First Plots? A Mystery

Back Corner National Cemetery

You are looking at the southwest corner of the St. Augustine National Cemetery.  The marble slab on the ground in the corner is plot 1 and contains the remains of Lieut. Stephen Tuttle.  The nearer slab is plot 4 and contains the remains of John Winfield Scott McNeil.  If you are thinking these were among the first burials in this cemetery, you would be wrong.

This cemetery served the U.S. Army Post of St. Augustine long before it became a National Cemetery in 1881.  The first interment was 1828 with most of the early graves resulting from casualties of the Seminole Wars.  Most notable among these was the Dade Monument [see article].

Tuttle Marker

Stephen Tuttle was a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and was serving in St. Augustine on a huge project to rebuild and extend the seawall protecting the town.  He died in 1835.  J.W.S. McNeil served with the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons and died in 1837 of wounds received in action at Mosquito Inlet during the Seminole Wars.  Both were originally buried at the Huguenot Cemetery just outside the city gates and reinterred at the National Cemetery many years later.

Some time back I received a call from Greg Moore, Command Historian for the Florida National Guard and co-worker, wondering if I had run into these two officers as part of my Huguenot Cemetery research because he thought they had been buried there first.  Sure enough, looking at a cemetery inventory from 1893 published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (Google Books is a wonderful thing), we found both men with descriptions of the graves and the inscriptions on their tombstones.  These tombstones match the descriptions from the Huguenot inventory.

More searching in Google Books turned up an Annual Report from the Secretary of War published in 1916 stating:

“During the year the following remains of soldiers were removed from fields and abandoned cemeteries and reinterred in national cemeteries:   . . .  2 known officers from old Huguenot Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL to the St. Augustine (Fla.) National Cemetery; . . .”

Huguenot Cemetery had been closed in 1884 and there are many reports of various efforts to clean up and restore the cemetery.  The first serious project didn’t begin until 1946 so from the Army’s perspective this cemetery may well have been a concern for the veterans interred there.

So, why were these Soldiers initially buried in the public cemetery instead of the post cemetery?  What were the circumstances of their move?  And, how did they become the first plots at the National Cemetery?  This mystery will take a lot more research to unravel.

The plots thicken.

References:

  • Leeds, B. Frank.  Inscriptions in the Old Protestant Graveyard at St. Augustine, Fla., The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vols. 37-52. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1883-98.
  • United States War Department.  Annual Reports of the Secretary of War. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916.
  • Florida. St. Augustine National Cemetery Index and Biographical Guide: (Preliminary Abridged Edition). Special archives publication, no. 44. St. Augustine, Fla: State Arsenal, St. Francis Barracks, 1980.