Shoaf, editor at Civil War Times, did a live stream from the
Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. When the guide was asked about the
row of Confederate tombstones, he did not really seem sure how they came to be
buried in what is considered the nation’s first “national cemetery.” Likewise, the
self-guided tour brochure for the Congressional cemetery, states that “Historians
believe that these wartime burials were Confederate soldiers who succumbed in
nearby hospitals.” Let’s clear this up: these are the graves of Confederate
soldiers who died at either the Old Capitol Prison or the Old Capitol Prison
Hospital during the war. There are also more graves than the ten tombstones all
lined up in a row. According to records, there are at least twenty-five
Confederate soldiers interred at the Congressional Cemetery, along with three (or
The Old Capitol
Prison has an interesting history. Located right behind the U.S. Capitol, where
the U.S. Supreme Court building now sits, the structure was constructed in 1815
to house Congress after the British burned the capitol building in August 1814.
It would take time to reconstruct the U.S. Capitol. Congress met in the
building until 1819, and President James Monroe was inaugurated here on March
4, 1817. After 1819, the building served as a private school, then as a
boarding house until 1861. (John C. Calhoun died here in 1850.)
At the start of the
war, the property was acquired by the Federal government and turned into a
prison for captured Confederates, spies, political prisoners, prostitutes, and
Union officers. Among those incarcerated here were Rose Greenhow, Belle Boyd,
John Mosby, Henry Wirz, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Mary Surratt, Louis Weichmann, and
John T. Ford. Originally, the building could house up to 500, but the
acquisition of adjoining buildings pushed the number to 1,500.
The Old Capitol
Prison often served as a funneling spot for other prisons. Most of the prisoners
were captured in the eastern theater of the war. Officers passed through and
went to Johnson’s Island in Ohio, while privates were sent to Fort Delaware
(usually, but not always). According to the official Records, 5,761 prisoners of
passed through the Old Capitol Prison. It is unclear if that number covered
just Confederate prisoners, or all prisoners. Like other prisons, The Old
Capitol Prison had a hospital, although information about this structure (or room),
seems to be lacking. At least 457 prisoners died while incarcerated at the
prison. Some of these men were buried a mile away at the Congressional
the Official Records, series 2, volume 8, 990-1004 for additional
In 1807, the
Congressional Cemetery was established by a private association. In 1812, once
the purchase was paid off, the cemetery was turned over to Christ Church and
officially named the Washington Parish Burial Ground. According to the cemetery’s
web site, if a member of Congress died in Washington, he was likely interred in
this burial ground. The first was Connecticut senator Uriah Tracy, who passed in
1807. Congress soon began purchasing plots, eventually owning almost 1,000,
hence the name, Congressional Cemetery, although the property is still owned by
Christ Church. There are more than 60 members of Congress buried here, along
with former mayors of Washington, Vice President Elbridge Gerry, the Choctaw
Chief Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, and John Philip Sousa. There are supposedly more than
60,000 graves, although only about half are marked.
It is unclear why
the Congressional Cemetery was chosen for Confederate Prisoner of War burials.
The first appears to be Thomas Chambers, 6th Alabama Infantry. It is
unclear where Chambers was captured, but he was admitted to the “General
Hospital, Capitol Hill,” on August 18, 1861 and died on August 22, 1861. (All
information on Confederate soldiers was gathered from their Compiled Service Records,
Record Group 109, National Archives). Most of the burials took place in 1863.
Several who were captured at Hatchers Run in April 1865 died in the following
weeks and were buried at the cemetery.
There are undoubtedly
more than those Confederates listed below buried within the Congressional
Cemetery. There are also quite a few on this online list of burials, who are
listed as Confederate soldiers, but who are, in fact, Federal soldiers. Maybe
in time, more research can be done and this piece of forgotten history
Confederates buried at the Congressional Cemetery,
ANDRESS, SETH A, Company G, 41ST Virginia
Infantry. Captured on May 3, 1863, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Arrived in
Washington, D.C., May 4, 1863. Transferred to Old Capitol Prison. Died Old
Capitol Prison Hospital, May 16, 1863.
BARR, DAVID, Company I, 2ND Virginia Infantry. Captured
August 3, 1863, at Chester Gap, Virginia, and confined at Old Capital Prison,
Washington, D.C. Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison Hospital September 16,
1863, and Died December 11, 1863.
BARRETT, LEVI, Company C, 15TH North Carolina State Troops. Captured
October 14, 1863, Bristoe Station, Virginia. Confined at Old Capitol Prison,
October 16, 1863. Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison Hospital November 23,
1863. Died November 27, 1863.
BAXLEY, WILLIAM G. D., Pvt., Company A, 2nd Maryland
Infantry. Wounded in right thigh and captured on April 2, 1865, at Hatchers Run
Virginia. Confined at Old Capitol Prison, April 5, 1865. Died on April 22,
1865. [later removed and reinterred elsewhere]
BEARD, WILLIAM S., Company B, 28TH North Carolina
Troops. Captured December 3, 1862, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Confined at Old
Capitol Prison January 27, 1863. Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison Hospital,
March 25, 1863. Died of Fever, April 10, 1863.
BROOKS J. M., Stafford County, VA, d. 5/--/1863
CAMPBELL, A LORENZO, Company I, 11TH North
Carolina State Troops Captured in hospital in Winchester, Virginia, July 21,
1863. Confined at Old Capitol Prison. Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison
Hospital, July 30, 1863. Died August 5, 1863, of pneumonia.
