Tag Archives: St. Augustine National Cemetery

Capt. Thomas D. Maurice

Capt. Thomas D. Maurice by moultriecreek
Capt. Thomas D. Maurice, a photo by moultriecreek on Flickr.

IN MEMORY OF
CAPT.
THO’S. D. MAURICE
2nd REG’T. U.S. ART.
& MAJ. 1st MISSOURI. VOL.
LIGHT ART’Y.
DIED MAR. 18th 1885.
AGED 49 YEARS.

His patriotic services in Missouri in the cause of the Union from the earliest days of the Rebellion to its close deserved and received grateful recognition from his reunited Countrymen.

This stone is erected as a mark of respect by his comrades of the 2nd U.S. Artillery.

St. Augustine National Cemetery

Wreaths Across America

Last Saturday, December 13th, people gathered at graveyards all across this country to lay Christmas wreaths on the graves of American veterans.  This tradition began 15 years ago when a Maine business, Worcester Wreath Company, began laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.  Since then, Worcester Wreaths has donated 90,000 wreaths for placement each December.

As word spread, people and communities got involved to expand the program across the country.  Last year more than 35,000 wreaths were placed at 286 cemeteries.  This year they expect to lay 100,000 wreaths at 350 locations.  Last year a non-profit organization called Wreaths Across America was formed to support the effort.  Visit the Wreaths Across America site to learn more about this program and how you can get involved.

Wreaths Across America 2008

Here at the St. Augustine National Cemetery, you’ll find seven wreaths posted on stands.  There is a wreath for each branch of service – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine – and in the center is a wreath representing POW/MIA.  The remaining wreaths are scattered around the grounds.  These photos show a representative sample.

Wreaths Across America 2008

Wreaths Across America 2008

UPDATE: The Army has posted some photos from Saturday’s event at Arlington on Flickr.

The Dade Monument

This week Tombstone Tuesday falls on Veterans Day. Unlike Memorial Day which honors those who gave their lives for our country, Veterans Day celebrates all of America’s veterans. Even so, I couldn’t resist including this unique monument to a long-ago war in this Tuesday edition.

At Moultrie Creek I recently wrote an article about the massacre of Major Francis Dade and his men during the Second Seminole War. The bodies of the slain soldiers lay where they died until late February when an expedition was organized to find the site and properly bury them. Their cannon was mounted, muzzle down, at the site to serve as a monument to the dead.

Since this was the largest defeat the United State’s Army had yet suffered (Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn would eclipse it 40 years later), it received a lot of attention from both the military and the civilian communities. Contributions from the officers and men of the Army were collected to move the bodies once again – this time to the post cemetery in St. Augustine. Not only the men of the Dade expedition, but all soldiers who died during the conflict were included in this effort.

On July 25, 1842, Colonel William J. Worth published an order stating, “The remains of officers who have been killed in battle or who have died on service, including those of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers (being the command save two) who fell with Major Dade, as also those of several non-commissioned officers and privates who fell under peculiar circumstances of gallantry and conduct, have been gathered and transferred to St. Augustine, where suitable vaults are constructed for the final reception, over which unostentatious monuments will be erected to the memories of our late comrades. For this purpose sufficient pecuniary means have been raised by the voluntary subscription of the soldiers and officers of this command.”

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The ceremony took place on August 14, 1842. Seven wagons drawn by “elegant” mules and each covered with an American flag carried the soldiers to their final resting place. The following description of the ceremony was included in Niles’ National Register of September 3, 1842:

