- About Us
- Tours and Events
- Cemetery Map
- Interment Index
- Archive Finding Aid
Newspaper Clips (1860-1869)
July 16, 1862: Congressional Burying Ground
Sept. 15, 1862: Congressional Cemetery
Jan. 29, 1863: Robbing A Grave Yard
March 6, 1863: Robbing A Grave Yard
June 17, 1864: Frightful Explosion at the Arsenal
June 17, 1864: Further particulars of the terrible explosion at the arsenal
June 18, 1864: The Explosion Yesterday at the Arsenal
June 18, 1864: Further of the explosion
June 20, 1864: The Arsenal Disaster
June 20, 1864: Meeting of the Employees of the Arsenal
June 20, 1864: A Difficulty At The Funeral
June 20, 1864: The Funeral of the Victims of the Arsenal Explosion
July 11, 1865: The Cemeteries of Washington
July 22, 1868: Beautiful Monument
July 27, 1868: Congressional Burying Ground
Oct. 23, 1869: The Congressional Cemetery
The Evening Star, July 16, 1862
Congressional Burying Ground
The committee appointed by the lot holders in this cemetery, at a meeting held on the 20th of June, met yesterday at the Bank of Washington. Present: Messrs. James Adams, W.B. Todd, W.C. Zantzinger, J.F. Haliday, E.F. French and Chauncey French. This committee was appointed to wait upon the lot holders and solicit their cooperation in such measures as may be best calculated to promote the general improvement and embellishment of the private lots in the cemetery, and to make such other improvements in the grounds as may be agreed upon by the vestry of Washington parish (who have the control of the burying ground) and the committee.
A full list of the lot holders having been furnished by the vestry to the committee, the committee resolved yesterday to wait upon the lot holders and solicit subscriptions from them to carry forward the objects of the meeting. As soon as sufficient funds are subscribed, the work of improvement will be prosecuted under the direction of the vestry and committee; and if the efforts of the committee are seconded by those having friends and relatives buried there, in a little while we hope this time-honored resting place will be put in a condition creditable to all interested in it. All persons who feel interested in the matter, and are desirous of aiding, and who may be overlooked by the committee, are invited to call on either of the committee.
The Evening Star, September 15, 1862
The lot holders of the Congressional Cemetery have by their annual subscriptions resolved upon its immediate and thorough restoration, and that hereafter it shall be kept in handsome order. The corporation too have improved their property around the consecrated ground.
The Evening Star, January 29, 1863
Robbing a Grave Yard
Some scoundrel or scoundrels on Saturday night last entered the Congressional Cemetery and robbed it of two beautiful marble figures-one from the family lot of Jacob Gideon, Esq., being a statue about three feet high, in a standing position, with the hands folded across the breast, representing Meditation; the other from the family lot of George Parker, Esq., being the figure of an infant about twenty inches long, reclining on its right arm and side.
The Alexandria Gazette, March 6, 1863
Robbing a Grave Yard
Sergeant Noble S. Hammond and private John K. Howard, of Company G., Fifth Michigan cavalry, have been arrested in Washington, charged with stealing from the Congressional burying ground, two small pieces of statuary belonging to George Parker and Jacob Gideon, esqs., and also a bronze statue representing a ten year old child in a devotional attitude, from the country residence of Clark Mills the sculptor. These articles were boxed up and sent home to the families of the parties, and letters were found acknowledging their receipt and praising the beauty of the statues.
A large number of the female employees killed or frightfully wounded. 18 dead bodies taken out of the ruins already.
At 10 minutes of 12 today a terrible catastrophe occurred at the Arsenal which has cast a gloom over the whole community, and rendered sad many a heart that was buoyant a few minutes previous.
While 108 girls were at work in the main laboratory making cartridges for small arms, a quantity of fire works, which had been placed on the outside of the building became ignited, and a piece of fuse flying into one of the rooms in which were seated about 29 young women set the cartridges on fire and caused an instantaneous explosion.
The building in which the explosion took place is a one-storey brick, divided off into four rooms and runs East and West.
Those girls who were employed in the east rooms of the laboratory, mostly escaped by jumping from the windows and running through the doors pell mell; but those in the room fronting on the east, did not fare so well, and it is feared that nearly all of them were killed by the explosion or burnt to death.
The explosion did not occasion a loud report, the roof being raised from the building about a foot, but the building immediately caught fire and was completely destroyed.
The news of the accident spread like wild fire, and in a few moments hundreds of anxious parents, brothers and sisters flocked to the scene of the disaster, but owing to the confusion no one was allowed to enter or leave the ground.
As soon as it was known the building was on fire the work in all the shops was suspended, and the hands went nobly to work to extinguish the flames and render assistance to those who were unable to escape.
When our reporter left the scene of this disaster 19 bodies had been taken from the ruins, but there were so completely burnt to a crisp that recognition was impossible.
The following are in the hospital at the Arsenal: Sallie McElfresh, seriously burnt about the body; Annie Bates, burnt mortally; Catharine Goldsmith, burnt severely about the hands, arms and face; H.B. Moulten, Clerk, burnt about hands and face severely; Julia Mahony, badly hurt jumping from window; Miss Ada Webster, seriously burnt and conveyed home by friends.
Secretary Stanton and General Halleck were on the ground in a very short time after the explosion.
The cause of the explosion is supposed to have been the ignition of some fireworks and were in a pan near the southeastern window of the building. Several persons who were nearby at the time concur in the statement that the stars took fire and in burning flew out of the pan, some of them falling in and catching to the loose powder where the girls were making cartridges.
Major Stebbins, Military Storekeeper, was in the building at the time with several other gentlemen, and states that after the powder on the benches caught, the fire spread down rapidly, blinding the girls and setting fire to their clothes. Many of them ran to the windows wrapped in flames, and on their way communicated the fire to the dresses of others. Fortunately there were no completed cartridges in the room, those on hand being ready to pinch.
Maj. Stebbins was in a position to assist the unfortunate girls in making their escape; and to him and others who were near, and to the soldiers and workmen who were promptly on the spot, do many of them owe their lives.
Company F, 6th regiment, Capt. Collins, and D 19th regiment, Capt. Tyler V.R.O., were on the spot promptly and rendered valuable assistance.
The 19 dead bodies taken out were so terribly charred as to be almost beyond identification. Three more are mortally injured, and there are fifteen or twenty severe contusions. Dr. Charles Allen, of the 7th Ward, rendered valuable assistance to Dr. Porter, the Surgeon in charge, in aiding the sufferers.
Shortly after the alarm of fire was sounded, the Columbia, Preservance, Anacostia and Franklin fire companies, the American Hook and Ladder Company, and the Government steam engines Rucker, Meigs, and Hibernia, made their appearance on the ground, and succeeded in preventing the flames from spreading to the surrounding buildings.
Special care was taken to prevent the fire from reaching the barge magazine, in which several tons of powder is constantly kept, for had the flames reached this building the loss of life would have been fearful, as several hundred persons were in the immediate vicinity.
While the firemen were engaged in pouring their streams upon the building in which the explosion occurred, another explosion took place in the ruins, but which only resulted in throwing up into the air some of the burning timbers.
As soon as the accident occurred, a telegraph dispatch was sent from the arsenal to the War Department, informing Secretary Stanton what had taken place, and asking that Surgeons be furnished, which request was immediately complied with.
Some three or four of those who made their escape from the building, but who were quite badly burnt, ran down to the dock, and were placed on board of a Government steam tug which was lying there at the time. These parties were conveyed to the Sixth street wharf, from whence they were taken by their friends.
