The Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery


William Triplett and Thomas Harper, runaways, 1857

From William Still, The Underground Rail Road, (William Still, 1871), pp. 427-428.

WILLIAM, answering to the above description,1 arrived safely in company with Thomas Harper, about six day after the date of their departure from the house of bondage.

Mrs. A.B. Fairfax was the loser of this "article." William spoke rather favorably of her. He said he did not leave because he was treated badly, but simply because he wanted to own himself—to be free. He also said that he wanted to be able to take care of his family if he should see fit to marry.

As to Slavery, he could see no justice in the system; he therefore made up his mind no longer to yield submission thereto. Being a smart "chattel," he reasoned well on the question of Slavery, and showed very conclusively that even under the kindest mistress it had no charms for him—that at best, it was robbery and an outrage.

THOMAS HARPER, his comrade, fled from John Cowling, who also lived near Alexandria. His great trouble was, that he had a wife and family, but could do nothing for them. He thought that it was hard to see them in want and abused when he was not at liberty to aid or protect them. He grew very unhappy, but could see no remedy except in light.

Cowling, his master, was an Englishman by birth, and followed blacksmithing for a living. He was a man in humble circumstances, trying to increase his small fortune by slave-labor.

He allowed Thomas to hire himself for one hundred dollars a year, which amount he was required to raise, sick or well. He did not complain, however, of having received any personal abuse from his blacksmith master. It was the system which was daily grinding the life out of him, that caused him to suffer, and likewise escape. By trade Thomas was also a blacksmith. He left a wife and three children.


1 "RAN AWAY from the subscriber, on Saturday night, 22d instant, WILLIAM TRIPLETT, a dark mulatto, with whiskers and mustache, 23 to 26 years of age; lately had a burn on the instep of his right foot, but perhaps well enough to wear a boot or shoe. He took with him very excellent clothing, both summer and winter, consisting of a brown suit in cloth, summer coats striped, check cap, silk hat, &c. $50 reward will be paid if taken within thirty miles of Alexandria or in the State of Virginia, and $150 and necessary expenses if taken out of the State and secured so that I may get him again. He is the property of Mrs. A. B. Fairfax, of Alexandria, and is likely to make his way to Cincinnati, where he has friends, named Hamilton and Hopes, now living. ROBT. W. WHEAT."
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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.

July 5th, 2007