Category Archives: military

Guest Blog! The First and Among the Last

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at Green-Wood’s table at the grand re-opening of Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace in Manhattan (which is a whole other story).  And while I was there, I met Trish Mayo who was also volunteering. We got to talking, and she knew a lot about  Green-wood and the history of New York.  She said she likes to wander around the cemetery taking pictures, and when she sees something interesting she goes home and looks it up. I was like, “SEPARATED AT BIRTH” and of course tried to rook her into writing for my blog. And it worked! Here’s her first entry. 


No matter where I go I seem to end up finding graves, sometimes I’m not looking for them they just are on my path to somewhere else.  

Recently,  I traveled to Boston and decided to spend a day in nearby Concord, MA–home to Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Concord is also the site of the first battle of the American Revolution fought on April 19, 1775.  The battle is commemorated in Minute Man National Park.  

There’s a reconstruction of the wooden bridge where the British and American soldiers met:  

wooden bridge Concord, MA

What I didn’t expect to see was a grave for 2 British Soldiers killed on that day in 1775:

grave of British soldiers

The inscription reads:

They came three thousand miles and died,
To keep the past upon its throne.
Unheard beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.

From the poem “Lines” by James Russell Lowell

According to the park’s website “British military records indicate that there were three soldiers (all privates in the 4th Regiment) missing and presumed dead after the North Bridge fight: James Hall, Thomas Smith and Patrick Gray. One of these three men is buried in Concord center; there is a stone marker for him on Monument St. The other two are buried here.”

These 3 soldiers James Hall, Thomas Smith and Patrick Gray are among the first casualties of the War for Independence. The people of Concord arranged for their burial and later erected this monument to mark their final resting place.

A few weeks later, I’m back in New York and decide to go for a walk in Green-Wood Cemetery.  I locate a group of headstones that predate the founding of the cemetery.  That’s not uncommon, for various reasons churches and congregations decide to move and arrange for the headstones and graves to be relocated to another cemetery.  While reading these old headstones I see the word “Rhinoceros” and think, what’s that all about?

edward morley grave green-wood cemetery

The inscription reads:

To The Memory of Edward Morley, Late Master of His Majesty’s Ship Rhinoceros who departed this life on August 8, 1783

The only reference to the HMS Rhinoceros that I can find is that it was a store ship and used as a floating battery in defense of New York towards the end of the American Revolutionary War.  The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the Treaties of Versailles on September 3, 1783, less than a month after this man’s death on August 8, 1783.  The last British troops left New York City on November 25, 1783.

For this man to have died so close to the end of the war makes this marker and the story it tells especially poignant.  There’s no mention of how he died – I can’t find any reference to battles or skirmishes that would have involved his ship near the August 8th,1783 date, so the question is,  was he gravely wounded in battle? A victim of disease or an accident? 

So there you have it two Revolutionary War graves, hundreds of miles apart but bookmarking the beginning and the end of America’s struggle for independence.   What makes them amazing is that they are memorials to the other side in that conflict – British soldiers and a British sailor still remembered over 240 years later and given a final resting place in the country that was formed from the conflict that cost them their lives. 

Francis B. Spinola

spinola1This rather distinguished and eye-catching memorial belongs to Francis B. Spinola (1821-1891). Spinola is best known as the first Italian-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But really, that doesn’t even begin to sum up the life and career that Spinola enjoyed. Born near Stony Brook, Long Island, Spinola grew up in a wealthy, influential family. After a swanky private education, he set up practice as a lawyer in Brooklyn.

In the 1850s he was part of the “Secret Police” that helped to keep peace on the gang-ridden streets of New York. He was an alderman several times, a member of the NY State Assembly, a NY State Senator, and also the Commissioner of the New York Harbor–all before the age of 40.

During the Civil War, Spinola enlisted and was commissioned as a Union Brigadier General. At one point he recruited and organized his own bridge of 4 regiments referred to as “Spinola’s Empire Brigade.”


After the Civil War he served as alderman again, and eventually landed a position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Joseph Quadri

This one took a little digging, but I managed to get quite a bit of information. I’m glad I did.

I’ve been looking at the headstone for Joseph Quadri (1896-1918) ever since I moved to this neighborhood. It is right up the hill from my building. I see it every time I walk out the front door.