The scene at the Arsenal was a heart-rending one. Relatives and friends of parties employed at the Arsenal were rushing to and fro inquiring anxiously after those who were near and dear to them; while the firemen and soldiers were actively engaged in subduing the flames and removing the charred remains of those who perished in the ruins.
The bodies were in such a condition that it was found necessary to place boards under each one in order to remove them from the ruins, and as they were carried out and placed on the ground, an excited crowd would press forward, some with anguished feverness, to look for relatives and friends, and others through motives of curiosity; but a guard of the Reserve Corps was placed in a circle around the remains, and no one was allowed to approach them for the time being.
From time to time, as anxious searchers for those dear to them would meet with those they were in quest of alive and well, they would rush into each other's arms, and the scene was affecting in the extreme.
Quite a number were injured in jumping from the windows, but the majority of those who escaped in this way immediately ran off in all directions, which renders it difficult to tell who perished and who escaped.
One young woman had an arm broken jumping from the building. Three boys are missing, and it is feared they perished in the building.
At first it was supposed that the explosion occurred from the steel-pinchers used in cutting cartridges, striking fire to the cartridges, but the evidence thus far is to the effect that it occurred from an explosion of red star fireworks laid out to dry in the sun on black plates. These fireworks cannot stand a high temperature, and it is believed that the extreme heat of the sun today exploited them, and that a fuse flew in among the cartridges where the girls were at work, with the disastrous results above noted.
Coroner Woodward has gone down to the Arsenal to hold an inquest over the bodies.
Further Details and Particulars -
The Coroner's Inquest
The excitement attendant upon the terrible explosion and loss of life at the Arsenal yesterday was kept up throughout the entire day. An excited crowd of relatives of the laboratory employees, parents, brothers, sisters, anxious as to the fate of those dear to them, thronged about the outer gate leading to the Arsenal, and the scenes here were heart-rending. In the early part of the afternoon, in order to prevent confusion inside the grounds, an order was issued restricting the number of persons permitted to enter. A few females and those outside gave vent to their feelings in bitter wailings very distressing to hear.
In the immediate vicinity of the accident, inside of the Arsenal grounds proper, the charred remains of those who had perished were laid upon the ground and covered over with canvases.
Many inquiries were made for missing parties, and by these inquiries we learned the names of the following sufferers and dead: Sallie McElfresh, badly burnt, and taken to the hospital, and has since died. Annie Bates, also in hospital, and badly burnt. Miss Carr, Northern Liberties, supposed to be among the killed. Mrs. Scott, G street south, leg badly burned. Millie Webster, who lives on 6th street, Island, was reported killed, but we have subsequently learned that she was not at work yesterday, and is consequently safe. Maggie Yonson, 7th street, between E and F, is among the dead. Melissa Adams, 7th street, between G and H, dead. Maggie Eckloff had her back slightly injured by jumping from a window, but is otherwise not injured. Emma Knott had her back, face and hands badly burned. Johanna Connor, who lived on English Hill, was among those burned to death, but her remains were subsequently recognized by a portion of dress which remained upon her unconsumed. The whole top of her head was, however, gone, and the brain was visible; and but for the fragment of dress it would have been impossible to recognize her. Julia McKewen, corner 4 1/2 and F streets, Island, supposed to be among the killed. Ellen Roche, also supposed to be killed. Rebecca Hull badly burned about the head; taken home, corner of 5th and K streets North, and subsequently died. Bridget Dunn, East Capitol street, supposed to be killed. Search was made for Margaret Cushman, who lives on the Island, but it is now positively ascertained that she arrived at her home safe. Mrs. Tippett, living at the corner of 4 1/2 and G street south was among the burned. Kate Bresnahan, C street, between 3d and 4 1/2, and Susan Harris, who lived on the Island, are supposed to be among the killed. Minnie Mitchell was badly burned about the face and arms, but was taken home, and will probably survive.
The scenes while the fire was in progress was truly heart-rending. Those who could, jumped from the windows, and many of them fainted as soon as they alighted on the ground. By the heroism of some persons present, some of the girls who were enveloped in flames, were saved from a frightful death. One young lady ran out of the building with her dress all in flames, and was at once seized by a gentleman, who, in order to save her, plunged her into the river. He, however, burned his hands and arms badly in the effort. Three others, also in flames, started to run up the hill and the upper part of their clothing was torn off by two gentlemen nearby, who thus, probably saved the girls from a horrid death, but in the effort, they too were badly injured. Thirteen girls ran upon a tug at the Arsenal wharf, and were carried around to the 6th street wharf, where their friends took them in charge.
The Inquest. Coroner Woodward having been summoned by a dispatch from Major Benton, arrived a little after four o-clock, and summoned the following jury of inquest viz: Asbury Lloyd, Robert H. Graham, Herman G. Lorch, Thos. Taylor, Wm. H. Lusby, Sh.H. Ingersoll, W.H. Rutzer, F.A. Boswell, Wm. H. Gibson and Joseph Pullin.
The canvas covering the remains was then removed, and a most terrible sight presented itself to the view of those standing around.
The charred remains of seventeen dead bodies lay scattered about, some in boxes, some on pieces of boards, and some in large tin pans, they having been removed from the ruins in these receptacles. In nearly every case only the trunk of the body remained, the arms and legs being missing or detached. In one case, however, that of a young girl, every shred of dress had been burned from her but her gaiter shoes, which had singularly escaped a touch of the flames. It is probable that some portion of the rubbish fell over her feet, protecting them from the flames. We believe she has since been identified by her friends through these shoes.
A singular feature of the sad spectacle was that presented by a number of the bodies nearly burned to a cinder being caged, as it were, in the wire of their hooped skirts.
These bodies seemed more badly burned than those not enveloped in hoops, and it is probable that the expansion of the dress by the hoops afforded facilities for the flames to fasten upon them with fatal effect. We would suggest, in this connection, that operatives working in such dangerous localities, should by all means wear non-combustive clothing. Clothes washed in alum water is said to be fire-proof.
Many of the bodies seemed to have been crisped quite bloodless, the flesh, where exposed, being perfectly white, while in others, the red blood visible, showed that they had been exposed to a less terrible degree of heat.
One body, which bore some vestiges of clothing about the loins, by which it had been identified, had upon in a paper placard, with the words "This is Johanna O'Conner".
In a box was collected together a large number of feet, hands, arms and legs, and portions of the bones of the head, which would be impossible to recognize.
When the bodies were uncovered, Mrs. Arnold, who was standing by, and who is the mother of Mrs. Tippert, who was among the killed, fainted away at the ghastly sight, and was carried into a building near by.
The jury was then sworn, and the following testimony was elicited:
Thomas B. Brown Sworn. Witness resides on 4 1/2 street between M and N south and is a pyrotechnist. Has been employed in the arsenal since 1841, with the exception of a few months. Witness was present at the time of the explosion, standing with Major Stebbins and Mr. Cox. The fire communicated along the bench where the girls were at work. The girls were employed in "choking" cartridges, [Witness here explained that "choking" cartridges is attaching it to the ball by a machine which fastens the end of the cartridge to the ball]. Witness was unable to identify any of the bodies but believed one of them to be Miss Dunn, who was of large size. The books burned up at the time. Witness could not tell how the accident occurred. The girls in the building were gumming and choking cartridges and labeling boxes. No rockets were being made in the building. The fire originated in the lower corner, near the fence [southwest corner]. Witness had charge of the building which comprised these rooms - one being used for choking cartridges, another for making boxes, and a third for making cylinders or cases. A rocket was in the building in one of the drawers, there was not over three signal rockets in the house. Witness had some white stars lying in the sun in copper pans. These stars were composed of chlorate of potash, nitrate of strancia and copul, but no sulphur. [Witness explained the composition of t the stars at length]. These pans were placed in the sun between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning and the explosion took place about 10 minutes to 12. Witness had next been cautioned by anyone about the stars, of which he had two colors out: red and white. Witness could not say whether the explosion originated from the stars or the cartridges. When witness noticed the explosion he started to come out, but he jar in a measure forced him out. Witness stated that the stars were made for shell, and that they would not explode by concussion. These stars were not made in the building, which was destroyed, but in a small building some distance off, and were then brought up to dry. There was no other work but what he had named carried on in the building destroyed; the orders being strictly against it. There were about 104 females engaged in the building, but not in one room. The stars were about 30 or 35 feet from it. Witness did not know that the stars exploded, but saw one of the pans afterwards overturned.
