863. Hit three times - twice in his left arm - Jackson had his appendage amputated in an effort to save his life. He died, however, on May 10, 1863.

    Jackson's body was transported to Lexington, but his amputated limb stayed behind. His troops decided they couldn't just throw the arm into a pit, so they gave it a proper Christian burial in Ellwood Manor, near where Jackson died. After that, things get hazy.

    Union soldiers claimed they dug up the arm and reburied it in 1864, but experts remain unsure if this happened. Others suspect it was stolen. One of Jackson's officers had a tombstone erected for the limb in 1903, despite the debate over its location.  People can still visit the marker between May and October, near Fredericksburg, VA.

  • Bert Barrett's Arm Is Buried In The Outskirts Of San Jose

    Hacienda Cemetery sits in the hills on the southern edge of San Jose, CA. There, you can find an odd little gravestone - not for a whole person, but a single appendage. Bert Barrett lost his left arm in 1898. At 13, a shotgun blast damaged it beyond saving. Barrett's family buried his limb under a headstone that reads, "His arm lies here. May it rest in peace." 

    While many died from amputations in the 19th century, Barrett survived another 61 years. When he finally passed in 1959, they buried his body in Oak Hill Memorial Park - 11 miles away from his severed arm. According to legend, the ghost of the arm appears each Halloween, searching for its body.

  • Captain Samuel Jones Survived Long After His Leg Was Buried

    Captain Samuel Jones worked in construction in 1804 when he trapped his leg between a fence and building. His injuries were so severe his leg had to be amputated. Rather than fall into a terrible depression, though, Jones held a funeral for the limb. He invited guests and buried the leg in the town graveyard of Washington, New Hampshire. Jones supposedly did this since he believed giving it a proper burial would lessen phantom limb sensations

    Jones's later life is unclear, but reports indicate he ended up buried in either Boston or Rhode Island - far away from his leg's grave. Some college students allegedly stole the headstone for the limb at one point. So, when police recovered the marker, they anchored it in concrete to prevent future theft.