It is a profoundly sad monument. A weeping willow tree is draped over the top of the stone, and a mourning female figure is bent over the portrait of a young man in a World War I “Doughboy” uniform.

Joseph Quadri, Brooklyn native and first generation Italian-American, died October 9, 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme. He was 22.

I am no World War I expert, but I have been doing some reading about it lately. The main thing I’ve learned was that World War I was pretty much hell on earth for everyone involved. And The Battle of the Somme was one of the most horrible, never-ending battles of the past several centuries.

By the time Joseph Quadri was sent to Germany to fight in the second Battle of the Somme, French and British troops had managed to halt the aggressive German offensive, pushing them back into German territory. Quadri’s division—the 27th—was absorbed into the 106th Infantry Regiment, which was sent to help reinforce dwindling British troops. Everyone involved in this battle–on both sides– suffered enormous casualties.

Here’s a picture of the 106th Infantry’s Farewell Parade on August 30th, 1917–according to the caption, this is the 27th Division:

106th Infantry Farewell parade 1917
106th Infantry Farewell parade 1917

From The New York State Military Museum web site:

At the commencement of active fighting, the 106th had a total effective strength of 3,003 officers and men… During its service in World War I, the 106th sustained 1,955 casualties including 1,496 wounded, 376 killed, and 83 who later died of their wounds.

Joseph was born in 1896 to Victor and Antonia Quadri, both Italian immigrants. Victor was a stonecutter, which may account for why Joseph has such a beautiful memorial. Antonia is listed on census records as doing “housework”. Victor and Antonia had 4 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Andrew, and Victor, Jr., all of whom were just a few years apart in age. The 1915 census lists 18 year-old Joseph’s occupation as “machinist’s apprentice”. They lived here in Brooklyn, at 716 42nd street right by Sunset Park.

Joseph enlisted on April 3rd 1917. He died October 9th, 1918. On October 21st 1918, his entire division was relieved. If only he could have hung in there another couple of weeks.

Here’s his military card that shows his service, and record of death:


And here is the only picture of him that I could find. This is from “A Short History and Illustrated Roster of the 106th Infantry United States”:

Joseph Quadri

Commodore McKeever

“The post of danger is the post of honor.”

As the placard will tell you, Commodore Isaac McKeever, 1791-1856, had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Navy.

Commodore McKeever’s father, Captain James McKeever was a wealthy Scotsman who emigrated to Philadelphia just before the Revolution. James McKeever was one of the first people to come up with the idea of using steam to power and navigate boats. He even dragged his teenaged son Isaac along on a raft filled with machinery down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers in an attempt to engineer such a feat. The experiment failed (and he was ridiculed), but he kept working on this idea for pretty much the rest of his life.

commodore-mckeeverIsaac McKeever joined the navy in 1809 (at 18 years old) as a midshipman. By the time the War of 1812 broke out, he had become a Lieutenant. In 1814, McKeever was commanding a gunboat on Lake Borgne in Louisiana, when the British forces attacked.

From the Military Hall of Honor:

The [U.S.] gunboats mounted collectively 23 guns, and were manned by 182 men. The British expedition consisted of 42 large barges and other boats, manned by over 1,000 seamen and marines. The engagement, which was very severe, lasted more than three hours, and over 200 of the British were killed and wounded. Lieutenant McKeever’s vessel was the last one attacked, and he was severely wounded, together with most of his officers, before he surrendered.

During his 47-year career in the navy, he was promoted through the ranks from Commander to Captain, and finally Commodore in 1850. A mere 4 years before he died, he commanded the flagship Constitution, a.k.a., “Old Ironsides” down in Brazil, and helped to maintain peace while revolution was threatening Buenos Aires (and that is making a very long story short).

Old Ironsides is still around. It’s now a museum boat, docked in Boston:


It’s worth noting that Commodore McKeever’s second wife was Mary Thomson, daughter of the famous Captain Thomas Thomson.

He died at the Norfolk, Va., Navy Yard, in 1856. From The Heroes of the American Revolution and Their Descendants, by Henry Whittemore:

In 1855 he had charge of the navy yard at Norfolk Va when a pestilence broke out in that city and the adjoining towns which terrified the people of the whole southern country. Commodore McKeever was authorized by the navy department to suspend operations in the yard for a time should he see fit but he decided to remain in order that work might be given to those who depended upon it for support of their families. His reply to the department was, “The post of danger is the post of honor.” His death was attributed directly to his overtasked energies during this terrible period.