Maj. Benton - "If the stars exploded there would be a white deposit." The pan was exhibited to the jury and a white deposit was found in it.
Mr. Brown continued: There were several hundred stars in each pan. Witness had frequently dried them in the sun before - even in August - but no accident had heretofore occurred. Witness proceeded to give the ingredients of the red stars, (those he referred to previously being white ones) and stated there was black antimony in them.
Mr. Taylor (a juryman). "Black antimony contains sulphur."
Mr Brown continued: Stating that the ingredients used in the stars were not the same laid down in Maj. Benton's manual being a composition of his own that he considered less dangerous. Witness did not think the stars could be ignited by concussion.
Maj. Jas. G. Benton sworn - Witness is commandant of the Arsenal. Was not present when the explosion took place, but reached the spot soon after and took steps to prevent the spread of the flames to the other buildings. By the time witness arrived all those inside must have been dead. Witness had seen the pans, and they indicated that an explosion had taken place from them. There was an explosion of rockets during the fire. Witness had frequently examined the building to see that all was right, and had frequently cautioned Mr. Brown, not because he was careless but as a precautionary measure, knowing the great importance of being careful. Witness thinks that it was an oversight that Mr. Brown placed the stars so near the building in such quantity. [Witness here exhibited a plan of the building and explained what each part was used for.] He had heard that one of the girls working at the table where the fire first caught had escaped.
Major Benton here described the manner in which the ball cartridges were placed by the girls while at work, the pointed ball being towards the body, and indicated the opinion that at the time of the explosion more or less injury was done to the girls by their being struck by the balls of the cartridges exploded. The opinion of witness was that the stars, lying on a black metallic surface, which naturally absorbs heat, were exploded by spontaneous combustion. There were 7 wounded, 3 of whom would likely die, and there have been 17 bodies gotten out already. Witness considered Mr. Brown a careful man, but it was certainly imprudent to place any quantity of stars together on the pans. Gen. Ramsey informed him that stars had been heretofore dried in the same place. Witness did not know whether Mr. Brown knew that the stars would explode by spontaneous combustion. Brown is not a scientific man, but a good practical chemist, and he had found him a very competent man in his business. There were 3 doors to the building.
Henry Soufferle sworn - Witness was employed in the building, and at the time was looking towards the south end of the building, when he saw a blaze come in the window, and he immediately halloed at the top of his voice, and rushed out while the flame was spreading around. He pushed two young ladies off the porch who were washing their hands. Witness ran off a little distance, and turning saw two gentlemen bringing away Miss Sarah Gunnell, who was badly burned. Witness saw the stars in the morning, in three pans, containing perhaps two or three hundred each. After the explosion, he did not see these stars. Witness could not recognize any of the bodies.
Andrew Cox, sworn - Witness is an assistant to Mr. Brown, and was present when the accident occurred. Witness was standing talking with Major Stebbins and Mr. Brown when some one gave the alarm, and saw a light pass before the window, and he thought the explosion had occurred in another building. Witness immediately made his escape from the building. Witness saw the stars in three pans - there were about eight or nine hundred. There were about 30 girls at work in the room.
Witness now looked at the plan of the building and stated that on the south side of the table which ran east and west, the following girls were at work:- Maggie Yonson, Julia McKewen, Miss Dunn, Kate Horan, Mrs. Tippett, Johanna Conner, Ellen Roach, Willie Webster, Susie Harris, Bettie Branagan, Eliza Braylor, Eliza Lacey, Sarah Gunnell, Minnie Mitchell, Emma Baird. On the opposide side were Mrs. Bresnahan, Miss Lloyd, Melissa Adams, Kate Palmer, Rebecca Hull, Annie Bache, Catharine Goldsmith, Dana Clements, Florence Kennedy, and Jane Shilds. There may have been some others which witness could not recollect. The books and rolls were destroyed in the building. Each of the girls had probably five hundred cartridges before her, each containing 70 grains of power -- the points of the balls were pointing towards them.
Edward M. Stebbins, sworn - Witness is paymaster and military storekeeper at the post, and was present at the time. Witness was sitting at the table and saw something flying about out of doors, and walked out. The fire communicated at once to the building. Witness burst the doors open. Two boxes exploded. Witness helped about 40 girls from the building, some on fire, and he wrapped a tarpaulin about them and extinguished the flames. When witness came out of the building he saw the stars flying about, and he thinks some flew as far as the river (about 40 feet). There was no loose powder in the room unless a cartridge had been broken. The stars were usually dried where these were set, and these had been out two or three weeks. Witness does not think that any of the girls on the south side of the bench could have got from their seats.
Clinton Thomas, sworn - Witness works in the gun carriage shop, and at the time was in an outbuilding and looking directly towards the building which was destroyed. Before the building caught, witness saw fire works back of it explode, and thought at the time that Mr. Brown was setting off fireworks. The next moment the whole building was in a blaze.
The coroner here stated that there were several other witnesses who could testify in relation to the accident, but the jury expressed themselves satisfied with what evidence had been given in, but some who could identify the bodies might be called.
Charles S. Curtain testified that he recognized among the bodies that of his sister-in-law, Johanna Conner, by a small portion of her dress on her remains, and her belt. She was a poor girl, the daughter of a widow, whose husband was killed while working in Arsenal by sun stroke two years since.
Bartholomew McCarthy also identified Miss Conner's body.
Mrs. Honora Murphy identified the body of her sister, Margaret Horan, by portions of her clothing and some ornaments found about it.
The evidence here closed, and the jury retired to the Commandant's Office, where, after mature deliberation they returned the following verdict in each case: "That the body of a female came to her death by the explosion of the laboratory of the Washington Arsenal, where she was employed choking cartridges; that the said explosion took place about 10 minutes to 12 n., and it was caused by the superintendent, Thomas B. Brown placing three metallic pans some 30 feet from the laboratory, containing chemical preparations for the manufacture of white and red stars; that the sun's rays operating on the metallic pans caused spontaneous combustion, scattering the fire in every direction, a portion flying into the choking room of the laboratory through the open windows, igniting the cartridges and causing the death of the said deceased. The jury are of the opinion that the superintendent, Thomas B. Brown, was guilty of the most culpable carelessness and negligence in placing highly combustible substances so near a building filled with human beings, indicating a most reckless disregard for life, which should be severely rebuked by the Government. They also find that the deceased had no property.
[In the cases of the two recognized bodies, instead of using the term "a female," the verdict was made to read, "the body of Johanna Conner, aged about 20 years, and Margaret Horan."]
Casualties Miss Kate Palmer residing on 12th street between C and D Island, was hurt by a piece of iron sticking in her neck as she jumped from a window.
Miss Kidwell, residing on M street south, between 4-1/2 and 6th, was badly burned about the head, face and arms, but will probably recover. The heat through which Miss Kidwell passed was intense as some scraps of lead were found to have been melted on her clothes and body. When being carried home she said to her friends, "When I saw the blaze, I threw my hands over my face, and saved my eyes."
As soon as the friends of Miss Conner and Miss Horan had identified the bodies they made a request to take them away, which was granted, and boxes were procured in which straw was placed and the charred remains were placed therein amid the sobs and screams of some of their female acquaintances, and conveyed in a wagon to their residences, those of the first named to English Hill.
Washington Star, Saturday, June 18, 1864 (2nd edition, 4 o'clock).
Further of the explosion -
More of the Bodies Recognized -
Preparations for Interment.
Yesterday evening after the Jury of Inquest had returned their verdict, the remains were gathered up separately, and enveloped in a blanket, and placed in boxes, and carried to a frame building near by -- fifteen charred bodies, all in a row, the other two of the seventeen having been identified and taken away.
It has been utterly impossible as yet to obtain the names of all who were killed outright, but the following are certainly known to be among the victims, viz:-- Elizabeth Branegan, resided on E street south, between 4 1/2 and 6th; Julia McCuin, 4 1/2 street, near F; Bridget Dunn, Capitol Hill; Lizzie Brohler and Eliza Lacy, E street between 4 1/2 and 6th. All of the above have been recognized by their friends, who identified articles of clothing, shoes, ornaments, etc., yet remaining upon the charred bodies. These, together with the bodies of Johanna Connor and Margaret Horan, which were recognized last night and taken to their late homes, make in all seven that have thus far been recognized.
Maggie Yonson, who resided on 7th street, between F and G, Island, and Ellen Roche are among the dead, but it is impossible to identify them.
Miss Bache, who was taken to the Arsenal Hospital yesterday died this morning from the effects of the injuries received.
Numerous friends and relatives of deceased, this morning visited the Arsenal and strove to identify the remains of loved ones, but were unsuccessful except so far as above stated, and they were obliged to run sorrowfully away. A large number of those who were employed in the building where the explosion occurred, but who escaped unharmed, except by fright, also visited the arsenal grounds this morning.
Today all work was suspended at the Arsenal, out of respect to the memories of the deceased, except on the part of a few of the carpenters and painters under the direction of Mr. McGinis, who are engaged in preparing the coffins.
The coffins are of poplar, and are neatly stained, and will be uniform in appearance, all of them to be lined with muslim and trimmed with white satin and ginap. The handles, screws, tacks, etc., are to be silver-mounted, and the coffin-plates will be also of plated silver.
Early this morning a meeting of the employees connected with the Arsenal was held.
On the motion of Mr. Birch, Mr. John Dudley was unanimously chosen chairman, and Mr. William H. Toppin was appointed secretary.
Mr. Dudley, on taking the chair, briefly stated the object of the meeting, which was to take some action concerning the recent explosion. He suggested that a committee be appointed from the various workshops to make arrangements regarding the collection of funds, and to superintend the burial of the victims of the late disaster.
On motion, the following gentlemen were appointed from the different departments, to act as a committee to make all the necessary arrangements: Mr. Hickman; machinists, Mr. John Stahl; blacksmithing, Mr. Jas. King; carpenters, Mr. G. Collison; tinners, Mr. J. Birch; painters, Mr. Barry; armorers, Mr. F. Reilly; laborers, Mr. Isdell.
On motion, Resolved, That every man connected with the Arsenal contribute one day's pay to defray expenses; which was unanimously agreed to.
The committee took a recess, and on reassembling, Mr. White, chairman, reported the following:
Messrs. Reilly, Birch and Isdell a committee to select a site in the Congressional Burying Ground for the interment of the young ladies who lost their lives.
Messrs. King, Stahl and Collison to procure hearses, appoint pall-bearers, and conduct the funeral procession.
Messrs. Hickman and Barry to visit the families of the deceased and acquaint them with the action taken by the different departments concerning the late calamity. Also, to make arrangements for their attendance at the funeral.
On motion, the report of the committee was unanimously adopted.
Mr. Dudley suggested the propriety of some action being taken by the various departments to have a suitable monument erected to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Government employment. He had no doubt but the clerks in the different departments and citizens generally would contribute generously to such a noble object.
On motion, as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased young ladies, all labor be suspended to-day.
The meeting adjourned to meet to-morrow afternoon at 2 o'clock, to attend the funeral.
The committee above appointed at once went to work energetically, and have perfected the arrangements for the funeral, which leaves the Arsenal at 3 o'clock precisely and moves up Four-and-a-half street, and thence along Pennsylvania avenue to the Congressional Cemetery, where a lot has been procured in the new portion near the brick wall on the west side. It is expected that all the hands employed at the Arsenal will attend the funeral, and all workingmen and mechanics on the public works of the city are requested to attend.
Mr. John Dudley has been selected as chief marshal for the occasion, and all the arrangements will be under his control and direction.
In addition to the list of victims elsewhere named, killed by the explosion, we hear of the following as also dead, viz: Margaret Johnson, Susan Harris, Emma J. Baird, Emily Collins, Mary Burroughs (supposed), Lizzie Lloyd, and Ada Webster.
An effort will be made at once to raise funds for the erection of a monument; and the committee state that merchants in various sections of the city urge the erection of the monument as a proper undertaking. The committee have received sums of money for the purpose of defraying expenses, and an anonymous sympathizer contributed $50 in aid of the cause.
Incidents Melissa Adams, killed, is the daughter of Edward C. Adams, huckster, Center Market. Mr. Adams and family have the general sympathy of the community from the fact that this is the third child lost by violent deaths within a year or two, and singularly too, as if in support of a popular superstition, in each case the disaster occurred on a Friday. The first was that of a boy who accidentally shot himself on a gunning excursion; the next was that of another boy run over by a coach and killed; and the third was that of the daughter Melissa, who perished in the flames yesterday.
Miss Gunnell is reported better to-day, and it is believed she will recover.
Mrs. Scott, the widow lady who escaped badly burned from the laboratory, found herself buried at the time of the explosion under the bodies of a half dozen of the girls, and never expected to emerge alive, but by great exertion, she managed to struggle free and escaped from the building. Under the excitement she was not aware that she was burned until she had reached the upper gate of the Arsenal grounds, when feeling pain in her leg, she examined it and found it terribly blistered.
Mr. John Dudley was badly burned about the hands and arms in his courageous attempts to extinguish the burning dress of one of the sufferers.
A young girl employed in the laboratory was yesterday morning dismissed for laughing and talking in the room, contrary to rules. She bewailed the fact of her dismissal to an elderly friend employed in the room, who tried to comfort her by saying that it would perhaps all turn out for the best, but with no thought that the events of the day would so soon make her words come true.
By an odd coincidence it was only yesterday morning that a letter had been received at the Arsenal acknowledging in grateful terms the receipt of $170, contributed by the Washington Arsenal employes for the relief of the employes at the Alleghany Arsenal, Pittsburg, who suffered from some similar calamity not long ago.
By another coincidence the dispatch to the War Department announcing the explosion and fire at the Washington Arsenal was received at the same moment with one announcing a fire in the Watervlett Arsenal, N.Y.
Washington Star, Monday, June 20, 1864
The Arsenal Disaster.
There seems to be no doubt that the deplorable disaster at the Washington Arsenal on Friday was due to the ignorance or recklessness of one man, Thomas B. Brown, the pyrotechnist at the arsenal. He is an unlettered man, we hear, but the catastrophe can hardly be attributed to his ignorance, as it seems that this is by no means the first time that spontaneous combustion of the red-star fireworks has occurred - with him though, fortunately, no loss of life was involved.
