Washington Star, Monday, June 20, 1864

The Funeral of the Victims of the Arsenal Explosion

Affecting Scenes - Interesting Obsequies etc.

The funeral of the unfortunate victims of the explosion at the Arsenal on Friday last took place from that place yesterday afternoon as per announcement. The arrangements were that the funeral should leave at three o'clock, but long before noon crowds of persons wended their way towards the Arsenal, but were disappointed in finding that they could not at once enter the grounds, and by two o'clock there were over a thousand persons about the gate awaiting admission - the sun in the meantime being very warm, and so oppressive was the heat that many were unable to stand it, and left the vicinity. About 2 1/2 o'clock, however, the upper gates were opened and the crowd pushed through - the gathering by this time numbering several thousand, and some were badly jammed in getting through. About this time several divisions of the Sons of Temperance accompanied by the band attached to Finley Hospital, appeared on the ground.

In view of the apprehension that there would be an unwieldy crowd in attendance, and that there were so many places in the Arsenal proper about which it would be dangerous to allow a crowd, the obsequies took place immediately in the rear of one of the store houses, on the north side of the old penitentiary building, and the immense assemblage immediately gathered around it. The remains of the fifteen dead, not removed, were enclosed in handsome coffins, silver mounted, with three handles on each side, and a plate on the breast, bearing the name of the inmate when known. The coffins were lined with muslin, and were made in the Arsenal carpenter shop, in which the remains were placed on Saturday morning when they were removed to the platform. The platform was about fifteen feet by twenty feet from the ground, covered with duck and trimmed with mourning. Over this was a canopy, draped with the American flag and mourning.

Under this canopy the coffins were placed -- eight containing the remains of those who could not be identified ranged along the north side of the platform, each bearing a label marked "unknown," and on the opposite side seven other coffins, with the names of each as follows, commencing at the east end with Annie Bache, Julia McCuin, Mrs. Collins, Elizabeth Branagan, Lizzie Brahler, Eliza Lacey and Maggie Yonson.

The coffins were tastefully decked with bouquets and wreaths composed of white lilies, and roses and other appropriate flowers. These flowers were the feeling tribute of the fellow employees (female) of the deceased at the Arsenal.

Gen. Ramsay, formerly commandant at the Arsenal; Major Benton, the present commandant, Major Stebbins, paymasters, Surgeon Porter, and Lieutenants Prince, McKee and Stockton, were present upon the platform during the ceremonies.

Around the platform were stationed a guard of Veteran Reserves, who with the utmost difficulty could keep back the pressing crowd; but when the relatives arrived they were admitted around the platform, and then came a scene indescribable. With tears and sobs the relatives moved around the platform, anxiously looking for the remains of their loved ones, and when they were able to single out the coffin containing the body searched for, the distress was most painful. The family of Miss Bache, whose remains were on the corner of the platform, seized frantically on the coffin, and insisted that it should be opened; and this corpse was the last placed in the hearse, in order that the family might take possession of it at the ground and have it placed in a vault. A young sister of Miss Adams pressed herself through the crowd and ascending to the platform, and commenced to search for the coffin containing her sister Melissa, and while occupied in the ineffectual search swooned away, and was carried away to the fresh air by friends.

On the other side of the platform were the eight coffins, each marked "unknown."

Here the afflicted relatives gathered, passing excitedly along the line of coffins, eagerly scanning each, as if hoping in some possible way to be able to designate the one containing the remains of their own dead.

After comparative order had been restored, the obsequies took place.

Rev. Father A. Bokel, of St. Dominick's church, commenced them, saying that as several of the unfortunate victims of this catastrophe belonged to the Catholic church, he would perform the usual funeral services of the church in their behalf, and that others would follow him in behalf of those connected with other denominations. He then proceeded to recite, in solemn manner, the Catholic burial service, and sprinkled holy water upon the coffins. He concluded the service by a few earnest and feeling remarks upon the nature of the lesson conveyed to his hearers by the scene presented. Those before them, though dead, speak to us in words of warning, that we too must die, and we know not the hour or circumstances in which the Almighty may summon us to appear before Him. He closed by an affecting invocation to the God of mercy in behalf of the dead and the afflicted mourners.