The St. Augustine News of the 20th Aug. says: The burial of Major F. L. Dade’s martyr’d dead, and those officers and soldiers who have died in Florida, took place on Monday last. So solemn and interesting an event excited on the part of our citizens the liveliest sympathy and feeling, and afforded them by joining in with the military, the heartfelt satisfaction of commingling their tears in union with those who had assembled to pay the last sad duties of love to their fallen comrades. At half past 10, a gun was fired from the battery in front of the green, by a detail of 3d artillery under lieutenant Churchill; when the mayor and council, the masonic fraternity, and St. Augustine City Guards, capt. P. R.. Lopez, proceeded to the St. Sebastian bridge, to await the arrival of the remains. In a short time, the melancholy wail of music was heard in the distance — the bright glitter of arms was seen glancing among the deep green of the woods, and the wagons covered with the stars and stripes, containing all that was of the honored dead, moved slowly onward. It was indeed a brilliant, a melancholy spectacle. On arriving at the public square, the cortege wheeled to the right, and proceeded up George street, continued down St. Francis street, when moving up Marine street they were brought to the spot appropriated for interment, the garden of St. Francis’ Barracks; the procession under the orders of Major Belknap, 8th infantry; Captain Gwynne, 8th infantry, commanding the escort; Lieut. A. T. Lee, acting adjutant.

The remains were removed from the funeral train amid the firing of minute guns, and the religious services were performed by the rev. Mr. Waters, the rev. Henry Aztell and Mr. John Beard, esq. A monody on the dead was pronounced by Dr. W. Whitehurst, esq. of the masonic fraternity.

Half hour guns were fired until sunset, closing the solemnities of the day.

The tombs, three in number, erected by the troops of the post, in which the remains are deposited, are vaults each about ten feet square, surmounted by a pyramid of five feet height, rising from a grassy mound, enclosing the body of the tomb. It is designed to cover these pyramids entirely with marble, on which will he placed the names of all other officers who have died or been killed in Florida, in addition to those deposited beneath.

Coquina (a native shell-rock) pyramids were later constructed over the vaults. They were originally covered with white stucco. The marble cladding never happened. Instead, an obelisk was also erected to the memory of these brave men. The inscription on its east side states, “This monument has been erected in token of respectful and affectionate remembrance by their comrades of all grades, and is committed to the care and preservation of the garrison of St. Augustine.”

References and Resources:

  • Sprague, J. T. The Origin, Progress, and Conclusions of the Florida War To Which Is Appended a Record of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Musicians, and Privates of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, Who Were Killed in Battle or Died of Disease ; As Also the Names of Officers Who Were Distinguished by Brevets, and the Names of Others Recommended. Together with the Orders for Collecting the Remains of the Dead in Florida, and the Ceremony of Interment at St. Augustine, East Florida, on the Fourteenth Day of August, 1842. New York: D. Appleton, 1848.
  • Niles’ National Register, Volume 63 (1842-1843). Washington City: William Ogden Niles, 1837.
  • Brown, George M. Ponce De Leon Land and Florida War Record. St. Augustine, Fla: [The Record Print. Co.], 1902.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs – St. Augustine National Cemetery page.

St. Augustine National Cemetery

A view of the St. Augustine National Cemetery

A view of the St. Augustine National Cemetery

The cemetery adjacent to St. Francis Barracks in downtown St. Augustine served the military post here from the the first days as an American territory. The earliest burials were soldiers killed in the Florida Indian Wars. In 1881, this cemetery was designated the first National Cemetery in Florida. Although the cemetery size was expanded twice in the early 20th century, it is now closed to new interments. The superintendent’s lodge, shown here on the right side of the photo, was built in 1938.

Before the Memorial Day ceremony.

Groups gather before the Memorial Day ceremony.

Each Memorial Day, veterans groups, civic groups and citizens gather to honor those who gave their life in battle and those local veterans who have passed away since the previous Veterans Day. An arched coquina stage located at the northern edge of the cemetery property with an open grassy area between it and the flag pole provides enough space for an impressive massing of colors and seating for local dignitaries. Some seating is available in the walkways, but most participants choose to bring chairs or blankets to sit under the live oak trees around the property.

Speakers at the Memorial Day ceremony.

Speakers at the Memorial Day ceremony.

Navy JROTC representative rings the bell as each name is called during the honor roll.  Part of the color guard is shown to the left.

Navy JROTC representative rings the bell as each name is called during the honor roll. Part of the color guard is shown to the left.

Current Information

The St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084. There is no information kiosk or onsite management personnel at this location. Information inquiries should be made to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell at 352-793-7740 or fax 352-793-9560. The cemetery is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can search for burial locations for veterans and their family members online at the VA National Gravesite Locator.

References: