The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


Convalescent Soldiers in L’Ouverture Hospital "Express Our Views" on Burial Location

Number 1 in the Freedmen’s Series of Documents of Alexandria’s Freed People, produced by the Alexandria Black History Resource Center and Alexandria Archaeology, divisions of the City of Alexandria’s Office of Historic Alexandria. Copyright 1997. Research and transcription by Timothy Dennee and Lillie Finklea.

Plan of L'Ouverture Hospital.

An 1865 Quartermaster Department plan of L'Ouverture Hospital. Named for the hero of the Haitian Revolution, L'Ouverture was erected in the winter of 1863-1864 for the treatment of African American and American Indian soldiers. It replaced a makeshift segregated hospital near Washington and Wolfe Streets. Inset is an interior photograph of one of Alexandria's "white" hospital wards on Independence Day.

This document is transcribed from papers of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Entry 576, General Correspondence and Reports Relating to National and Post Cemeteries. It consists of two parts. The first is a letter written December 28, 1864 by Captain J.G.C. Lee, Assistant Depot Quartermaster at Alexandria, to Major General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General in Washington. Among other duties, Captain Lee was responsible for the burial of U.S. soldiers in the military cemetery at the west end of Wilkes Street in Alexandria. He requested General Meigs’ "early action in the matter" regarding the burial location of deceased African American soldiers.

Lee had understood his orders to require that all U.S. soldiers dying in Alexandria would be buried in the "Soldiers’ Cemetery" (now Alexandria National Cemetery). Yet, since May 1864, the Superintendent of Contrabands, a minister named Albert Gladwin, had been burying black soldiers in the Contraband Burying Ground, also known as Freedmen’s Cemetery. Gladwin had obtained an order from Military Governor Slough to continue to do so. Lee pointed out that this cemetery for African Americans was not owned or maintained by the U.S. government, and, not having been officially informed of Slough’s order, he began to direct all black burials to a separate section of the Soldiers’ Cemetery. According to Lee, Gladwin then took matters into his own hands by arresting Lee’s African American hearse driver (and apparently sending him to the slave pen jail for refusing to follow his orders) en route to a funeral, and sending the coffin he carried to the Freedmen’s Cemetery. The December 27 diary entry of Julia Wilbur, a New York abolitionist ministering to freed slaves, recorded that "Mr. Gladwin has buried 2 soldiers in Cold. Ground this P.M. Quite an excitement. The soldiers at [L’Ouverture Hospital] are furious, [and] refused to go as escort."

Lee was furious too, piqued by Gladwin’s high-handedness and prodded by the angry troops. To support his position, the captain forwarded with his letter a petition of the 443 African American soldiers recuperating at L’Ouverture Hospital. Originally addressed to Major Edwin Bentley, the hospital’s Surgeon-in-Charge, the petition stated the men’s choice of burial location as the Soldiers’ Cemetery: "We ask that our bodies may find a resting place in the ground designated for the burial of the brave defenders of our countries flag...."

Lee’s letter was later endorsed with General Meigs’ brief written memorandum of decision: all soldiers, including African Americans, could be buried in the Soldiers’ Cemetery until there was no longer space. After that, they could be interred at the National Cemetery at Arlington.

These papers help provide an explanation for what had been a perplexing question. Why are the gravestones for black soldiers who died between May 5 and mid-December 1864 (according to Gladwin’s death register) buried farther back in National Cemetery than those who died a short time later? Were these men disinterred from Freedmen’s Cemetery and then moved to the Alexandria National Cemetery? Lee states that "there are quite a number already in the contraband burying-ground but these could be removed very easily and without additional expense by the men who take care of the military cemetery." It appears that most indeed were re-interred, beginning January 6, 1865 and finishing January 21, perhaps with interruptions because of snowfall and freezing temperatures.

It is likely that the dispute led to Rev. Gladwin’s removal in mid-January 1865. The deaths of black soldiers ceased to be reported to the Superintendent of Contrabands until after a military officer, chaplain James Ferree, assumed Gladwin’s position.

With Captain Lee’s assistance, the 443 soldiers at L’Ouverture Hospital secured for themselves and their comrades the opportunity to "shair the same privileges and rights of burial in every way with our fellow soldiers, who only differ from us in color." No more than 23 of the signatories of the petition had the misfortune to exercise this right. The gravestones of these and more than 200 other African Americans stand today in Alexandria National Cemetery as a testament to these men who "cheerfully left the comforts of home, and entered into the field of conflict, fighting side by side with the white soldiers, to crush out this God insulting, Hell deserving rebellion." This cemetery is maintained by the Veterans Administration and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, many of the African American civilians who died seeking freedom, safety and employment in Alexandria still remain in unmarked graves covered with asphalt and built upon.

The following document provides 443 soldiers’ names. It should be noted that the names were not actual signatures, but were taken down by a handful of men circulating through the hospital wards. It is for this reason, and because of the low level of literacy among these mostly former slaves, that many of the names are obviously misspelled. Apparently, however, the petition was unanimous, and gives a full account of those being treated at one moment in time. These names can be added to and compared with those of the African American soldiers buried in Alexandria National Cemetery. We hope that others will study these men so that we may know them more fully as individuals and as a collective force for equal treatment.

This publication preserves, as much as possible, the format and spelling of the original document.

DEPOT QUARTERMASTER OFFICE

Alexandria, Va., December 28th 1864

Major General M.C. Meigs

Quartermaster General, U.S.A

Washington, D.C.

General,

I have the honor to transmit herewith copy of a letter written by me on the 24th inst., in relation to the interment of colored soldiers dying at the General Hospital here. I desire now to lay the facts before you more fully and, as my duties have been forcibly interfered with, would ask your early decision.

The U.S. Military Cemetery at this place has been purchased by this Dept. as a place of burial for soldiers. It has been handsomely improved and adorned, is systematically conducted by a superintendent and the necessary laborers.

Notifications of deaths in the various hospitals are sent to me in the usual way, they are recorded at the office, and the interments are made accordingly, the coffins, hearse, attendants, &c. being furnished by me. Headboards are placed at each grave and a careful record of the men in every particular.

I have recently learned that Mr. Gladwin, Superintendent of the Freedmen at this place has caused the interment of colored soldiers to be made at the contraband burying-ground. This ground is not owned by the U.S., is not fenced, as I learn, nor is it taken care of, as the regular cemetery is.

On learning this I directed that the interment of colored men, as well as white, be made in the military cemetery, keeping them in a separate portion. This has been done since then until Mr. Gladwin prevailed on Gen. Slough, Military Governor, to issue an order that they be interred at the contraband burying-ground. A copy of this order not being sent to me officially, I continued my duties, without conferring with Gen. Slough on the subject.

Yesterday however while the hearse and the escort were proceeding to the military cemetery, Mr. Gladwin and a party of soldiers arrested my driver, took him from my hearse and drove it where they pleased, the escort returning to the hospital. As might be expected, the most intense feeling on the part of officers was felt, that this man, a citizen, should be allowed to interfere.

I therefore called on Genl. Slough in regard to the matter and after explaining the position of affairs he requested me to get your orders in the matter, which should be final. He seemed to think that the only matter that stood in the way was that there are quite a number already in the contraband burying-ground but these could be removed very easily and without additional expense by the men who take care of the military cemetery.

It seems to have been the desire to have all soldiers in one place, as last winter I was required to disinter all in this neighborhood and Fairfax Seminary and have them brought to this place.

The feeling on the part of the colored soldiers is unanimous to be placed in the military cemetery and it seems but just and right that they should be. I therefore ask your early action in the matter.

Very Respectfully,

Your Obt. Servant

J.G.C. Lee

Capt. A.Q.M. U.S.A.

P.S. I enclose a memorial received by me on this subject from the soldiers at L’ouverture General Hospital. J.G.C.L.

2 enclosures.

Louverture General Hospital,

Alexandria, Va. December 27, 1864

To Major Edwin Bentley,

Surgeon in Charge

Sir, we the undersigned Convalescents of Louverture Hospital & its Branches and soldiers of the U.S. army, learning that some dissatisfaction exists in relation to the burrial of colored soldiers, and feeling deeply interested in a matter of so great importance to us, who are a part and parcel with the white soldiers in this great struggle against rebellion, do hereby express our views, and ask for a consideration of the same.

We learn that the government has purchased ground to be used exclusively for Burrial of soldiers of the United States Army, and that the government has also purchased ground to be used for the burial of contrabands, or freedmen, so called, that the former is under the controll of Capt Lee, A.Q.M. U.S.A. The latter under the controll of Rev. A. Gladwin, Superintendent of Contrabands. We are not contrabands, but soldiers of the U.S. Army, we have cheerfully left the comforts of home, and entered into the field of conflict, fighting side by side with the white soldiers, to crush out this God insulting, Hell deserving rebellion.

As American citizens, we have a right to fight for the protection of her flag, that right is granted, and we are now sharing equally the dangers and hardships in this mighty contest, and should shair the same privileges and rights of burial in every way with our fellow soldiers, who only differ from us in color,

To crush this rebellion, and establish civil, religious, & political freedom for our children, is the hight of our ambition. To this end we suffer, for this we fight, yea and mingle our blood with yours, to wash away a stain so black, and destroy a Plot so destructive to the interest and Properity of this nation, as soldiers in the U.S. Army. We ask that our bodies may find a resting place in the ground designated for the burial of the brave defenders, of our countries flag;

It has been said that the colored soldiers desire to be burried in the Contrabands Cemetary, we have never expressed such a desire, nor do we ask for any such distinction to be made, but in the more pertinant language of inspiration we would say, (Ruth 1:16-17) "Entreat me not to leave thee, for whither thou goest I will go and where thou fightest I will fight, and where thou diest I will die, and there will I be burried," and for this, your humble petitionars will ever pray, the unaminous voice of our Soldiers was given, and their names herin enrolled,

First Ward.

Jessie Anderson

Sergt

Co C 23rd U.S.C.T

Joseph Ross

Priv

Co B 29th U.S.C.T

Amos Jackson

Priv

Co G 8th U.S.C.T

Duncan Gibbs

Priv

Co B 43rd U.S.C.T

William Johnson

Priv

Co A 43rd U.S.C.T

William Hackitt

Priv

Co D 19th U.S.C.T

John Turner

Priv

Co M Mich C.T

Charles Dolley

Priv

Co F 23rd U.S.C.T

William Millander

Corp

Co A 29th U.S.C.T

Thomas Hyman

Priv

Co A 29th Conn C.T

Patrick Johnson

Corp

Co H 19th U.S.C.T

Milton Airey

Corp

Co A 43rd U.S.C.T

Daniel Williams

Sergt

Co D 7th [?] D.C.C.T

John Cooper

Priv

Co G 30th U.S.C.T

John E. Hyman

Sergt

Co H 37th [?] U.S.C.T

Richard Jackson

Priv

Co H 39th U.S.C.T

William F. Loucks

Priv

Co H 28th U.S.C.T

Russell Thomas

Priv

Co B 20th U.S.C.T

Joseph Clark

Priv

Co A, Va Home Guard

Alexr Wright

Priv

Co G 5th Mass Cavl

James Wilson

Sergt

Co C, 37th [?] U.S.C.T

Frank Paine

Priv

Co C 29 U.S.C.T

Joseph Hood

Priv

Co C 30th Conn C.T

Ward Third

Serg Wm Green

William Williams

Wm Conner

Henry Clark

Samuel Holloway

Robert Deyo

Alexander Ebb

Anthony Selvy 1

John Brown

Anthony Selvy 2

Eli Brett

John Smith

John Horton

Jefferson Watts

David Grimes

John Green

William Wood

Nathaniel Lawson

Isaac Ford

Charles Coonick

Peter Simpson

George P. Reynols

John Lewis

Benj Hollingsworth

Samuel Bateman

Paul Murray

Louis Scott

Isaac Still

David Jones

James Downs

Edward Stepney

John Thompson

William Body

Toby Trout

Elias C. Thompson

Charles Brown

John Turner

James Meade

Sheppard Currey

William Ross

William Lee

Columbus Jones

Louis Green

Richard Jones

Joseph Carr

Miah [?] T. Sparrowgrass

Daniel J. Bryant

John Lander

[Fourth Ward?]