Rev. S.V. Leech, of Gorsuch Chapel (Methodist Episcopal), followed, reciting in impressive manner the grand words from Revelations, "I saw a great white throne," and he proceeded in eloquent terms to speak of the solemn occasion where death had taken away so many friends and neighbors, and those yet nearer and dearer. He asked his hearers to withdraw their minds as much as possible from the circumstances attending these deaths, and to regard them as accidents not haring the spirits of the departed ones. It was a mistake to regard as of serious importance the mere incidents connected with death. It would have been consoling, indeed, if the father and the mother could have stood by the side of the daughter and bade her adieu; but we have this consolation, that those who believed in Christ were not harmed by death, and scarcely felt the touch of fire before they were hastened to a blissful immortality. One word to the community, God speaks to us by the death of individuals, but from its commonness it makes but a slight impression when coming singly, For our good God causes these terrible visitations to come upon us. Let us be instructed by it, and avail ourselves of the time granted us to make character for eternity. May God bless us, and lead us by his counsel to be ready to depart with joy and not grief!

Mr. Leach concluded with a fervent prayer, following upon the Lord's prayer, and commencing: Oh God, thou hast appeared in our midst. The rumbling of thy car hast been heard. Have mercy on use, may our sins be taken from us. Bless the friends of those who have been taken away. Bless their co-laborers and let all classes profit by this dispensation.

Upon the conclusion of the prayer, and the services at the stand, Mr. John G. Dudley, Chief Marshal, called upon the friends of the deceased to enter the carriages and fall in after the hearses and ambulances.

A large squad of police under Sergeant Hepburn, of the 10th Precinct, detailed for duty on the occasion, opened a passage through the crowd, and the coffins were taken from the platform in the following order: -- Julia McQuin, Mrs. Collings, Elizabeth Branagan, Lizzie Brahler, Eliza Lacey, Maggie Yonson then the eight unknown and Annie Bache, the following acting as pall bearers, the line having previously been formed: E. Crampton, E.L. Clapp, J.H. Granger, L. Dishard, L. Anderson, T. Mansfield, G. Dalton, W. Jones, W. Whitmore, John Condy, W. America, A.J. Cawood, J.H. Huntington, G. Hercus, -- Leach, -- Hall, T.F. Mockabee, A. Cornen, E. McElroy, L. Marting, J. Indermauer, W. Beagle, W. Powell, E. Muttot, C. S. Draper, H.H. Lemon, H. Marders, R. King, B. Young, O. Smithson, J. Meddler, O. Sorrel, J. Dickinson, W. Weeden, Thomas McCook, John Weeden, T. Dickson, M. Rhyon, J. Rhybu, H.W. Young, J. Glover, O. Spicer, O. Bailey, M. Spicer, J. Miller, T. Rowland, R. Johnson, H. Leesnitt\eer, W.H. Toffing, W.J. Carmichael, C. Callaghan, R. Gracey, J. Redmond, W. Nolas, W. Handsberry, F. Shay, H. Edgar, W. Boyd, J. Farrell, G. Ritz, A. Austin, C. Kell, F. Kutz, G. Brandman, E. Haufman, H. Wiskett, M. Sullivan, A. Anderson, J. Jiller, J. Riley, J. Beacham, J. Richmond, G. Neff, Jos. Gunnell, O. Snook, F. Daffer, Wm. Moore, Wm. Meeks, A. Cook, G. Schaeffer, E. Hoover, Jos. Green, R. Jacobs, W. Kidwell, J. Fry, A. Ferguson, H. Vonhorn, Jos. Coderick, O. Dunn, Thos. Dunn, on the part of the workingmen of the Arsenal.