But that he should spread these fireworks to dry in the immediate vicinity of the open windows of the building where these young women were at work handling deadly powder, shows a degree of indifference to human life hard to believe in. And the allegation that the position where these fireworks were dried had been similarly used for years, is deceptive, unless the addition of fact is stated that the building (laboratory) had not been used as a workshop for these female employees until this spring.
There is no doubt that he is an excellent pyrotechnist, with much enthusiasm for his business, and we take it that in the absorption caused by that professional zeal, he has come to look upon an occasional blow-up as quite a routine affair. We wish him no manner of harm, but we do sincerely trust that his skill may hereafter be exercised in some department where no such disaster as that of Friday, may possibly be again connected with his name.
Washington Star, Monday, June 20, 1864.
Meeting of the Employees of the Arsenal.
A meeting of the employees of the Arsenal was held to-day at half-past 12 o'clock, in the "gun shop," for the purpose of devising some means to erect a suitable monument to the memories of the victims of the late disaster.
Mr. J.G. Dudley called the meeting to order, and Mr. Wm. Toppin acted as Secretary.
After the meeting had been called to order, Mr. F. Whyte offered a series of resolutions, (which were adopted) appointing a committee, to be known as the Monument Committee, who are authorized to solicit contributions from our citizens for the purpose of erecting a monument in the Congressional Cemetery to the memory of the victims of the recent distressing calamity.
The Chair announced the following named gentlemen to compose the committee, each department being represented by one member: Clerks--F. Whyte; Machinists--Jno. W. Stahl; Blacksmiths--J.R. King; Tinners--J.A. Birch; Carpenters and Carriage-Makers--Geo. Z. Collison; Armorers--John Stahl; Painters--James Barry; Saddlers--W.H. Toppin; Laborers--L. Campbell; Laboratory--Andrew Cox.
The name of J.G. Dudley was added to the committee, and Major Stebbins declared treasurer.
A circular to be presented to the community was offered by Mr. Whyte, and adopted.
Washington Star, Monday, June 20, 1864
A Difficulty at the Funeral
Yesterday afternoon, as the funeral of the unfortunate victims of the Arsenal explosion was in progress at Congressional Cemetery, Officers Harbin and Shelton, who had just cleared a space around the graves in which the mourners and pall-bearers could stand, found that a young man, named Henry Greenfield, had placed himself right in the road, and the first-named requested him to leave. This Greenfield refused to do, and replied with an oath, and the officer arrested him. Greenfield resisted him, and Officer Shelton went to Harbin's assistance, when some of the prisoner's friends attempted to rescue him, and he also made an attempt to escape, when the officers drew their revolvers and intimidated the party, and succeeded in carrying the prisoner to the station, where Justice Cull fined him $21.58 for being disorderly in the graveyard, and held him to security for appearance at court to answer the charge of resisting the officer.
Washington Star, Monday, June 20, 1864
The Funeral of the Victims of the Arsenal Explosion
Affecting Scenes - Interesting Obsequies etc.
The funeral of the unfortunate victims of the explosion at the Arsenal on Friday last took place from that place yesterday afternoon as per announcement. The arrangements were that the funeral should leave at three o'clock, but long before noon crowds of persons wended their way towards the Arsenal, but were disappointed in finding that they could not at once enter the grounds, and by two o'clock there were over a thousand persons about the gate awaiting admission - the sun in the meantime being very warm, and so oppressive was the heat that many were unable to stand it, and left the vicinity. About 2 1/2 o'clock, however, the upper gates were opened and the crowd pushed through - the gathering by this time numbering several thousand, and some were badly jammed in getting through. About this time several divisions of the Sons of Temperance accompanied by the band attached to Finley Hospital, appeared on the ground.
In view of the apprehension that there would be an unwieldy crowd in attendance, and that there were so many places in the Arsenal proper about which it would be dangerous to allow a crowd, the obsequies took place immediately in the rear of one of the store houses, on the north side of the old penitentiary building, and the immense assemblage immediately gathered around it. The remains of the fifteen dead, not removed, were enclosed in handsome coffins, silver mounted, with three handles on each side, and a plate on the breast, bearing the name of the inmate when known. The coffins were lined with muslin, and were made in the Arsenal carpenter shop, in which the remains were placed on Saturday morning when they were removed to the platform. The platform was about fifteen feet by twenty feet from the ground, covered with duck and trimmed with mourning. Over this was a canopy, draped with the American flag and mourning.
Under this canopy the coffins were placed -- eight containing the remains of those who could not be identified ranged along the north side of the platform, each bearing a label marked "unknown," and on the opposite side seven other coffins, with the names of each as follows, commencing at the east end with Annie Bache, Julia McCuin, Mrs. Collins, Elizabeth Branagan, Lizzie Brahler, Eliza Lacey and Maggie Yonson.
The coffins were tastefully decked with bouquets and wreaths composed of white lilies, and roses and other appropriate flowers. These flowers were the feeling tribute of the fellow employees (female) of the deceased at the Arsenal.
Gen. Ramsay, formerly commandant at the Arsenal; Major Benton, the present commandant, Major Stebbins, paymasters, Surgeon Porter, and Lieutenants Prince, McKee and Stockton, were present upon the platform during the ceremonies.
Around the platform were stationed a guard of Veteran Reserves, who with the utmost difficulty could keep back the pressing crowd; but when the relatives arrived they were admitted around the platform, and then came a scene indescribable. With tears and sobs the relatives moved around the platform, anxiously looking for the remains of their loved ones, and when they were able to single out the coffin containing the body searched for, the distress was most painful. The family of Miss Bache, whose remains were on the corner of the platform, seized frantically on the coffin, and insisted that it should be opened; and this corpse was the last placed in the hearse, in order that the family might take possession of it at the ground and have it placed in a vault. A young sister of Miss Adams pressed herself through the crowd and ascending to the platform, and commenced to search for the coffin containing her sister Melissa, and while occupied in the ineffectual search swooned away, and was carried away to the fresh air by friends.
On the other side of the platform were the eight coffins, each marked "unknown."
Here the afflicted relatives gathered, passing excitedly along the line of coffins, eagerly scanning each, as if hoping in some possible way to be able to designate the one containing the remains of their own dead.
After comparative order had been restored, the obsequies took place.
Rev. Father A. Bokel, of St. Dominick's church, commenced them, saying that as several of the unfortunate victims of this catastrophe belonged to the Catholic church, he would perform the usual funeral services of the church in their behalf, and that others would follow him in behalf of those connected with other denominations. He then proceeded to recite, in solemn manner, the Catholic burial service, and sprinkled holy water upon the coffins. He concluded the service by a few earnest and feeling remarks upon the nature of the lesson conveyed to his hearers by the scene presented. Those before them, though dead, speak to us in words of warning, that we too must die, and we know not the hour or circumstances in which the Almighty may summon us to appear before Him. He closed by an affecting invocation to the God of mercy in behalf of the dead and the afflicted mourners.
Rev. S.V. Leech, of Gorsuch Chapel (Methodist Episcopal), followed, reciting in impressive manner the grand words from Revelations, "I saw a great white throne," and he proceeded in eloquent terms to speak of the solemn occasion where death had taken away so many friends and neighbors, and those yet nearer and dearer. He asked his hearers to withdraw their minds as much as possible from the circumstances attending these deaths, and to regard them as accidents not haring the spirits of the departed ones. It was a mistake to regard as of serious importance the mere incidents connected with death. It would have been consoling, indeed, if the father and the mother could have stood by the side of the daughter and bade her adieu; but we have this consolation, that those who believed in Christ were not harmed by death, and scarcely felt the touch of fire before they were hastened to a blissful immortality. One word to the community, God speaks to us by the death of individuals, but from its commonness it makes but a slight impression when coming singly, For our good God causes these terrible visitations to come upon us. Let us be instructed by it, and avail ourselves of the time granted us to make character for eternity. May God bless us, and lead us by his counsel to be ready to depart with joy and not grief!
Mr. Leach concluded with a fervent prayer, following upon the Lord's prayer, and commencing: Oh God, thou hast appeared in our midst. The rumbling of thy car hast been heard. Have mercy on use, may our sins be taken from us. Bless the friends of those who have been taken away. Bless their co-laborers and let all classes profit by this dispensation.
Upon the conclusion of the prayer, and the services at the stand, Mr. John G. Dudley, Chief Marshal, called upon the friends of the deceased to enter the carriages and fall in after the hearses and ambulances.
A large squad of police under Sergeant Hepburn, of the 10th Precinct, detailed for duty on the occasion, opened a passage through the crowd, and the coffins were taken from the platform in the following order: -- Julia McQuin, Mrs. Collings, Elizabeth Branagan, Lizzie Brahler, Eliza Lacey, Maggie Yonson then the eight unknown and Annie Bache, the following acting as pall bearers, the line having previously been formed: E. Crampton, E.L. Clapp, J.H. Granger, L. Dishard, L. Anderson, T. Mansfield, G. Dalton, W. Jones, W. Whitmore, John Condy, W. America, A.J. Cawood, J.H. Huntington, G. Hercus, -- Leach, -- Hall, T.F. Mockabee, A. Cornen, E. McElroy, L. Marting, J. Indermauer, W. Beagle, W. Powell, E. Muttot, C. S. Draper, H.H. Lemon, H. Marders, R. King, B. Young, O. Smithson, J. Meddler, O. Sorrel, J. Dickinson, W. Weeden, Thomas McCook, John Weeden, T. Dickson, M. Rhyon, J. Rhybu, H.W. Young, J. Glover, O. Spicer, O. Bailey, M. Spicer, J. Miller, T. Rowland, R. Johnson, H. Leesnitt\eer, W.H. Toffing, W.J. Carmichael, C. Callaghan, R. Gracey, J. Redmond, W. Nolas, W. Handsberry, F. Shay, H. Edgar, W. Boyd, J. Farrell, G. Ritz, A. Austin, C. Kell, F. Kutz, G. Brandman, E. Haufman, H. Wiskett, M. Sullivan, A. Anderson, J. Jiller, J. Riley, J. Beacham, J. Richmond, G. Neff, Jos. Gunnell, O. Snook, F. Daffer, Wm. Moore, Wm. Meeks, A. Cook, G. Schaeffer, E. Hoover, Jos. Green, R. Jacobs, W. Kidwell, J. Fry, A. Ferguson, H. Vonhorn, Jos. Coderick, O. Dunn, Thos. Dunn, on the part of the workingmen of the Arsenal.
C.F. Smith, J.S. Hollidge, J.T. Ballard, H. Harvey Hagard, H.P. Pillsbury, C.C. Bushnell, D.L. Haggard, B.F. Scott, G.S. Duli, C.S. Maxwell, J.H. McMurry, J.H. Wooley and Robert Hazell, on the part of the Sons of Temperance.
The solemn procession moved out of the north gate of the Arsenal grounds about four o'clock, in the following order, the whole procession being under the direction of John G. Dudley, Chief Marshal:
Band attached to Finley Hospital; Divisions of Sons of Temperance under the marshallship of E.C. Graham, consisting of Excelsior No. 6, of which Susie Harris, Bettie Branagan, Eliza Lacy and another whose name we were unable to learn were visitors; Good Samaritan No. 1, with a number of lady visitors connected with the order in line; Equal No. 3; Armory Square No. 4; Columbian No. 5; Aurora No. 9; and Lincoln No. 11.
Officiating clergyman, Rev. M. Leach.
President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton, and the son of the latter, in a carriage as chief mourners.
Officers of the Arsenal.
Relatives and friends of the deceased.
Employees of the different workshops of the Arsenal under direction of the following assistant marshalls: Jos. King, blacksmith's department; Peter Eagan, machinist's department; G. Z. Collison, carpenter's department; John M. Holbrook, armorer's department, E. B. Hickman, saddler's department; Jos. Rarry, painter's department; Serg't Campbell, laborer's department.
In the procession were a number of ladies in ambulances who worked int he Arsenal, and also a large wagon drawn by six white horses belong to Adams' Express Company, appropriately draped in mourning, in which were a number of employees of the Government express company.
There were about 150 hacks in the line, besides other vehicles, and a large number on horseback, together with the pedestrians, swelling the procession to some miles in length, taking about thirty-five minutes passing one point.
The procession moved up 4 1/2 street to Pennsylvania avenue, and at F street the funeral procession of Miss McElfresh, which was attended by Rev. Mr. Lemon of Ryland Chapel, and in charge of Mr. H. Lee, undertaker, joined in. The remains of Miss McElfresh were in a handsome coffin, covered with beautiful flowers, and was in charge of the following especial pall-bearers: Geo. A. Hall, W.H. Greenwell, E.H. Hoover, and J.T. Hall.
Thus there were sixteen coffins in the procession, they being placed alternately on ambulances and hearses, it being found impossible to procure a sufficient number of hearses for them all.
The streets were literally crowded with people along the lines of procession, and the windows and housetops along the avenue were also thronged. The bell oft he Columbia Fire Co. was tolled during the passage of the procession, as was the bell of St. Dominick's Church.
Wesley Chapel Sunday, B.F. Gettings superintendent, having marched in a body from the school room to the corner of 4 1/2 street, drew up in line on the south side of Pennsylvania avenue, and as the cortege passed sang the 'Funeral Hymn,' commencing "Sister, thou was't mild and lovely." This school did not join in the procession, but returned to Wesley Chapel, and were dismissed by singing the doxology.
The Wesley Chapel Sabbath School, before marching down to the Avenue, had passed the following resolutions with regard to the death of Susan Harris, who was an active member of the School:
Whereas a mysterious Providence has removed from among us by a violent and sudden death, a number of young women -- and whereas one of these, Miss Susan Harris, was a member of this school:
Therefore resolved, 1st, That as a school we take great pleasure in bearing our testimony to the beautiful character of Susan Harris, her punctuality, faithfulness and gentleness as a Sunday School pupil.
Resolved, 2d, That we find comfort in the assurance that with her sudden death was sudden and eternal salvation.
Resolved, 3d, That we hereby present our sincere sympathies to her bereaved brother and other relatives, and that as a school we ought to feel ourselves warned by her unexpected removal, to be in future more diligent in every good work, every ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
Resolved, 4th, That the school now proceed to the Avenue to meet the funeral procession, and thus pay our last tribute of respect to our young friend's remains.
As it proceeded down Pennsylvania avenue towards the cemetery, the throng rapidly increased, hundreds being seen walking ahead of the procession, anxious to get a convenient place from which to witness the ceremonies at the Congressional Burying Ground, but many of them were disappointed in obtaining a good location, the ground being preoccupied by spectators who had taken positions there hours before.
On arriving at the gate, there was some delay, the funeral services of John Jenks which were attended to by the Navy Yard Baptist school being then in progress, but as this procession left the ground the coffins were carried in and followed by the relatives and friends were carried to the graves prepared for them, (Miss McElfresh being placed in a grave near her father who died a few months since and Miss Bache in the vault). Two large pits on the west side of the cemetery had been prepared, each of them being six feet long, fifteen feet wide and five-and-a-half deep with a passage of six feet between them, and in one of them was placed eight bodies, and in the other six, they being lowered one at a time. The crowd here was dense, and many persons in trying to get out of it had their dresses torn, but with the assistance of the police, the committee of arrangements at last succeeded in making room for the mourners, when there was another scene of anguish -- the relatives, or many of them, giving was to loud cries, and hanging over the chasm, calling the deceased by their names.
