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

Updated October 13, 2018 2.4k views12 items

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.