CARLTON, C WINSHIP, Company C, 44th North Carolina
Troops. Captured at Brisoe Station. Died Old Capitol Prison of “pleurisy and
CHAMBERS, THOMAS, Company A, 6TH Alabama Infantry.
Unclear where he was captured. Admitted
to the General Hospital, Capitol Hill, August 18, 1861. Died October 14, 1862, of
CHANEY J., Pvt., 6th Alabama, d.1/28/1862
COCKRELL, BAILEY, Farmer, Loudon County, Virginia. d. 03/03/1864
FARROW, R S, CAPTAIN, CONFEDERATE, CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY,
FOSDICK, HENRY A, PVT, Company I, 6TH Alabama Infantry.
GASQUE, THOMAS, Company H, 1st SOUTH Carolina
Rifles, d. 09/11/1862
HARDCASTLE, JOHN, CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY, d. 05/01/1863.
HARRINGTON, JOHN, Company E, 33RD North Carolina Troops. Captured
October 18, 1863, Bristoe Station, Virginia. Confined at Old Capitol Prison
October 22, 1863. Admitted to the Old Capitol prison Hospital, November 16,
1863. Died December 10, 1863, “chronic diarrhea.”
HODGES, JOHN T, CPL, Company H, 61ST VA Infantry.
Captured at Rapidan Station, Virginia, October 7, 1863. Listed as “rebel
deserter.” Confined at Old Capitol Prison October 9, 1863. Admitted to the Old
Capitol Prison Hospital on October 9, with a “gunshot wound of arm.” Died
October 16, 1863.
HUGHLETT, JAMES, CPL, Company F, 47TH Virginia
Infantry. Date and place of capture unknown (Possibly Gettysburg). Admitted to
Old Capitol Prison Hospital July 18, 1863. Died August 3, 1863, of pneumonia.
JACKSON, JOHN C, Company H, 20TH North Carolina State
Troops. Reported missing in September 1862. Admitted to the Capital Hospital,
September 21, 1862, Transferred to the Capitol Prison Hospital, September 30,
1862. Died October 30, 1862, dysentery.
KEYS, REUBEN, CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY, d. 04/18/1863.
MCMILLAN, WILLIAM, Company A, 14TH LOUISIANA Infantry.
Captured November 7, 1863, near Brandy Station, Virginia. Confined Old Capitol
Prison, November 8, 1863. Admitted Old Capitol Prison November 25, 1863. Died
December 1, 1863, typhoid fever.
MILLS, WILLIAM J, Company D, 12TH GEORGIA Infantry.
Captured May 30, 1862, near Front Royal, Virginia. NFR.
MILSTEAD, JAMES, Company H, 6TH Virginia Cavalry.
Wounded left thigh and captured April 1, 1865, at Hatchers Run, Virginia.
Admitted to hospital at City Point, Virginia, April 3, 1865. Transferred to the
Lincoln General Hospital, Washington, D.C., April 11, 1865. Died May 23, 1865,
of “Chronic Diarrhea.”
MORAN, ROBERT, Farmer, Loudon County, Virginia. d. 02/29/1864.
MURCHISON, CICERO, Company G, 44TH, Georgia Infantry. Captured
on November 28, 1863, Mine Run, Virginia. Confined at Old Capitol Prison,
December 5, 1863. Admitted Old Capitol Prison Hospital, December 6, 1863. Died
December 11, 1863, pleurisy.
NAAK, LUDWIG, 1ST LT & ADJ FIELD &, CONFEDERATE STATES
ARMY, d. 01/30/1862.
NEALLY, ISIAH, Company D, 20TH North Carolina Infantry. Captured
December 3, 1863, Mine Run, Virginia. Confined Old Capitol Prison, December 3,
1863.Admitted Old Capitol Prison Hospital, December 24, 1863. Died December 24,
PIERCE, STEPHEN, Company D, 48TH Virginia
Infantry. Captured in Front Royal, Virginia, May 30, 1862. NFR.
POWELL, CHARLES, Company F, 35TH Georgia Infantry.
Reported missing May 5, 1862. Reported in U.S.A. Hospital, Williamsburg,
Virginia, May 9-11, 1862. NFR.
RUCKER, JAMES S, Moorman’s Company, Virginia Horse Artillery.
Captured September 13, 1863, near Culpepper, Virginia. Confined at Old Capitol
prison September 14, 1863. Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison Hospital on
October 3, 1863. Died on October 7, 1863.
SHIPLETT, WILLIAM, UNKNOWN, ROCKINGHAM, CONFEDERATE STATES
ARMY, d. 05/01/1863.
STONE, JOHN W, CPL, Company H, 4TH Virginia Cavalry.
Captured near Brandy Station on February 23, 1863. Arrived in Washington, D.C.,
February 23, 1863. Assigned to Old Capitol Prison on February 23, 1863.
Admitted to the Old Capitol Prison Hospital on March 9, 1863 Complaint: Pneumonia.
Died on May 12, 1863.
TRIGGER, ROBERT, Company E, 15TH Virginia Cavalry.
Listed as a deserter on Federal prison records. Took the Oath of Allegiance
February 19, 1863. Arrived in Washington D.C., February 21, 1863. Died Old
Capitol prison, February 25, 1863, of Pneumonia.