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Mysterious America Photography

Graffiti Highway

Centralia, Pennsylvania was evacuated following a coal mine fire, which has been burning beneath the town since 1962. In 1992, Pennsylvania condemned the town and claimed it under eminent domain in an attempt for force the remaining residents out. Some sued, and were allowed to stay. A section of State Route 61 was abandoned after it began to buckle and crumble from the underground fire. This has become known as “Graffiti Highway.” Smoke can still be seen coming through cracks in the ground in some places.

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Photography

Most Beautiful Cemeteries in the Mid-Atlantic

These historic rural cemeteries are a treasure-trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.

The Mid-Atlantic states are known for their rich history and culture and represent a diverse region of America, from Chesapeake Bay to Long Island. Some of the country’s earliest events, and its most prominent figures, lived and died here, making its cemeteries a treasure trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.

Green-Wood Cemetery in New York City

Green-Wood Cemetery, at 500 25th Street in Brooklyn, New York City, was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, providing a garden-like resting place in the heart of the city for over 600,000 former residents. Its Gothic revival gates, designed by Richard M. Upjohn, were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, and the cemetery itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Battle of Brooklyn was partially fought on (what became) its 478 acres.

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Historic America Photography

Farnsworth’s Charge

Bas relief on the monument to Maj. William Wells at Gettysburg National Military Park. On the afternoon of July 3, 1863, after the final Confederate attack had been repulsed, Union cavalry commander Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick ordered Brig. Gen. Elon John Farnsworth to charge the Confederate’s right flank. The terrain was rocky and uneven, and Farnsworth protested the order. Never-the-less, he obeyed, and accompanied the 1st Vermont Cavalry, commanded by Maj. William Wells. Farnsworth had two horses shot out from under him before he was killed–shot five times. Wells survived, earning the Medal of Honor.

Farnsworth’s Charge
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Historic America

Wrightsville Battlefield in York County, Pennsylvania

This small but consequential skirmish may have saved Harrisburg from capture by Lee’s Confederates during the Civil War.

The Skirmish at Wrightsville was fought on June 28, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Granville O. Haller and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon in Wrightsville, York County, Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. It was tactically a Confederate victory, however, the hastily assembled force of Pennsylvania militia successfully burned the bridge over the Susquehanna River, preventing the Confederates from surrounding Harrisburg.

In June 1863, after a dramatic victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee made the fateful decision to move north with his Army of Northern Virginia and invade Pennsylvania. The Union Army of the Potomac was slow to respond, and Confederate forces met little resistance as they fanned out across southern Pennsylvania raiding towns, sending escaped slaves south, and paying for supplies in worthless Confederate currency. Advanced units of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps neared the Susquehanna River by June 28th.

After capturing York, Pennsylvania, Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon moved northeast to seize the Susquehanna River bridge in Wrightsville, a borough of 1,360. Standing between his 2,113 Confederates and the bridge were approximately 1,461 untrained Pennsylvania militia, organized into the 27th, 20th, and 26th regiments, including 53 free blacks who volunteered to fight.

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Mysterious America

Abandoned America: Prisons and Asylums

Visiting a former prison or asylum is an eerie experience, knowing you are free to explore where hundreds were once trapped. Has so much suffering and loneliness left something intangible behind?

Most people avoid ending up in a prison or asylum, opting instead to experience it vicariously through television, movies, or books. When these institutions close, there’s not much that can be done with them. Some local communities, however, have figured out how they can profit from public curiosity by offering tours and events. It’s a unique experience, and thousands flock to see the empty corridors. Here are just a few of the former prisons and asylums I’ve visited over the years. Not all are open to the public, but most are.

Joliet Correctional Center

The former Joliet Correctional Center at 1125 Collins Street in Joliet, Illinois opened in 1858 and was originally called the Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet. It was built using distinctive, locally quarried yellow limestone. It closed in 2002, but not before being used as a backdrop in several films, most notably The Blues Brothers (1980). It sat abandoned for many years, until being purchased by the city in 2017 and opened for tours. Ursula Bielski recently wrote a book about the institution called The Haunting of Joliet Prison.

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Historic America

Hanover Battlefield in York County, Pennsylvania

This small skirmish in a small Pennsylvania town had big consequences on the nearby Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Hanover was fought on June 30, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in the Borough of Hanover, Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. This inconclusive skirmish, part of the Gettysburg Campaign, resulted in approximately 332 total casualties. It delayed Stuart from reuniting with General Robert E. Lee’s army at Gettysburg, denying him critical intelligence during the early stages of that battle.

In June 1863, after a dramatic victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee made the fateful decision to move north with his Army of Northern Virginia and invade Pennsylvania. The Union Army of the Potomac was slow to respond, and Confederate forces met little resistance as they fanned out across southern Pennsylvania. Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, however, became trapped east of the Union army, and Stuart’s exhausted troopers fought several skirmishes to cut their way back to Lee’s army.

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Historic America

Monterey Pass Battlefield in Franklin County, Pennsylvania

Visit the scene of the Union army’s most crippling blow against Robert E. Lee’s defeated Confederates following the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Monterey Pass was fought from July 4 to 5, 1863 between Union cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick and Confederate cavalry commanded by Brig. Gens. Beverly H. Robertson and William E. “Grumble” Jones in Franklin County, Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. The battle, which immediately followed the Army of Northern Virginia’s retreat from Gettysburg, was a Union victory and resulted in approximately 1,394 total casualties, mostly captured Confederates.

After three bloody days of fighting around Gettysburg, both sides spent a rainy Independence Day licking their wounds. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent wagons filled with supplies and thousands of wounded soldiers southwest in preparation for retreat. That morning, wagons from Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps joined the miles-long supply train being funneled through Monterey Pass in South Mountain.