Dispatch from the Field: St. John’s Cemetery, Frederick, MD (Part 1)

In continuing to go through 2016’s backlog of photos we’ll take a look back at one of my favorite spots (and a much warmer time). Frederick is a must see for anyone interested in the Civil War’s eastern theater. The city is home to Monocacy National Battlefield and the Museum of Civil War Medicine. The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac passed through town on numerous occasions. Jackson, Lee, McClellan, and even Lincoln walked its streets. The city is also a great central location for exploring nearby Gettysburg, Antietam, South Mountain, or Harper’s Ferry. No wonder it plays such a prominent role in both the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area. We’ve talked about Frederick before on the blog. It served as the “home base” for both the 1st PHB Infantry and the Cole’s Maryland Cavalry. The ranks of both of these regiments (as well as much of the 3rd PHB Infantry) were largely made up of local men, and many of their officers were drawn from the leading men of the city.

Between 1861 and 1865 churches all across the city were turned into hospitals for the flood of wounded arriving from nearby battlefields and Frederick became “one vast hospital” – a story ably told at the Museum of Civil War Medicine. Many of the wounded – both local and from elsewhere – found their final resting place in Frederick. The largest collection of Civil War burials in town is out at the vast Mount Olivet Cemetery. Mount Olivet stands on the south edge of town, and serves as Frederick’s answer to the mid-nineteenth century “rural cemetery” movement. One can easily spend hours meandering along the shady lanes, admiring the funerary art. The most famous resident is Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangeled Banner. Other notables include Barbara Fritchie, who’s outspoken (and largely apocryphal) devotion to the United States was immortalized in poetic verse. Many of the officers and men of the Home Brigade are interred there as well, including Henry Cole, William Maulsby, and George Vernon. The cemetery contains a large number of Union soldiers, both from Maryland and other states, but the most well known Civil War section is “Confederate Row.” Over 700 Confederate soldiers, mostly killed at Antietam, South Mountain, and Monocacy, are buried along the northern edge of the cemetery.

At some point I’ll get around to doing a dedicated post or two on Mount Olivet, but it’s a huge project to tackle. For now let’s head back into town to a smaller, more out of the way spot. Tucked along East Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets is the St. John’s Cemetery. It’s a small Catholic cemetery surrounded by an ancient looking stone wall, and it’s easy to miss if you’re driving through town.

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St. John’s Cemetery along 3rd and East Street. St. John’s Catholic Church is located just around the corner on Second Street – Isaac Bond Map (Library of Congress)

Within the walls are burials dating back to the early part of the nineteenth century, including one of Frederick’s most controversial figures. Among the crowded tombstones is the grave of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, best known today for his role in the Dred Scott case and in his subsequent opposition to the Lincoln administration. His grave alone is enough to pique the interest of most historians, but the small cemetery has much more to offer. Among the graves are veterans of America’s wars stretching from the French and Indian War to Vietnam. There are even two veterans of Napoleon’s Grande Armée buried here. Among the old soldiers are 34 Union and 16 Confederate officers and men. Many of the soldiers were locals who served in the Home Brigade or in other Maryland regiments. Others were soldiers who died in Frederick’s many hospitals. Back in the spring I spent a sunny day at St. John’s.

Among the first men of the Home Brigade that I encountered was Abraham Hahn.

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Grave of Abraham Hahn (Author’s photo)

Hahn lived north of Frederick in Creagerstown, where he worked as a shoemaker. He enlisted in the 1st PHB Infantry in September 1863; At the age of 46 he was one of the older privates serving in Company D (1). When he joined he served alongside his oldest son, also named Abraham. The younger Abraham had been part of the original recruitment of the regiment back in the fall of 1861. He suffered through illness at Camp Worman but survived to serve alongside his father and then reenlist as a Veteran Volunteer in 1864.

Not far from Abraham the elder is the grave of Private John H. Cramer.

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John H. Cramer (Author’s photo)

Cramer left his wagonmaking trade in the fall of 1861, signing on with Capt. Yountz’s Company (Co. E) of the 1st PHB Infantry (2). In July 1862 his company was stationed along the Potomac River at Edwards Ferry opposite Leesburg when Private Cramer decided to desert the Home Brigade. He apparently didn’t get far, because by the next spring he was discovered, having joined the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Cramer was returned to the 1st PHB Infantry and stayed on this time. When his enlistment expired he also reenlisted, and Company E was merged with Company D, meaning that he and the Hahns likely knew each other.