C.F. Smith, J.S. Hollidge, J.T. Ballard, H. Harvey Hagard, H.P. Pillsbury, C.C. Bushnell, D.L. Haggard, B.F. Scott, G.S. Duli, C.S. Maxwell, J.H. McMurry, J.H. Wooley and Robert Hazell, on the part of the Sons of Temperance.

The Procession,

The solemn procession moved out of the north gate of the Arsenal grounds about four o'clock, in the following order, the whole procession being under the direction of John G. Dudley, Chief Marshal:

Band attached to Finley Hospital; Divisions of Sons of Temperance under the marshallship of E.C. Graham, consisting of Excelsior No. 6, of which Susie Harris, Bettie Branagan, Eliza Lacy and another whose name we were unable to learn were visitors; Good Samaritan No. 1, with a number of lady visitors connected with the order in line; Equal No. 3; Armory Square No. 4; Columbian No. 5; Aurora No. 9; and Lincoln No. 11.

Officiating clergyman, Rev. M. Leach.

The hearses.

President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton, and the son of the latter, in a carriage as chief mourners.

Officers of the Arsenal.

Relatives and friends of the deceased.

Employees of the different workshops of the Arsenal under direction of the following assistant marshalls: Jos. King, blacksmith's department; Peter Eagan, machinist's department; G. Z. Collison, carpenter's department; John M. Holbrook, armorer's department, E. B. Hickman, saddler's department; Jos. Rarry, painter's department; Serg't Campbell, laborer's department.

In the procession were a number of ladies in ambulances who worked int he Arsenal, and also a large wagon drawn by six white horses belong to Adams' Express Company, appropriately draped in mourning, in which were a number of employees of the Government express company.

There were about 150 hacks in the line, besides other vehicles, and a large number on horseback, together with the pedestrians, swelling the procession to some miles in length, taking about thirty-five minutes passing one point.

The procession moved up 4 1/2 street to Pennsylvania avenue, and at F street the funeral procession of Miss McElfresh, which was attended by Rev. Mr. Lemon of Ryland Chapel, and in charge of Mr. H. Lee, undertaker, joined in. The remains of Miss McElfresh were in a handsome coffin, covered with beautiful flowers, and was in charge of the following especial pall-bearers: Geo. A. Hall, W.H. Greenwell, E.H. Hoover, and J.T. Hall.

Thus there were sixteen coffins in the procession, they being placed alternately on ambulances and hearses, it being found impossible to procure a sufficient number of hearses for them all.

The streets were literally crowded with people along the lines of procession, and the windows and housetops along the avenue were also thronged. The bell oft he Columbia Fire Co. was tolled during the passage of the procession, as was the bell of St. Dominick's Church.

Wesley Chapel Sunday, B.F. Gettings superintendent, having marched in a body from the school room to the corner of 4 1/2 street, drew up in line on the south side of Pennsylvania avenue, and as the cortege passed sang the 'Funeral Hymn,' commencing "Sister, thou was't mild and lovely." This school did not join in the procession, but returned to Wesley Chapel, and were dismissed by singing the doxology.

The Wesley Chapel Sabbath School, before marching down to the Avenue, had passed the following resolutions with regard to the death of Susan Harris, who was an active member of the School:

Whereas a mysterious Providence has removed from among us by a violent and sudden death, a number of young women -- and whereas one of these, Miss Susan Harris, was a member of this school:

Therefore resolved, 1st, That as a school we take great pleasure in bearing our testimony to the beautiful character of Susan Harris, her punctuality, faithfulness and gentleness as a Sunday School pupil.

Resolved, 2d, That we find comfort in the assurance that with her sudden death was sudden and eternal salvation.

Resolved, 3d, That we hereby present our sincere sympathies to her bereaved brother and other relatives, and that as a school we ought to feel ourselves warned by her unexpected removal, to be in future more diligent in every good work, every ready for the coming of the Son of Man.

Resolved, 4th, That the school now proceed to the Avenue to meet the funeral procession, and thus pay our last tribute of respect to our young friend's remains.

As it proceeded down Pennsylvania avenue towards the cemetery, the throng rapidly increased, hundreds being seen walking ahead of the procession, anxious to get a convenient place from which to witness the ceremonies at the Congressional Burying Ground, but many of them were disappointed in obtaining a good location, the ground being preoccupied by spectators who had taken positions there hours before.

On arriving at the gate, there was some delay, the funeral services of John Jenks which were attended to by the Navy Yard Baptist school being then in progress, but as this procession left the ground the coffins were carried in and followed by the relatives and friends were carried to the graves prepared for them, (Miss McElfresh being placed in a grave near her father who died a few months since and Miss Bache in the vault). Two large pits on the west side of the cemetery had been prepared, each of them being six feet long, fifteen feet wide and five-and-a-half deep with a passage of six feet between them, and in one of them was placed eight bodies, and in the other six, they being lowered one at a time. The crowd here was dense, and many persons in trying to get out of it had their dresses torn, but with the assistance of the police, the committee of arrangements at last succeeded in making room for the mourners, when there was another scene of anguish -- the relatives, or many of them, giving was to loud cries, and hanging over the chasm, calling the deceased by their names.

The officiating Minister, Rev. Mr. Leach, standing on the east of the two pits read the solemn burial service of the Methodist Church, and W.F. Crutchley, Chaplain of Excelsior Division, Sons of Temperance, read the service of the order, the members of which at the close repeating the words "Farewell Sisters, Farewell," and after the benediction had been pronounced by Mr. Leach, the crowd dispersed.

The funeral of Miss Bridget Dunn, another of the victims of the disaster, took place yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock from her late residence on East Capitol street, between 1st and 2d streets, and was attended by a large concourse of persons, there being some twenty carriages in the funeral cortege. The coffin was a stained poplar, pink lined, with silver mountings. Captain A. Fagan, James Redmond, James O'Neil, John Freys, Jno. McMeramay and P. Brien acted as pall bearers and the remains were conveyed to Mount Olivet Cemetery in the handsome glass hearse of J.W. Plant, undertaker.

Catherine Horan, who was also killed by the explosion at the Arsenal, was buried on Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock from the residence of her brother-in-law (J. Murphy) on 2d street, near Massachusetts avenue, and this was an imposing demonstration. The coffin was of the casket pattern, covered with black velvet and trimmed with silk fringe. The handles were of heavy silver, and in the center of the coffin was a large silver cross bearing the following inscription: "Kate Horan, killed Friday, June 17, 1864, aged 20 years." The funeral cortege proceeded down Massachusetts avenue to New Jersey avenue, where it was joined by that of Johannah Connor, who was killed at the same time, and the solemn procession moved on to Mount Olivet Cemetery where the remains of both were interred.

Miss Catherine Hull, another of the victims was buried with solemn services in Mount Olivet Cemetery, from the house of her relative, Mr. John King, corner of K and Fifth street.

Considering the immense crowds upon the street yesterday, the order maintained was excellent, and chief marshal Dudley expresses himself as greatly indebted to the Metropolitan Police for their efficient aid on the occasion.

No such demonstrations of popular sympathy has ever been expressed in Washington before as by this immense out-pouring of people to attend the funeral of the victims of this sad disaster, and the demonstration will long be remembered by those who witnessed it.

Every hack in Washington, we believe, was engaged on yesterday, and to the credit of the hackmen, it should be stated, that they held a meeting of their association on Saturday night and agreed as a body that not withstanding the extraordinary demand for their services, only the lowest ordinary rate of funeral fare should be charged.

Major Benton, commandant of the Arsenal, who has been prompt to have proper attention given to the sufferers, received yesterday the following order from Secretary Stanton which shows the deep and sincere feelings of sympathy by the Government for the sufferers:

War Department, June 19, 1864
Major Benton, U.S. Arsenal

The funeral and all the expenses incident to the internment of the sufferers by the recent catastrophe at the Arsenal will be paid by the Department. You will not spare any means to express the respect and sympathy of the Government for the deceased and their surviving friends.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War

Available from Congressional Cemetery News Clips and at here.