Paying one's respects at Arlington National Cemetery
By DONNA MURRAY ALLEN, St. Petersburg Times
Published October 10, 2002
ARLINGTON, Virginia — I finally visited Hiram Murray's resting place a few weeks ago. For many years, I had longed to see it, but as these things go, I had never quite gotten around to making the effort.
Had I known how easy it is to find a grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, I would have made the trek sooner.
Hiram Murray was one of two brothers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Josiah came home. Hiram didn't. He died of typhoid fever November 5, 1864, while serving with the 6th Heavy Artillery regiment out of Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C.
It took a bit of sleuthing to learn of Hiram's fate. He and his wife appear on the 1860 federal census. They had two kids in the early 1860s. Then he vanished. No will. No obituary. No record of his death.
It was almost as if he had never existed.
Most of the Murray clan, including Josiah, is buried in a handful of mountaintop cemeteries. Virtually all who served in the military appear on county pension lists. Not Hiram.
The first clue to his destiny came unexpectedly more than 50 years later with the death of his widow, Ann.
Her obituary reads, in part:
Mrs. Ann Murray, widow of the late Hiram Murray, who was killed in the Civil War, died July 20, 1910.
It was one of those “aha” moments that sent me scrambling to contact the National Archives and Records Administration on the off-chance that Hiram's family had received pension benefits. It had.
Sifting through the paperwork, I learned that in 1867 Ann was awarded $8 per month as his widow, plus $2 per month for each minor child. I also discovered that Hiram was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The serene setting became a national burying ground when Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs proposed in 1864 that 200 acres of the Robert E. Lee family property surrounding the family mansion at Arlington be taken for a cemetery to handle the vast number of dead from the war that threatened to inundate local cemeteries.
(Lee's heirs eventually won a lawsuit and were reimbursed $150,000 for the land.)
By the war's end, 16,000 graves filled the spaces close to the house.
Over time, another 400 acres were acquired. Today more than 245,000 veterans and their families are buried on Arlington's sloping hills, across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial.
Arlington Cemetery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily October through March and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily April through September.
Sightseers arriving in cars are directed to a lot near the Visitors Center where they may park for a small fee. Disabled individuals and those wishing to visit a specific grave must obtain a temporary pass to drive through the cemetery.
The center also furnishes grave site locations and general information. Records are computerized. The clerk took about 3 minutes to call up Murray's records, even though I couldn't recall the year of his death. She gave us one of those “you are here” maps and drew a magic marker route to grave site No. 9353 in Section 13.
Moments later we stood beside Hiram Murray's snowy white headstone.
— Donna Murray Allen welcomes your questions about genealogy and will respond to those of general interest in future columns. Sorry, she can't take phone calls, but you can write to her c/o Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail her at [email protected].
PVT 6 PA H ARTY
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
- DATE OF DEATH: 11/05/1864
- DATE OF INTERMENT: Unknown
- BURIED AT: SITE 9353
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard