The Brick Church on Well's Hill, now known as Old Blandford Church of Bristol Parish, was erected in 1735. Rich in Colonial, Revolutionary, War of 1812, and Confederate history, this old church was abandoned after the building of another Episcopal church in Petersburg, when the Town of Blandford had been absorbed by Petersburg. Necessary repairs for its preservation were made by the City of Petersburg in 1882.
In 1901 the city delegated to the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg the privilege of developing this church into a Memorial Chapel and a Confederate shrine in memory of the 30,000 heroes buried in its shadow.
The Confederate States honored their soldiers by placing in the church memorial windows, designed and executed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. There are fifteen of these windows, making this shrine one of the art treasures of our country. Memorial services were held here for George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at their deaths.
Here was fought the "Battle of Petersburg" in 1781. Lord Cornwallis and British Generals O'hara and Phillips met in Petersburg and decided on the strategy that led the British Army to Yorktown and defeat. General Phillips became ill while in Petersburg and passed away. He was secretly buried somewhere in the churchyard. (See Link below).
Here rest the heroes of the "War of 1812" who won for Petersburg its title the "Cockade City of the Union."
The "Cross of Jewels" was a gift from Mr. Tiffany and is above the west door. It bears the inscription: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men. As the sun sinks behind these sparkling jewels, their colors change with the glowing sun, and it is truly a thing of beauty.
During the period when the church was abandoned, with no windows, doors, or floor, and its side and roof covered with ivy, there was found written on the old white washed wall words that were simply signed "A Stranger".
There are many stories to be told about Blandford Church and Cemetery. Below you will find links to some of them.
The Confederate flag as shown in the Ladies Memorial window above is believed to be the only stained glass Confederate flag ever made by the Tiffany Company.
Among these buried near the church are a sixteen year old lieutenant; a forty-six year old father of five children; a fifty-three year old father buried beside his twenty-one year old son, who had been killed in 1862; a fifty-four year old deaf father, killed after the command to surrender, which he could not hear, who lies buried beside the grave, containing the remains of two of his sons lost a few months later; and a fifty-six year old widower, whose only daughter when she grew up to womanhood gave a large part of her life in promoting activities pertaining to the Confederacy.
.Within a stone's throw of the church can be seen the graves of some of the 9th of June heroes, when, "the gray haired sires and beardless youths" 125 strong under the gallent Col. Fletcher H. Archer engaged the trained soldiers of the Federal Army in a surprise attack on the city. These civilians held at bay 1,500 of General Kautz's cavalry at Rives farm until reinforcements arrived and Petersburg was saved. Memorial services are held here in the church every year on the ninth of June to honor the "Old Men and Young Boys," who distinguished themselves in a battle with an overwhelming force of Federal troops on June ninth 1864.
Thou art crumbling to the dust old pile,
Thou art hastening to thy fall,
And 'round thee in thy loneliness
Clings the ivy to thy wall.
The worshipers are scattered now,
Who knelt before thy shrine,
And silence reigns where anthems rose
In days of "Auld Lang Syne".
And sadly sighs the wandering wind,
Where oft in in years gone by
Prayers rose from many hearts to him
The highest of the high;
The tramp of many a busy foot
That sought thy aisles is o'er
And many a weary heart around
Is still forever more.
How doth ambition's hope take wing.
How droops the spirit now;
We hear the distant city's din.
The dead are mute below.
The Sun that shown upon their paths
Now gilds their lonely graves:
The zephyrs which once fanned their brows
The grass above them waves.
Oh! could we call the many back
Who've gathered here in vain-
Who've careless roved where we do now,
Who'll never meet again;
How would our very hearts be stirred
To meet the earnest gaze
Of the lovely and the beautiful
The lights of other days.