Historic Congressional Cemetery by Rebecca Boggs Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, this book made me want to visit this cemetery. I picked the book up in Washington DC, but didn’t get a chance to read it until I was traveling. My impression had been that the Congressional Cemetery was in rough shape and was dangerous to boot, but this book made it sound so crammed with fascinating history that I will have to find a way to visit when next I’m in town.
In the days before embalming, the cemetery began as a place to plant congressmen when they died in office. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the US Capitol Building, was asked to design a monument that would set the congressional graves apart from the others. These monuments were placed for every member of congress who perished between 1807 and 1877, whether they are at rest in the cemetery or not.
Other people of note buried in the Congressional Cemetery are John Philip Sousa (the March King), FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his purported boyfriend Clyde Tolson, Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, Air Force veteran Leonard Matlovich (one of the first gay rights activist veterans), several Native American statesmen, and the first woman to interview a sitting president, among many, many others.
One of the Lincoln conspirators is buried in an unmarked grave with his sister. Lincoln’s valet, who allowed Booth into the President’s box at Ford’s Theater, lies here. The mediums that Mary Todd Lincoln contacted after her husband’s death are here, as well as the man who rented Booth the horse (and lent him the spurs that caught in the stage drapery), and the man who owned the tavern where Booth waited for his cue to attack the president. That’s a lot of witnesses to history gathered together in one place.
Unlike many of the Images of America books, which focus on vintage images of their subjects, this book is filled with modern photographs, revealing just how lovely — and loved — the Congressional Cemetery is these days. I can’t wait to see it for myself.
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