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Picture of Washington and Vicinity
By W.Q. Force, Washington, DC: W.Q. Force, 1850, pp. 42-48.
Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oaks. Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been; to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century.--Sir Thomas Browne.
In the vicinity of the city are several neat and convenient cemeteries. Holmead's Burial Ground, situated at the northern extremity of twentieth street, a little east of Rock Creek, is a quiet attractive spot, where grief may wander unmolested, and sad affection gather solace from the kindly aspect and gentle ministries of nature.
The National or Congressional Burial Ground, is more imposing. This spot was selected in the year 1807 by a few of the citizens of Washington, and subsequently was placed under the direction of the vestry of Christ Church, an incorporated body. This cemetery is situated more than a mile east of the capitol, embraces about ten acres, commands an extensive view of the country, is well enclosed with a brick wall, laid out with taste, and adorned with many shrubs and trees and impressive and beautiful monuments. In addition to several private vaults, is one spacious and well constructed, enclosed by a neat iron railing, built at the expense and by order of Congress, as a place of deposit for the dead whose remains it may be the purpose of friends subsequently to remove. Measures have been adopted to enlarge this cemetery, and some twenty acres additional will soon be brought within its limits. It is hoped that the entire enclosure may contain not less than fifty acres, and that the whole area may be planted and adorned with the good taste and judgment which render the cemeteries of Mount Auburn and Greenwood so inviting to pensive minds.
"Tis too late" says a venerable old author "to be ambitious. The great mutations of the world are acted, or time may be too short for our designs. To extend our memories by monuments, whose death we daily pray for, and whose duration we cannot hope, without injury to our expectations in the advent of the last day, were a contradiction to our belief. We whose generations are ordained in the setting part of time are providentially broken off from such imaginations, and being necessitated to eye the remaining particle of futurity, are naturally constituted unto thoughts of the next world, and cannot excusably decline the consideration of that duration which maketh pyramids pillars of snow and all that is past a monument." But human affections are stronger than argument, and will be found rearing monuments until old Time himself is entombed among the ruins of the universe.
Two of the most imposing and expensive monuments in this cemetery are those erected to the memories of George Clinton, by his children, and to Elbridge Gerry, by order of Congress. These are in the northeast corner. In the southwest corner are several handsome, and some of them recently erected, monuments. Among them is a fine marble shaft standing upon a square pedestal reared by Congress to the memory of Major General Jacob Brown, born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, May 5th, 1775, died 24th February, 1828. "By birth, by education, by principle, devoted to peace. In defense of his country and in vindication of her rights, a warrior. To her he dedicated his life; wounds received in her cause abridge his days." Here also stands an imposing marble monument, erected by the officers of the medical staff to the memory of Joseph Lovel, M.D., for many years Surgeon General in the army of the United States, born in 1788, died in 1836. A pyramidal monument, erected by his father, Commodore Rogers, is inscribed to midshipman Rogers, who was drowned at the early age of seventeen, while engaged in noble efforts to save the lives of two of his companions, midshipman Slidell and Harrison, who perished with him in 1828. A single marble monument is dedicated to the memories of Abel Parker Upshur and Commodore Beverly Kennon, bearing the following inscription: "The Lamented men who lie together beneath this stone were united by the ties of friendship, which commenced in youth and experienced no interruption till the awful moment when the lives of both were terminated by the explosion of the great gun of the Princeton frigate: United in life, in death they were not divided." A very fine white marble monument, made to represent exactly the mast of a ship violently broken off, is reared to the memory of the late George Mifflin Bache, of the brig Washington, and his associates who perished with him in the hurricane of September 3, 1846. "The gulf stream which they were engaged in exploring has received their bodies; this monument has been erected to their memory by their shipmates who shared their perils but escaped their fate." One of the most beautiful and touching memorials of affection is a marble monument reared to commemorate the virtues of Captain Burdell Ashton Terrett, United States dragoons, who died at Fort Scott, Missouri, March 17, 1845. It bears on one side, "my husband," and a brief tribute concluding "and thy memory to me what the dew is to the rose;" on the other, "Our boy; Died at Fort Scott, Missouri, March 15, 1845, James Bludworth Terrett, aged one month: Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." Among the other monuments of striking interest and chaste and beautiful design, may be mentioned one erected by Peter Von Schmidt to "Mariana," his wife, a native of Courland, in Russia; one of marble and granite, inscribed to "Mary Ann," and several children of Charles Coltman; one of very fine proportions sacred to "Eliza, wife of G.C. Grammer;" a granite one to the late Judge Thurston; one to Judge Pendleton Barbour, adorned by many shrubs and flowers; and one of peculiar simplicity and elegance dedicated to "our father," by the children of Peter Lenox.
Here in this secluded spot, this abode of silence, rests the remains of many members of Congress, and over the grave of each is erected a plain sandstone monument, painted white, and marked with the name of the deceased, also specifying the State from which he came, and the time of his death. We paused a moment as we read the names of Pinckney and of Lowndes, whose eloquent voices had so often enchained their audiences with delight and admiration. The Roman poet would have inscribed over these great men, Palma nobilis terrarum Dominos evehit ad Deos; but perhaps the reflection of Job is more becoming this house appointed for all the living: "He leadeth princes away spoiled and overthoweth the mighty." Let our statesmen, amid the excitements of public life seek occasional retirement from the capitol, to meditate among the shaded walks of this cemetery, and these thickening emblems of mortality, that, in the deep silence and amid the graves of the dead, they may learn wisdom. Within view of the dome of the capitol, they will call to mind the lines of nature's great poet--
"Like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind."
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