William Tecumseh Sherman & Family

I try not to get too personal here because I know that the Internet is made up of 90% axe-murderers, but in this case it can’t be avoided. I do not spend all of my time getting lost in cemeteries–I am also a painter. And a few years ago, I found myself captivated by Mathew Brady’s photographs of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

These may be my favorite photographs of all-time. They are just endlessly fascinating. When you look at Sherman, you see his entire crazy, mixed-up world come shining through. You see the past and present weighing on him. You also see a number of raw emotions, including a rage that seems to simmer just below the surface. I could look at these photos forever.

So I painted one:
And another:
And another:

And from there, I was off and running. I painted 14 more portraits (not all of Sherman, of course), and created The American Civil War series, which you can see on my web site.

So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited (and a little bit surprised) to find out that General Sherman was buried in Calvary Cemetery, in my hometown of St. Louis, MO.

The Sherman family plot is located somewhat close to the entrance to Calvary–it was pretty easy to find (despite the fact that I am hopeless at reading a map, ANY map, and cemetery maps are the worst). William Tecumseh Sherman is buried alongside his wife, daughter, son, and a number of other relatives.

Sherman’s stone itself can best be described as venerable-looking. Located at the top between two American flags is the badge for the XV Corps, which had been commanded by Sherman in Vicksburg.

This badge has a great story behind it–from Sherman’s Memoirs:

“It was on this occasion that the Fifteenth Corps gained its peculiar badge: as the men were trudging along the deeply-cut, muddy road, of a cold, drizzly day, one of our Western soldiers left his ranks and joined a party of the Twelfth Corps at their camp-fire. They got into conversation, the Twelfth-Corps men asking what troops we were, etc., etc. In turn, our fellow (who had never seen a corps-badge, and noticed that every thing was marked with a star) asked if they were all brigadier-generals. Of course they were not, but the star was their corps-badge, and every wagon, tent, hat, etc., had its star. Then the Twelfth-Corps men inquired what corps be belonged to, and he answered, ‘The Fifteenth Corps.’ ‘What is your badge?’ ‘Why,’ said he (and he was an Irishman), suiting the action to the word, ‘forty rounds in the cartridge-box, and twenty in the pocket!'”

A number of people have left coins on the stone:


I noticed that a lot in the cemeteries I visited in St. Louis: People leave coins rather than pebbles–and not just on military stones, on all graves. I rarely see coins on graves in Green-Wood. Huh.

eleanor shermanSherman’s wife, Eleanor “Ellen” Boyle Ewing Sherman is buried next to him.

Ellen was from a prominent family; Her father was Thomas Ewing, an important Whig politician, and three of her brothers served as generals in the Civil War. Thomas Ewing was good friends with Charles Sherman, William’s father. When Charles Sherman died suddenly in 1829, Thomas Ewing adopted the young William and raised him as his own.

Wiliam and Ellen grew up together in the same home, eventually falling in love. Oh, the drama in that house must have been grand! They were married in 1850. From what I’ve read, her father did not quite approve.

Ellen was a devout Catholic, and one of the key organizers of the Catholic Indian Missionary Association. She was also active in politics; she was a staunch supporter of Abraham Lincoln, despite the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote at this time.

Ellen and William had eight children together. Their second-oldest daughter Mary Elizabeth Sherman (a.k.a., “Lizzie”) is buried to the left.

I couldn’t find out much about her other than the fact that she never married, and died in Massachussetts in 1925.

But perhaps the most poignant part of the Sherman family plot is the stone for Sherman’s 9-year-old son, “Our Little Sergeant Willie”. Willie and his brothers and sisters had joined their father in Mississippi after the surrender of Vicksburg. They stayed with him at the military camp on the Big Black.

Apparently, Willie loved the military, and was a great favorite with not just his father, but with all of the soldiers, who made him an honorary sergeant.

He died from “Camp Fever” while bound for Memphis on the steamer Atlantic:

Apparently, Sherman held himself responsible for his son’s death. He believed it was his fault for bringing his family down to Mississippi and exposing them “to so fatal a climate at so critical a period of the year”. Many believe that he was driven mad with grief, which explains why he marched through the South burning and killing with a vengeance.

Here’s an article about Sherman’s funeral from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.