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Civil War graves found in Washington, D.C., park

By Linda Wheeler

A Washington, D.C., park popular with residents of the Adams Morgan neighborhood has soccer fields, a basketball court, a toddler playground, fenced dog run and plenty of green grass and park benches. What many local residents didn’t know was that the seven-acre Walter Pierce community park, near the intersection of Columbia and Adams Mill Rds. NW, was built atop an African American cemetery that included the graves of Civil War soldiers and sailors.

While repairing a park wall about five years ago, workmen discovered bone and coffin fragments. At the insistence of local residents, city officials stopped the work and an archaeological team from nearby Howard University was brought in to investigate.

The team, now finishing its above-ground survey, discovered there were two 19th century cemeteries in the park area, one owned by a Quaker community and another by an African American group.

Both burial grounds were closed about 1890. Although some of the bodies were moved to other cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, many thousands may still be interred in what is now the park, according to a recently published report. By researching death records and pension files, members of the team have identified 34 black Civil War soldiers and sailors who were buried in what was known as the Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery, the larger of the two burial grounds.

The park is owned by the city but managed by the non-profit Friends of Walter Pierce Park, who raised the money for the archaeological study. A final report on the findings of the university team is expected by spring as is a biographical data base of those who were buried more than a century ago beneath the park land.

By Linda Wheeler  | November 15, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Categories:  News  
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Comments

While it is sad that USCT's (US Colored Troops) were buried forgotten, then removed or covered over, there are happier stories. I discovered that there are five USCT's in my family, that two of them served in the NC State legislature, and that most of them built schools, churches and stores. So far, I know three of them have nice size grave markers.

Posted by: MarvinTJones | November 18, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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