On November 11, 1919 “Armistice Day” was first observed to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of the first World War. In 1926, the United States Congress called for annual observance of the end of World War I and by 1938, November 11 became a national holiday. In 1954, “Armistice Day” officially evolved into “Veterans Day,” which honors all people who have served in the military–both the living and the dead.
Although Veterans Day occurred last week, we wanted to highlight some of the veterans who are buried or inurned at Congressional Cemetery. Some of the veterans featured in this blog post likely sound familiar to you, while other veterans are not as well-known. A veteran from several of the major conflicts in U.S. history has been selected, and information about their lives and military service is shared. While we do not have the exact number of veterans who are buried at Congressional Cemetery, we do know that the number is in the thousands.
Revolutionary War: Jacob Gideon
On March 3, 1841, Jacob Gideon, 87, died in Washington D.C. Jacob Gideon served in the Revolutionary War as a trumpeter and a private in the Pennsylvania Militia. Two of Gideon’s descendants, Philip F. and John B. Larner, are members of the Columbia Historical Society and the Sons of the American Revolution.
On January 29, 1863, it was reported in The Evening Star that a marble “statue about three feet tall, in a standing position, with the hands folded across the breast, representing, Meditation” had been stolen from Congressional Cemetery.
The War of 1812: General Alexander Macomb
In 1799, General Macomb was first commissioned in the U.S. Army, where he helped negotiate treaties with the Cherokee Nation. In 1802, General Macomb was commissioned into the Army Corps of Engineers. While in the Army Corps of Engineers, General Macomb spent five years in charge of coastal fortifications in the Carolina’s and Georgia. General Macomb attended West Point as both a student and an officer, and he eventually became appointed as a judge advocate. Consequently, General Macomb wrote a treatise on martial law and the practice of court-martial, which established standard work for the U.S. Army.
Right before the War of 1812, General Macomb was promoted as a Lieutenant Colonel. During the war, he became a Brigadier General and he was in command of the frontier of northern New York. As a result of his conduct in the Battle of Plattsburg, where he successfully fought an invasion made by British forces that were larger than his own forces, General Macomb was promoted to Major-General. In May 1828, President John Quincy Adams appointed General Macomb as the Commander General of the U.S. Army. General Macomb held this position until his death in 1841. President Adams attended his funeral, along with all of the “Officers of the Government, both Houses of Congress, the Diplomatic Corps, [and] Military and Naval Officers.”
The Mexican War: Truman Cross
Truman Cross was born in Prince George’s County, MD in April 1776. At the age of seventeen, Col. Cross enlisted as an Ensign of the 12th Regiment of Infantry. During the War of 1812, Cross served in Maryland before he joined the staff of General Taylor. Cross was killed in service during the Mexican War on the Rio Grande while serving as the Quarter Master General for the Army of Occupation. It is believed that Col. Cross was captured and taken into Mexico.
The Civil War: Littleton Quinter Washington
Col. Washington was a well-known newspaper correspondent and writer for political affairs in DC for about fifty years. Col. Washington was born in Washington D.C. on November 3, 1825 and died on November 4, 1902 in the home of his brother-in-law, Dr. Warwick Evans.
After the start of the Civil War, Col. Washington fled to the south and joined the Confederate military. Soon after enlisting, he became appointed as the Chief of Clerk of the Department of the State of the Confederacy. In this position, he had “confidential relations” with Secretaries Benjamin and Hunter. By the end of the Civil War, Washington was the acting Assistant Secretary of the State of the Confederacy.
After the Civil War, Col. Washington returned to Washington D.C. and began his career as a newspaper correspondent on political affairs. In 1869, Col. Washington entered the press gallery as a writer for the National Intelligencer and a correspondent for the London Telegraph. He was also a correspondent of the New Orleans Picayune and other southern newspapers.
Col. Washington never married and spent fifty-four years living with Dr. Warwick Evans. His bachelor apartments were described as being filled with “rare books,” which Col. Washington enjoyed reading. Furthermore, Col. Washington was very knowledgeable about southern history, and he frequently entertained distinguished statesmen.
Col. Washington had been confined to his room for the last year and a half of his life, and he had been confined to his bed for the last five months of his life. Col. Washington spent the last week of his life destroying large quantities of his private papers, including all of his correspondences and his personal journal.
Right before his death, Col. Washington told his niece that he would die just like his mother had–by choking. A few minutes later, he was seized with convulsive choking and passed away.
Col. Washington is related to the Washington, Mason, Stuart, Dade, Foote, Strother, Lund, and Townshend families of Virginia.
The Civil War: Benjamin F. McAlwee
McAlwee worked at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. In 1961, McAlwee enlisted in Company B, 1st District Volunteers for three months. After three months passed, he re-enlisted in Company D, 3d Maryland Volunteers for three years. McAlwee then re-enlisted, serving until July 1865. In total, McAlwee engaged in twenty-seven engagements during the Civil War.
On July 30, 1864, McAlwee, who was part of Company D, 3d Maryland, was serving in Petersburg, Virginia. During combat, McAlwee picked up a shell with a burning fuse, threw it over the parapet of a trench, and saved the lives of many men in his company. Consequently, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress for “most distinguished gallantry in action.”. After his service, he worked as a watchman in the Treasure Department for thirty-five years.
World War I: Elizabeth Lambert Hebb
Hebb was the daughter of Clement Dorsey Hebb, a former Marine Corps Commandant. During World War I, Hebb served as a Yeomanette. In 1919, Hebb joined the Veterans Administration, where she worked for twenty-three years. She composed several songs and piano compositions, where were performed during recitals in Barker Hall of the YWCA in Washington D.C.
World War I: Samuel Walter Sowerbutts
Captain Sowerbutts was killed in Jametz, France on November 10, 1918–the day before the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Captain Sowerbutts quickly advanced in the U.S. Army. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant shortly after World War I was declared and was appointed as a Captain-Adjutant of the “6th” before he was deployed to France. Captain Sowerbutts was a cadet at Business High School but had no real military experience prior to enlisting in the Army. Captain Sowerbutts’ remains were brought back to the U.S. in 1921. His remains were interred in the Public Vault and then were buried in the family plot in October 1921.
World War II: George Spiegel
George Spiegel was a lawyer who specialized in public utility law. He was a founding partner of the Washington-based law firm Spiegel & McDiarmid (1967). In the 1960s, Spiegel legally represented several municipalities in the electric, power, and gas businesses in cases against for-profit entities. His cases were presented before federal agencies, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Spiegel initially became interested in utility law after he successfully challenged bus fare increases proposed by the Capital Transit Company (later known as the D.C. Transit System). In 1971, Spiegel won a case before the Supreme Court that challenged a large company’s attempts at collecting payments from a smaller municipal power for backup service.
George Spiegel was born in Salem, MA and graduated from Amherst College in 1941. During World War II, Spiegel served with the Navy in the South Pacific. He then went on to receive a law degree from Harvard University before working with the Office of the General Counsel of the Navy Department. Until 1960, Spiegel served as a legal member of the Navy Contract Adjustment Board.
Spiegel was also a longtime supporter of conservation efforts. For example, in 1995, Spiegel donated over 700 acres of lakefront land in Vermont to the Vermont Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Vermont and New York. Additionally, Spiegel made another donation of nearly 500 acres, which completed a 20-mile black bear migration corridor in Central Vermont.
Additionally, Spiegel was actively involved in the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Metro D.C. by serving as a spokesman for fifteen years.
On October 23, 1997, Spiegel died of a stroke in his home in Silver Spring, MD.
The Korean War: James Messer Ruedin, Sr
Reudin served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. From 1954 until 1961, Ruedin worked in the advertising and purchasing department at the New York Daily News. From 1961 until 1991, Ruedin was the Vice President of Niemand Brothers and Niemand Industries. Ruedin died in 2005.
The Vietnam War: Leonard Matlovich
Sgt. Matlovich served in the U.S. Air Force for twelve years. Sgt. Matlovich was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service. While serving in Vietnam, Sgt. Matlovich stepped on a Viet Cong land mine, and he killed two soldiers during a Viet Cong attack while on sentry duty.
Sgt. Matlovich was dishonorably discharged in the military because of his sexual identify. The military banned gay men and lesbians from the military under the premise that they would be susceptible to blackmail. For five years, Sgt. Matlovich legally challenged his discharge in military and civilian courts. Sgt. Matlovich’s case drew national attention and became a symbol of the struggle to end discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Ultimately, Sgt. Matlovich settled out of court with the Air Force for $160,000 and agreed to give up his battle for readmission into the military. Sgt. Matlovich became active in the gay and lesbian battle for equal rights, and he was active in several organizations involved with AIDS.
Sgt. Matlovich made his decision to legally challenge the military’s ban on gay men after conversing with Franklin Kameny. At the time, Sgt. Matlovich had served in the Air Force for about eleven years, and he was a technical sergeant and human relations specialist at the Langley Air Force Base.
In September 1975, Sgt. Matlovich’s picture appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, making him the first openly gay man to appear on the cover of a widely circulated national magazine. Matlovich died of AIDS on June 22, 1988.
Schmidt, Sandy and Rebecca Roberts. “4. In The Line of Duty.” In 2007 HCC Commemorative Book. 2007.On file at Congressional Cemetery.