The Siege of Petersburg, encompassing several battles and smaller actions, was fought between June 9, 1864 and March 25, 1865, around Petersburg, Virginia, between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. The siege ended in a decisive Union victory and resulted in approximately 70,000 total casualties.
Today, only a small portion of the battlefield, mainly northeast of the city, has been preserved as Petersburg National Battlefield. It would be impossible to preserve all the extensive earthworks that ringed the city south of the Appomattox River, but many forts and landmarks have been turned into city parks. The battlefield has been divided into two fronts: Eastern and Western. The Eastern Front Driving Tour is four miles and the Western Front Driving Tour is 16 miles.
The Siege of Petersburg wasn’t technically a siege because the city wasn’t entirely surrounded, but it shared similar characteristics, including fortifications, mortar bombardments, and near-constant, low-intensity fighting. It lasted 9 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days. Over time, the battle lines crawled westward as Ulysses S. Grant tried to find a way to cut Lee’s main supply line to the west and south.
Cumberland Cemetery, located near the town of Wenona in Marshall County, is rumored to be the home of a headless lady, spook lights, and the ghost of a little girl. The cemetery itself is rich in history. It was the site of the first farm in Evans Township, and its rolling hills were once occupied by a fort built during the Black Hawk War to protect the nearby settlers from marauding Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo Indians.
Marshall County was settled comparatively late. Illinois became a state in 1818, but the first white settler in Evans Township, Benjamin Darnell, arrived there in 1828. The book Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties tells us that his nearest neighbor lived six miles away in what became Roberts Township.
Benjamin Darnell had ten children, including a 14 year old daughter named Lucy (the date of settlement given here, including Lucy’s age, is different than that given by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk in the Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations. I believe my source to be more accurate).
Lucy took ill and died in 1829. Her family buried her on their farm, and her grave formed the cornerstone of Cumberland Cemetery. It is thought that the spirit of the first person (or animal) to be interred in a cemetery becomes its guardian. Perhaps that superstition explains the origin of the young girl’s ghost reportedly encountered in Cumberland?