The Garden of Death: The Fallen Sparrows of Fort Mahone

April 02, 2015: Barry Cauchon

Angela Smythe has been a friend of mine for several years now and is one of the hidden gems in our research community. I am a strong supporter of her Civil War history work and have previously published her studies on John Wilkes Booth and the Richmond Grays. These articles can all be found on her website

Today Angela releases her latest work called The Garden of Death: The Fallen Sparrows of Fort Mahone. It is a detailed study of the photographs taken by Thomas C. Roche on April 3, 1865 of the deadly aftermath of the Third Battle of Petersburg (VA), one of the last Civil War battles to be fought. Less than one week later on April 9, Robert E. Lee would surrender his Army of Northern Virginia at the Appomattox Court House in Appomattox, Virginia formally ending the war between the states.

I will let Angela take it from here.

Click on the link below for Angela’s introduction to “The Garden of Death: The Fallen Sparrows of Fort Mahone”. The link at the bottom of that intro will lead you to their website and the complete essay.

Intro to Fallen Sparrows

Congratulations Angela on another wonderful piece of research presented both graphically and poetically.




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  1. I just discovered this website while looking for photos I was shown in the mid 80s. Here’s a true story that I regret not having acted differently. I owned a bookstore in the 80s in Denver. One day a man in his 40s or so came in and said that he was traveling through the city and was looking for someone to help him verify and possibly publish some photos that he claimed were discovered in his grandparents’ attic (or barn, I can’t remember now) in southern Illinois and had been sent to him in Colorado.

    He had a large satchel and pulled out maybe a dozen very old b&w photos taken next to a farmhouse and barn of a grey-haired set of individuals. He asked me to look at the tall man closely and I suddenly realized that the fellow was a perfect version of an old Abraham Lincoln. He then pulled out some photos he had copied of Lincoln as a younger man and as president. He laid them next to the old man photos and pointed to the skin irregularity on his right cheek that was there, the creases, that had deepened,(and maybe a scar but I can’t remember now), etc. They were definitely the same man (and this was before Photoshop).

    Then he pulled out popular photos of Mary Todd Lincoln (young and old) and did the same with those, comparing them to his rural photos. To my layman’s eye, it was the same person. Finally, he showed me photos of Lincoln’s grandchildren. Two of them were in the photos with the aged Abraham and Mary Todd.

    After that, he showed me articles saying that the photos of Lincoln’s corpse were fake and that there were strangely, no authenticated photos of him that anyone could truly verify as being Lincoln.

    I really had no idea what to tell him. I was not in the publishing business, nor an expert on history or reasons why Lincoln may have wished to stage his own death so he could live out his senior years in peace on a farm in Illinois. Anyway, I pointed him to the state historical museum and the Smithsonian.

    He walked out my door and only later did I regret not having at least asked him if I could photocopy his images or get his information. Better yet, I should have personally escorted him to the museum.

    I was just recounting this story to a friend today and did a search to see if any of those photos ever ended up on a website somewhere, maybe debunked or something. I didn’t find them but found your site.

    I hope this intrigues you. Sorry, I can’t give you any leads.

    Be well.

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