The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


Richard Bayne, Carter Dowling and Benjamin Taylor, runaways, 1858

From William Still, The Underground Rail Road, (William Still, 1871), pp. 499-500.

RICHARD stated that a man named "Rudolph Massey, a merchant tailor, hard rum-drinker, card player, etc." claimed to own him, and had held him, up to the time of his escape, as with bands of brass.

Richard said, "I was hired out for ten dollars a month, but I never suffered like many-didn't leave because I have been abused, but simply to keep from falling into the hands of some heirs that I had been willed to." In case of a division, Richard did not see how he could be divided without being converted into money. Now, as he could have no fore-knowledge as to the place or person into whose hands he might be consigned by the auctioneer, he concluded that he could not venture to risk himself in the hands of the young heirs. Richard began to consider what Slavery was, and his eyes beheld chains, whips, hand-cuffs, auction blocks, separation and countless sufferings that had partially been overlooked before; he felt the injustice of having to toil hard to support a drunkard and gambler. At the age of twenty-three Richard concluded to "lay down the shovel and the hoe," and look out for himself. His mother was owned by Massey, but his father belonged to the "superior race" or claimed so to do, and if anything could be proved by appearances it was evident that he was the son of a white man. Richard was endowed with a good share of intelligence. He not only left his mother but also one sister to clank their chains together.

CARTER, who accompanied Richard, had just reached his majority. He stated that he escaped from a "maiden lady" living in Alexandria, known by the name of Miss Maria Fitchhugh [Fitzhugh], the owner of twenty-five slaves. Opposed to Slavery as he was, he nevertheless found no fault with his mistress, but on the contrary, said that she was a very respectable lady, and a member of the Episcopal Church. She often spoke of freeing her servants when she died; such talk was too uncertain for Carter, to pin his faith to, and he resolved not to wait. Such slave-holders generally lived a great while, and when they did die, they many times failed to keep their promises. H concluded to heed the voice of reason, and at once leave the house of bondage. His mother, father, five brothers and six sisters all owned by Miss Fitchhugh, formed a strong tie to keep him from going; he "conferred not with flesh and blood," but made a determined stroke for freedom.

BENJAMIN, the third in this company, was only twenty years of age, but a better-looking specimen for the auction-block could hardly be found. He fled from the Meed [Mead?] estate; his mistress had recently died leaving her affairs, including the disposal of the slaves, to be settled at an early date. He spoke of his mistress as "a very clever lady to her servants," but since her death he had realized the danger that he was in of being run off south with a coffle gang. He explained the course frequently resorted to by slave-holders under similar circumstances thus: "frequently slaves would be snatched up, hand cuffed and hurried off south on the night train with out an hour's notice." Fearing that this might be his fate, he deemed it prudent to take a northern train via the Underground Rail Road without giving any notice.

He left no parents living, but six brothers and four sisters, all slaves with the exception of one brother who had bought himself. In order to defend themselves if molested on the road, the boys had provided themselves with pistols and dirks, and declared that they were fully bent on using them rather than be carried back to slavery.


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