The officiating Minister, Rev. Mr. Leach, standing on the east of the two pits read the solemn burial service of the Methodist Church, and W.F. Crutchley, Chaplain of Excelsior Division, Sons of Temperance, read the service of the order, the members of which at the close repeating the words "Farewell Sisters, Farewell," and after the benediction had been pronounced by Mr. Leach, the crowd dispersed.
The funeral of Miss Bridget Dunn, another of the victims of the disaster, took place yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock from her late residence on East Capitol street, between 1st and 2d streets, and was attended by a large concourse of persons, there being some twenty carriages in the funeral cortege. The coffin was a stained poplar, pink lined, with silver mountings. Captain A. Fagan, James Redmond, James O'Neil, John Freys, Jno. McMeramay and P. Brien acted as pall bearers and the remains were conveyed to Mount Olivet Cemetery in the handsome glass hearse of J.W. Plant, undertaker.
Catherine Horan, who was also killed by the explosion at the Arsenal, was buried on Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock from the residence of her brother-in-law (J. Murphy) on 2d street, near Massachusetts avenue, and this was an imposing demonstration. The coffin was of the casket pattern, covered with black velvet and trimmed with silk fringe. The handles were of heavy silver, and in the center of the coffin was a large silver cross bearing the following inscription: "Kate Horan, killed Friday, June 17, 1864, aged 20 years." The funeral cortege proceeded down Massachusetts avenue to New Jersey avenue, where it was joined by that of Johannah Connor, who was killed at the same time, and the solemn procession moved on to Mount Olivet Cemetery where the remains of both were interred.
Miss Catherine Hull, another of the victims was buried with solemn services in Mount Olivet Cemetery, from the house of her relative, Mr. John King, corner of K and Fifth street.
Considering the immense crowds upon the street yesterday, the order maintained was excellent, and chief marshal Dudley expresses himself as greatly indebted to the Metropolitan Police for their efficient aid on the occasion.
No such demonstrations of popular sympathy has ever been expressed in Washington before as by this immense out-pouring of people to attend the funeral of the victims of this sad disaster, and the demonstration will long be remembered by those who witnessed it.
Every hack in Washington, we believe, was engaged on yesterday, and to the credit of the hackmen, it should be stated, that they held a meeting of their association on Saturday night and agreed as a body that not withstanding the extraordinary demand for their services, only the lowest ordinary rate of funeral fare should be charged.
Major Benton, commandant of the Arsenal, who has been prompt to have proper attention given to the sufferers, received yesterday the following order from Secretary Stanton which shows the deep and sincere feelings of sympathy by the Government for the sufferers:
War Department, June 19, 1864
Major Benton, U.S. Arsenal
The funeral and all the expenses incident to the internment of the sufferers by the recent catastrophe at the Arsenal will be paid by the Department. You will not spare any means to express the respect and sympathy of the Government for the deceased and their surviving friends.
Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War
The National Intelligencer, July 11, 1865
The Cemeteries of Washington
Congressional Burial Ground-This cemetery was formerly known as the "Washington Parish Burial Ground." It was project in 1807 by a few of the public-spirited and earliest emigrants to the Federal city, among the names of whom are Henry Ingle, George Blagden, Griffith Coombs, Samuel N. Smallwood, Dr. Frederick May, Peter Miller, J.F. Frost, and Commodore Thomas Tingey. They represented various religious denominations, and resided mostly in the eastern section of the city. After the grounds had been enclosed and put into respectable condition, and enough lots sold to pay the expense of the purchase and improvements, the cemetery was placed under the direction of the vestry of "Christ Church, Washington parish," which is the corporate name of the oldest church organization in this city, and which, it is well known, is located at the Navy Yard.
The first person buried in this cemetery was Hon. Uriah Tracy, who was Representative in Congress from Connecticut from 1793 to 1796, and Senator from 1796 to 1797. He was a major general of militia and conspicuous public man of his time, and died in this city July 19, 1807. Though not a member of Congress at his death, being at the time a resident of this city, Congress bestowed funeral honors to his memory and erected a monument over his remains. Since then all who have died while members of Congress have been awarded similar marks of respect. The first member who died after this became the seat of Congress was Hon. James Jones of Georgia, who died in this city January 11, 1801. Hon James Jackson, a brigadier general of the Revolution, died here a Senator March 14, 1806, and Hon. Levi Casey of South Carolina, February 3, 1807. These three, their deaths occurring prior to the establishment of the Congressional Cemetery, were buried in a grave-yard beyond the limits of the city, and some years afterwards their bones were transferred to this burial ground and monuments erected over them similar to the others.
The long rows of uncomely and curious monuments, which at a little distance strikingly remind one of so many large, old-fashioned bee hives, crowned with flat, conical caps, are in the memories of all who have ever been in sight of them. Nobody ever saw the like elsewhere. They are blocks of coarse brown sandstone, about two-and-a-half feet square, with panels on the four faces, and are mounted on a plain double base, the whole painted white, with the lettering black. When erected they soon became of most villainous dirty hue, and the stone is so perishable that in a dozen years the letters are crumbling away. It is quite impossible to conjecture the design in fashioning these Congressional monuments after so graceless a model, unless it was to preclude any attempt to imitate them; and if such was the purpose it has been a success. It may be added, that if in the selection of the material, coarse, crumbling, white-washed, and faded, it was intended thereby to emblemize the perishable, transitory, superficial nature of all popular, political fame, the purpose has been equally well subserved. There are some two hundred of these structures, arranged mostly in the order, one after the other, as the deaths occurred, the last block in the last row being without inscription, and awaiting the behests of the great destroyer to designate the name to be chiseled upon its panel. There have been but a few bodies placed under these monuments. The remains are for the most part conveyed to the State and home of the deceased.
In the early history of the cemetery, when the remains were buried beneath the monument, the coffin was deposited in a grave constructed of brick, with an arch cast over it, upon which was placed the monument. Senator Bowden, of Virginia, who died of the smallpox, in 1862, is the last member whose remains were here interred. The remains of Hon. J.P. Henderson, who died, a Senator in Congress, from Texas, in this city, June 4, 1858, still remain in the receiving vault, which was erected by Congress. He was a foremost man in that State from its organization till the day of his death.
When a member of Congress dies in this city during a session the obsequies take place in the hall of that branch to which the deceased belonged. The remains are thence conveyed to Congressional burial ground, deposited in the receiving vault, and in due time either sent home or deposited beneath a monument. The procession is always imposing, especially in the long retinue of coaches, very many of which are usually empty. The pall-bearers are selected from the State the deceased represented; and, in case that State does not furnish the requisite number, the adjoining State furnishes the deficit. Both branches of Congress and their officers, the President, the Cabinet officers and chiefs of bureaus, army and naval officers, the diplomatic corps, participate in the funeral train. The entire expense is defrayed by Congress, including not only that connected with the cemetery, but the coach hire, the mourning gloves with which all the members of Congress and official dignitaries are furnished, and the crape worm upon the left arm. These long imposing public processions have had their influence, making long retinue, unusually fashionable in this city-an absurd parade, the expense of which is oppressive to very many. All funerals in ancient times were performed at night; but afterward the poor only were buried at night, because they could not afford to have a pompous procession. The custom in most large cities at the present day is wiser. When a death occurs some of the most intimate friends are invited. Very few attend the corpse to the grave, and none but near family connections wear mourning.
The Congressional monuments are not arranged with any view to ornament, and are, altogether, a curiosity. There are, however, not a few fine monuments in the grounds, and some of them mark the memory of historical men. In one corner stand the massive memorials to the memory of men who once filled a great spade in the public mind-George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry, who both died in this city while in the discharge of their duties as Vice presidents of the United States. Both were patriots of the Revolution and members of the Congress which in 1776 gave to the world the immortal Declaration of Independence, though the former, as a brigadier general, was called away and prevented signing the document. George Clinton was elected the first Governor of New York in 1777, and continued for eighteen successive years in that position, and had been again called to that office when elected Vice President in 1804. He died in the last year of his second term, in 1812, aged seventy-three and his children raised this monument to his honor. Eldbridge Gerry was a member of the convention which framed the Federal Constitution; minister to France in 1797; Governor of Massachusetts in 1810-11, and called to the Vice Presidency in 1813. He died suddenly, on November 22, 1814, on his way from his residence in this city to the Capitol, as President of the Senate, and thus, in the words of the inscription upon the classic marble pillar erected, by order of Congress, to his memory, fulfilled his own memorable injunction, that "it is the duty ov every citizen, though he may have but one day to live, to devote that day to the good of his country." This monument was erected in 1823, long after the remains of Governor Clinton had been erected by his children, otherwise both would doubtless have been erected by Congress.
Not far from these stands another, in the row of Congressional memorials, and of the same material and fashion as the Congressional blocks, but of rather different proportions, erected to the memory of Push-ma-ta-ha, a renowned Choctaw chief and warrior, who died at Strother's tavern, then kept in a building between Willard's and Hammack's, on Pennsylvania avenue, of the croup in 1824. His brother chief erected the monument, upon which it is recorded that "he was wise in council, eloquent in an extraordinary degree, and on all occasions the white man's friend." It was one of his dying wises that when he was gone the big guns might be fired over him. He is represented as having met death with soul undismayed, like the lofty, fearless son of the forest that he had lived. Like Outallassi, he
"Would not stain with grief
The death-song of an Indian chief."
In another section of the yard rises the lofty, imposing white marble obelisk, erected to the memory of William Wirt, who died at his home in Baltimore in 1834, and whose remains were buried here under the promise that the members of the Bar, of which he was so illustrious an ornament, would raise a monument to his memory. Over the remains, after having many years slumbered in neglect, this noble memorial was erected. William Wirt was Attorney General of the United States, and ranked as a public and professional man among the foremost of his time. He was best known, perhaps, as the elegant and eloquent author of "The British Spy," and as the accomplished and captivating biographer of Virginia's great orator of the Revolution. A little distance from this are two imposing and artistic monuments, marking the spots, within a few feet of each other, where slumbers the dust of two Major Generals, Commanders-in-Chief of the American army; Jacob Brown, Commander-in-Chief from 1815 till he died, in 1824, and Alexander Macomb, who was his successor in command till his death, in 1841, and was succeeded by Winfield Scott. The monument to Gen. Macomb is elaborate, appropriate, and exceedingly fine, and that to the memory of Joseph Lovell, Surgeon General of the army, is equally elegant. The lofty and graceful marble obelisk to John W. Maury is conspicuous and admired, and the exquisitely-finished, admirably proportioned and designed granite obelisk to the family of John W. Kirby, is one of the most imposing and elegant monuments in the cemetery.
Down in a sequestered spot is an unpretending iron enclosure, in which are some touching and beautiful emblems. There is a little block of pure white marble, with "Florence" inscribed upon its side, and upon it rests, in exquisitely sculptured white marble, the form of little Florence, quietly and sweetly slumbering his long sleep. At his side rises another graceful little marble pillar, surmounted by the figure of an angel of intercession kneeling, and in the act of entreating, and upon the pillar beneath are the words, "Alice Mary Parker, died December 23, 1861, in the thirteenth year of her age;" and then there is the little tomb in the French style, with the figure of the young lamb reposing upon the pillar and inscribed, John Walker Maury, died May 17, 1861, aged two years and two months" - a cluster of gems.
There are several handsome octagonal Ionic marble shafts in different parts of the grounds, surmounted with urns, and encircled with wreaths of flowers, one to "John T. Towers," another to the Purdy family, and another to William Clark, of most graceful proportions. In another neighborhood is an ornamented octagonal pillar, finely executed, and surmounted by an Italian cross, to "Anna M., wife of Francis Mohun." The marble shaft in the enclosure of J.M. Duncanson finely ornamented, and inscribed with words which touch all Christian hearts - "Simply to the Cross I cling" - arrests attention. There is also a very beautiful memorial recently placed over the grave of the wife of James Casparis, Esq. - an exquisitely carved marble coffin, pure as alabaster, with a graceful chaplet of flowers encircling a cross - which on a red ground, forms the arms of Switzerland - sculptured upon the lid, the coffin resting upon a slab, and the whole comprising a single unbroken piece of marble. The wreath is formed of the flowers of Switzerland, the Alp-rose and the Alpine daisy. The memorial, the conception of Mr. Casparis, was executed by Charles Rousseau, a Belgian sculptor, who has been engaged on the Capitol Extension.
In the northeasterly section of these grounds, the eye of the curious stranger will rest inquiringly upon a small white marble block, with a scroll gracefully wrought upon it, and inscribed with the significant words "Our Brother." This is the spot where lie buried the remains of George A. Gardiner, who was convicted in this city some dozen years since, as the author of the stupendous Mexican mine fraud, and who, when the sentence was on a second trial rendered against him, calmly drew a deadly poison from his vest pocket and after reaching the prison, fell dead upon the floor. John Bayne, still residing at the Navy Yard, convicted of his guilt, stood firmly and alone at the first trial, and was the only juryman averse to acquittal. On the second trial, the jury were out al night. This memorial, with no name, was erected by a brother and sister, and is testimony at once of their tenderness and their taste.
This cemetery, previously much neglected, has been greatly improved in the past three years. Many fine monuments have been erected, and the grounds much adorned and beautified. There is still, however, vast room for improvement. The walks need building over; trees should be planted in the newer sections; the old vaults demand attention, and a general renovation is desirable. The cemetery has been several times enlarged, and an addition, which is now in process, will make its area about thirty-five acres.
The Evening Star, July 22, 1868
Mr. Chas. Rousseau (graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Brussels) the well known sculptor and marble-worker, of this city, is now engaged in finishing a beautiful monument of Italian marble, to be erected in Congressional Cemetery to the memory of the late John P. Pepper. The monument now stands about seventeen feet in height and the shaft, which rises from the one block, appears covered with a cloth, gracefully falling on the sides out in an artistic manner, and is greatly admired.
The Evening Star, July 27, 1868
The Congressional burial ground is being improved, and its area will be increased by the addition of a belt of land from Seventeenth street along the river front. A pond is contemplated for the center mound. There are upwards of five thousand lot holders of the cemetery.
The Evening Star, October 23, 1869
The Congressional Cemetery
Some twenty acres have been recently added to the Congressional Cemetery, and under Mr. W. A. Fletcher, late Commissioner of the Sixth Ward, the work of grading has been completed, and the addition is now being enclosed. In a short time trees and shrubbery will be planted, and the new portion made to correspond with the original grounds. The Cemetery now extends from Georgia avenue and E street south to the Eastern Branch, and from 17th street to the Magazine grounds, embracing over one hundred acres.
©2013 Historic Congressional Cemetery