Samuel W. Fairfax

George Branson

Jefferson Henly

Robert Mathews

Samuel Johnson

Lee Allan

William S. White

George H. Smith

John White

Asa Carr

James M. Smith

Joseph Miner

William Hartwood

James H. Smith

Isaac W. Stillgess

James Henson

Lewis Miller

Fieldon Walker

Samuel Gleanes

William Fisher

Daniel Thomas

John Hall

William Taylor

George Cudgel

Benjamin Eadlin

Joseph Lewis

John Blakey

William W. Phillips

Hamaff Davies

Paul Sandridge

Jerry Duckins

James Henry

Thompson Hay

Nathaniel Carrington

John Rice

Daniel Reid

John Haligood

Daniel Brown

James Hammonds

Laranzes Hill

Wm. H. Stansbury

John Barrack

William Underwood

Samuel Cole

Jerry Miles

John Chrestapher

French Manefey

Alfred Lamer

Robert Walken

Elijah Miller

Antoine Vanwinkle

Ward 5

Wm P Thompsson

James H Singleton

Wm Pury

John Cook

Wm Seals

Barney Osbourne

Wm Brooks

Samuel Forman

Wm Burke

Moses Burt

Wm Hiskins

Charles Brokeos

Wm Thomas

Daniel Hanson

Joseah Hooker

David T Scott

John Wells

Joseph W Edwards

Franklin Smith

John King

John H Murphy

John French

Samuel Bell

Elias Hall

Adam Bentley

John Baties

Joseph Williams

Calvin Rice

George Bailey

Joseph Jackson

Allen Bolden

Samuel N. Barber

Joseph Justin

Alexander Jinkson

Jackson James

Samuel Scott

Benj Jones

John Clark

Charles Jones

Joseph Martin

Archibald Anderson

Joseph Mortin

Chancalor Dickerson

Chancalor Dickerson

Joseph Molton

6 Ward, Louverture Hospital

Sergt Alfred Carroll

Isaac Bibbins

Sergt Garrett Jefferson

Helling Bruce

Sergt John Major [?]

Frank Jackson

Sergt Abraham Johnston

Steven Vance

Jenkins Young

John Christeen

James Hanffeild

Asbury Harris

Thomas Brenink

Henry Gant

David […] ens

William Jackson

William H. Clay

Lebbias Wright

John Briggs

Mortimer Wright

Andrew Thompson

Alonzo Saraga

William Brown

Isaac Clark

William Crawford

Jacob Warren

Nathaniel Chase

George Jones

Wilbert Jackson

William Thomas

Charles Lewis

Loyd James

Nelson Hunt

Charles Dualls [?]

Frances James

Isaha Douglass

Charles Diggs

Isaak Douglas

Charles [illegible]

[Seventh Ward]

James Oneal

Solomon King

Henry C. Todd

Elijah Enty

John Wills

Gabrel Enty

Alfred Bolden

John Green

George Evens

Jefferson Harris

Isac Heiren

Alexander Johnson

Alexander Cornish

Reuben Pollard

Levi Nelson

Andrew Tonzal

George Washington

Samuel Smith

Joshua Burrel

Peter Dyer

William H. Carter

Francis Meeds

Levi Beer

Daniel Barrett

Robert Green

John Terral

Lewis Deshield

John S. Smith

John Lankford

James Brewster

Isac Mattee

Niclas Clark

Charles H. Butler

Thomas Mcwinfield

Francis Deal

John Johnson

James Logan

Benjamin Niclosson

Samuel Smith

Philop Wilkins

Charles Mccown

Hireiser Jackson

Charles C. Williams

George W Bratcher

John H. Champlain

John Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Charles Baoan [?]

William Brogden

William H. Dorsy

Littleton Spence

James H. Parker

Henry C. Clay

Serg Anthony N Davis

James R Slater

Robert Grey

Jacb Barclay

James A Tomey

Emanuel Richland

Spencer Small

Wm Hughes

Solomon Coursey

Wm H. Tompsom

Arther Elise

Anthony Gregg

Alexander Burton

Thomas Grant

Oscar Gregory

Robert Boardley

John Scott

Benjamin Malone

Terry Snowden

Thomas Ditto

John Custus

Wm Warren

Edward King

George Scott

Joseph Sterling

James H Brown

Rufus Germain

Jefferson Floyd

Abram Reding

James Jackson

George W. Hawkins

James St Dany

Henrey Moten

Andrew J. Cooper

Edmond Mayers

Benjamin Welsh

David Rochester

Serg Isaac Porter

Wm De Graff

George Carr

Carter Moore

George Jackson

Joseph Freeland

Peter Julius

Woolston Hickerson

Serg George W. Potter

Frank Day

Edward Hall

Holliss Mathews

Barclay Holmes

Wm P. Smith

Sterling Love

9 Ward

Wassella Eamas [?]

William harles

Jery lisle

Charles haris

Joseph Deshallo

Augustus bagdon

Charls Agago

Moses G. Wilson

Charley lane

Josiah Thomas

William braun

Isah Williams

Charls j Denis

Charles Smith

John D Smith

William Williams

William StrawDer

Marchel hamand

Bales more

Moses nelson

Peter Frasure

Oliver W Scott

Robert Johnson

Ellick Sander Joshua

Richard Brown

James Elsie

Humphry mcdowell

Nickaus Duffin

Charls Anderson

Charles H Lewis

edward Stewart

William Ray

Jacob murray

Robert Brown

Squier Willson

Samuel Smith

lewis martin

Thornton Lamount

George W hall

John Morgan

George Washington

Samuel Steel

Henry linsy

John Liverpool

Frank usem [?]

Georg Dugalas

Samuel Bond

Joshua Williams

[Second or Tenth Ward?]

Sergt Richard Dericks

Daniel Waters

Corp George W. Hazel

Garrison Cuff

George Watson

James Degroot

Ransom Jones

John Porter

Frederick Proctor

Joseph Winsler [?]

John Portor

John Ready

Thomas Brinkly

Levi Mapp

Wm Paige

John Boyd

Thos Coleman

William Norman

Albert Cheatham

Henry Snowden

Miles Case

Richard Gilbert

Henry H Tabbot

Jeanie Truit

Alexander Tubman

George Bruner

Jefferson Finley

Edmond Garret

Wm Brown

John Andrews

John Thompson

Henry Cotton

Robt R S Richardson Sergt Maj

Frank Mason

Joseph Sulivan

Chas Hall

James Qualls [?]

Samuel Blaney


Freedmen's Cemetery Historical Site Marker - E 109 Freedmen's Cemetery - Federal authorities established a cemetery here for newly freed African Americans during the Civil War. In January 1864, the military governor of Alexandria confiscated for use as a burying ground an abandoned pasture from a family with Confederate sympathies. About 1,700 freed people, including infants and black Union soldiers, were interred here before the last recorded burial in January 1869. Most of the deceased had resided in what is known as Old Town and in nearby rurual settlements. Despite mid-twentieth-century construction projects, many burials remain undisturbed. A list of those interred here has also survived.

Friends of Freedmenís Cemetery
638 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
E-mail: freedmen@juno.com

Freedmen's Cemetery Logo - This logo was designed by Alexandria Archaeology Assistant City Archaeologist, Dr. Steven Shephard, in 2006. The beautifully executed final drawing was made by Alexandria Archaeology volunteer, Mr. Andrew Flora, who made a few modifications. At the center of the logo is a headboard of the design seen in historic photographs of the Alexandria National Cemetery, established at the north end of Wilkes Street in 1862. These grave markers were supplied by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department in Alexandria and records state that this department also supplied the headboards and coffins for Freedmens Cemetery. The pine boards were whitewashed and the plot number, and presumably, the name of the deceased, and possibly the date of death, were painted in black on the headboard. The number 1864 in the logo represents the year that the cemetery was established. The black silhouette of the African American woman in the center of the board is meant to represent the people, the Freedmen, who were buried at the cemetery. Civilian men, women and many children were buried here, along with African American soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. The rays radiating from the top of the headboard are meant to represent the light of freedom, as well as the souls of the Freedmen ascending into heaven and their final reward. The F and C are for Freedmen's Cemetery. The surrounding broken chain wreath symbolizes the severed bonds of slavery which resulted from the American Civil War which transformed Alexandria and the nation.

April 29th, 2007