St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, Friday Morning, April 7, 1899
The Interment of United States
Officers and Men Yesterday
Three Hundred and Fifty-six Laid To
Rest in Arlington Cemetery
An impressive service by Episcopal and
Catholic Clergymen at the Grave
Washington – April 6, 1899 – With full honors of war, upon the crest of the southern slope of Arlington Cemetery this afternoon, the nation, represented by President McKinley, his cabinet and other high dignitaries of the government, the commanding general of the army, and other distinguished officers, all the regular and militia organizations of the District of Columbia and a concourse of 15,000 people paid the last tribute of honor and respect to the 336 officers and men who gave their lives on distant battlefields for their country in the war with Spain, and who were today mustered into the silent army that sleeps in the last bivouac of the brave.
The spot selected is in the new addition to the Cemetery looking out upon the broad sweeping Potomac. To the right raise the ramparts of old Fort McPherson, to the left are the countless graves of heroes of the Civil War, and to the rear the stately old Lee Mansion and Fort Myer. In this burial lot, which covered two acres in extent, in parallel rows, the wooden boxes containing the caskets were ranged, separated by great mounds of earth. Over each box an American flag was draped.
There was no particular order in the disposition of the remains, though an exception was made in the case of the officers. The boxes containing the bodies of Captain Edgar Hubert of the Eighth U. S. Infantry; Lieutenant L. I. Barnett, Ninth U. S. Infantry; Lieutenant William Wood, Twelfth U. S. Infantry; Lieutenant R. S. Turman, Sixth U. S. Infantry; and Lieutenant Francis Creighton, U. S. Volunteer Signal Corps, were placed at the head of the line of graves immediately under the eyes of the Presidential party. Of the others, fully 70 per cent are identified; about 30 per cent are wholly unknown or known only to the regiment to which they belonged.
A platform had been erected enclosed with flags and drapery mourning, but the day was an ideal one, and the sun shining from a cloudless sky and the platform was practically unoccupied. Before the arrival of the Presidential party and the military escort, detachments from the fourth and Fifth Artillery kept vigil over the dead. Long before the arrival of the military, thousands of people had surrounded the enclosure where the dead soldiers lay.
About 2.30 the Presidential party, who had been caught in a jam at the Potomac bridge, from which it required a dozen mounted police to extricate them, reached the enclosure. They were followed by General Miles and his staff, the military attaches of the British and German embassies, all mounted, and the military escort. As they arrived the solemn strains of the Dead March in Saul silenced the vast assemblage and with bared heads stood at the graveside while the Presidential party advanced and the military dispositions were made.
The military was under the command of Colonel Francis Guenther and consisted of the District National Guard, the Light Battery with two Hotchkiss guns, a battalion of naval militia and the regular troops from the arsenal and Fort Myer.
The troops were formed on three sides of a rectangle, and files of soldiers were marched into the ranks of the dead. Flanking the open space at the head of the graves were the red-coated Artillerymen who were to fire the last salute, and on the left was stationed the Fourth Artillery Band.
The President, accompanied by Secretaries Hays, Gage, Long, Hitchcock, Wilson, Postmaster General Smith, Assistant Secretary Taylor, General Corbin, General John M. Wilson and Colonel Bingham, came forward with uncovered head and took his place in the open space facing the graves. He was followed by General Miles and his staff in full uniform and by other distinguished guests, including some of the representatives of foreign countries.
Just as the President arrived a pathetic incident occurred, when aged Mr. and Mrs. O'Dowd pressed through the lines and placed a bunch of roses on the casket of their son, John O'Dowd of the 7th Infantry. The parents of Lieutenant Wood also came forward and deposited a beautiful wreath of flowers. The sword of that gallant officer was upon his casket.
Immediately the band broke out in the sweet strains of “Nearer My God to Thee,” and Post Chaplain C. W. Freeland of Fort Monroe, in the ecclesiastical robes of his office, with Rev. Father McGee of St. Patrick's church, followed by three purple-gowned acolytes, advanced to the graves and the funeral services began. They were very simple, but very impressive. The Rev. Mr. Freeland read the military committal services of the Episcopal church, beginning with “Man that is born of woman” and concluding with the promise of Heaven contained in the words “I am the resurrection and the life.” As he pronounced the words “Dust to dust, earth to earth,” the soldiers at the side of each grave crumbled a clod of earth upon each casket. This vast concourse bared their heads to the solemn words, and thousands joined in the Lord's Prayer. The Rev. Father McGee then consecrated with the churchly power invested in him the earth into which the bodies of the Catholic soldiers were placed. Meantime, from Fort Myer, booming down the wind, came the dull roar of a gun every half hour, and the national ensign there and at the Lee mansion were run down to half mast.
As soon as the religious services had been concluded, flanking detachments of the Fourth and Fifth Artillery fired three volleys and in the solemn hush that followed the salute the bugle sounded “Taps.”
The last religious and military rites to the dead heroes was over, and the Presidential party and the military departed, leaving the work of actual interment to follow. As each of the caskets weighs almost five hundred pounds and requires eight men to handle it, it will be two of three days before all of the bodies are in their graves. In order to permit all government employees to attend the services this afternoon, all the departments and the Federal courts were closed by an executive order of the President and all the flags in the city were half-masted.
The Final Salute – Burial of the Spanish-American War Casualties At Arlington National Cemetery, 1899
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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