Confederate soldiers and secrets at rest in St. Anne's Tours mark 300 years of Episcopalians in Maryland

May 31, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

A hundred yards off the path in St. Anne's cemetery in Annapolis lie the remains of one of the Confederacy's most determined warriors -- Commodore James Waddell, who quite literally wouldn't give up the ship.

Waddell commanded one of the last armed ships during the Civil War and was busy attacking Union whalers off the coast of Alaska when the Civil War ended. It took messengers three months to convince Waddell that the Confederacy had lost.

Rather than return to Maryland, where he might have been tried for piracy, Waddell took refuge in England until passions cooled. Later, he came home to College Avenue in Annapolis, where he died in 1886.

Waddell remained feisty to the last, having a large Confederate naval flag engraved on the back of his marble obelisk, points out A. Weems McFadden, chairman of a committee to restore the cemetery.

McFadden will be at the cemetery this afternoon at 2, when a walking tour of the historic site is scheduled. The tour, followed by Evening Prayer at the cemetery, is part of St. Anne's celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Episcopal church in Maryland.

Confederate soldiers and officers buried at the cemetery are one focus of the tours that begin today, explains Emily Peake, a genealogist in charge of cemetery records and today's tour guide.

Peake, who is completing a book on the cemetery, says she thought it important for the tour to "get into other areas people can identify with, such as common soldiers. Not everybody can identify with the important, moneyed people."

There are, of course, plenty of that sort buried in St. Anne's, which dates to 1767.

Representatives of nearly every prominent Annapolis family and many historic figures, such as former Gov. Thomas G. Pratt and the family of Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, rest in the cemetery.

Annapolis families such as the Keys, Murrays, Buchanans, Pinkneys, Claudes, Fells, Brices and Bordleys are buried on the bluff along the College Creek shoreline.

The Episcopal Evensong service will be held around the crypt of George Shaw, a relation of the famous Annapolis furniture-maker, at the end of the tour.

Peake is fascinated with the gravestone of one Charles H. Steele, who died in Richmond in 1861. Steele is not well-known. The stone does not even say that he died in the service of the Confederacy.

"It just gives you the hint," says Peake. "Emotions were up and down in Maryland, and a lot of families didn't specify the Confederacy on the stones. A lot of families were split."

Witness the gravestones of George Forbes and his son, Joseph. The father served as a colonel in the U.S. Army; his son was a captain in the Confederacy.

At each turn in the wide path that winds through the cemetery, grave markers hold special stories, Peake says.

Gossips might enjoy the grave of Joseph W. Aldridge, a Confederate who left Maryland during the war and was tracked by Union officials seeking the personal fortune they believed he carried with him. (They never found it).

In another corner of the cemetery are colonial bones moved here from the St. Anne's churchyard when it closed as a cemetery in 1783.

One impressive obelisk, which architects consider the cemetery's finest, says McFadden, is that of Hector Humphreys, principal of St. John's College. The imposing sandstone monument is inscribed with Roman numerals spelling out his years of service.

A more recent gravestone is adorned with a stained-glass angel.

Because St. Anne's was for many years the only cemetery in the city, those buried here come from a variety of religious backgrounds, said Oneal F. Russell, chairman of a project to improve the cemetery.

A volunteer committee is working to save the history represented in this last bit of waterfront property in Annapolis, and the task is great.

Headstones are sinking into the hillsides. Huge slabs of grave markers have fallen face-down. The red-brick wall that encloses the cemetery is crumbling.

Russell explains that many of those buried in the graves have no living descendants. The cemetery cannot qualify for state funds due to separation of church and state, so the place relies entirely on donations.

"It would be a shame to lose what's here," says Peake, pointing out the fading graves of two young men, friends who died while on duty at the Naval Academy.

"The old stones were all cut by hand and engraved by hand. There's nothing quite like them."

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