Nearby is the grave of one of the 1st PHBs officers, Lieutenant Joseph Ryan.

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Lt. Joseph Ryan (Author’s photo)

The son of an Irish shoemaker, Ryan was born in Albany, New York, but was living in Frederick by the time he was 10 (3). He joined Company I in 1861 and by August 1862 he was serving as clerk to the ill-fated Col. Dixon Miles, commander of the garrison at Harper’s Ferry (4). He served almost the entirety of the war as a private; it wasn’t until March 1865 that he was promoted to Lieutenant in Company A of the 13th Maryland (made up of the veterans of the 1st PHB and new recruits).

One of the more prominent figures to serve in the 1st PHB Infantry is buried along the western edge of the cemetery. Dr. Jerningham Boone served the entirety of the war as the regimental surgeon.

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Dr. Boone (Author’s photo)

Boone was born in Berkeley County, (West) Virginia in 1821, but was living and practicing in Frederick when the war began. He quickly volunteered his services as surgeon, and later in the war commanded the field hospital at Sandy Hook, opposite Harper’s Ferry (5). After the war he continued in the medical profession in nearby Buckeystown until his death in 1908.

Along the east edge of the cemetery are a number of new gravestones. Dedicated in 2010, they mark the previously unmarked graves of some wartime casualties. Several regiments are represented, including the 3rd Wisconsin, 1st NY Cavalry, and the famous 69th NY Infantry. Three of the newly marked graves belong to men of the Home Brigade who lost their lives during the war.

 

Private David Carnes served in Company I of the 1st PHB before losing his life in the Battle of Gettysburg. The other two men, Privates David Hartman and James Lynch, succumbed to disease after being hospitalized in Frederick.

There is at least one man representing Cole’s Cavalry buried in St. John’s as well.

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Private Basil Bruchey, Cole’s Cavalry (Author’s photo)

Basil Bruchey enlisted in Company K of Cole’s Cavalry in March 1864 (6). Like Abraham Hahn he was older than the average recruit, being 40 years old at the time. Bruchey spent much of his enlistment sick, and even spent time at the Sandy Hook hospital, where he would have been under the care of Dr. Boone.

I have a mystery for my readers out there. There is one grave belonging to a man from Co. D of the 1st PHB Infantry that is too eroded for me to read. I took a few pictures from various angles, and hopefully someone can read it. Let me know!

 

Next time we’ll take a look at some of the non-Home Brigade related burials in St. John’s, including some more Marylanders, a member of the USCT, and a freeman serving in the US Navy. Before we go, though, I do have an unusual grave to share with you.

One of the older gravestones half sunken along the wall belongs to one John Boisneuf. More accurately it belongs to Jean Payen Boisneuf.

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Jean Boisneuf (Author’s photo)

Born in St. Domingue (now Haiti), he belonged to a wealthy family who owned a number of sugar plantations. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 Jean was in France, and he was soon elected to the National Assembly. He represented Touraine from March 1789 to September 1791, during which time he served on the Colonial committee (7). While he was in France his family fled the violent upheaval of the Haitian Revolution and finally settled in Frederick County. Their estate, known as L’Hermitage, was notorious for the brutal practices that the family brought with them from St. Domingue. Many years after his family left the property the farm played host to a different form of bloodshed. Now known as the Best Farm, the property was at the very center of the Battle of Monocacy. On that hot July day men of the 1st and 3rd PHB Infantry struggled across land once owned by the French family, and some of those men ended up being buried just feet away.

 

Notes

NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to  State of Maryland. Roll:0190

2 NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0187

3 Year: 1850; Census Place: Fredericktown, Frederick, Maryland; Roll: M432_292; Page: 58A; Image: 121

4 NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0195

NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0186

NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0019

7 http://www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/sycomore/fiche/%28num_dept%29/13941

2 thoughts on “Dispatch from the Field: St. John’s Cemetery, Frederick, MD (Part 1)

  1. Another great piece. Thanks for posting. FWIW, I have stopped following most of the other CW blogs I used to follow due to their total obsession with the CBF and “what-should-happen-to-Confederate-monuments.” After a while that gets real tiring, at least for me. The only two I now regularly read are yours and John Banks’. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Pingback: “Shot Through the Head and Seriously Wounded”/Field Dispatch: Mt Olivet Cemetery | A River Divided

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