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Tomb of Major General Samuel Smith

Old Western Burying Ground,
Fayette at Greene Streets,
Baltimore

Chronologically this should be our last halt. The bloodshed and the bullets, the advances and the retreats — all have died away, now, on the winds of the past. We peacefully assemble here to view the resting place of him who directed these activities from the American side of the ramparts.

First, a few words about the locale. Though the Westminster Presbyterian Church was not organized until 1852, the cemetery has been here since 1784. In a common grave under the building lie the remains of over a hundred Revolutionary soldiers. In the burying ground itself repose at least a dozen General officers from that war as well as five Mayors of Baltimore town.

The gates on Greene Street —— not those through which you entered from Fayette — are the creation of that erratic French painter, architect, and military engineer, Maximilian Godefroy (1765-post 1840). Godefroy, who married a Baltimore girl, assisted in planning some of the outworks at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and is the designer of the tomb here of General Smith He is however more renowned as the designer of Battle Monument of the Unitarian Church at Charles and Franklin Streets and of Saint Mary s Seminary chapel the first Gothic Revival religious edifice in the United States.

Among the more notable personalities from the War of 1812 who also rest here are:

I scarcely need tell you that the tomb you passed on your right, at entrance, shelters by far the most renowned resident of this turf, a gentleman who had but slight acquaintance with matters military. Although the poet was interred here at the time of his death in October, 1849, the monument you passed was not erected until November, 1875. But we are not here to discuss Edgar Allan Poe.

Samuel Smith (1752-1839), born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, of County Tyrone descent, was a merchant, ship owner, speculator, soldier, and politician. He was very successful at all of these pursuits. For example, he served throughout the Revolutionary War with regular promotions and, at Fort Mifflin—a small outpost on Mud Island in the Delaware River below Philadelphia — with such distinction that both Washington and Lafayette asked him to join their personal staffs.

After the Revolution Smith proceeded to compile—quite aside from his private civilian pursuits — the following public record:

1793-1803United States, Congressman, (Md.)
1803-1815United States Senator (Md.)
1816- 1822United States Congressman (Md.)
1822-1833United States Senator (Md.)
1835-1838Mayor of Baltimore

In 1811, unfortunately, Smith fell out with President Madison, and as the result suffered political ostracism from his own party (the Democratic-Republican). Nevertheless, as his first book-length biographer points out,

The war of 1812 provided the General with an opportunity to repair his political fortunes through his military exploits At the end of the war he returned to Congress .... There he found that the old issues that had agitated the country for so long had been replaced by new ones brought about by expansion and industrialization. Until his retirement in 1833 Samuel Smith played an honorable if relatively minor role in Congress. When he died in 1839 at the age’ of eighty-seven, President Van Buren, the cabinet, and both Houses of Congress travelled to Baltimore for his funeral. It was a fitting tribute to the Hero of Mud Island who had served his country long and well (Cassell, p. 221)

And his second biographer reminds us that these last rites were

a tribute’ to the political achievements of the man who represented his State in the national legislature through the administration of seven presidents. As the procession reached Baltimore Street and turned east along the waterfront, the ships in the Patapsco lowered their colors to half-mast for the merchant whose ships had known the ports of the world from Europe to China. And as the throng of citizens watched the hearse with its military escort ascend Hampstead Hill, the guns of Fort McHenry boomed a final salute (Pancake, pp. 198-99).

The Burying grounds were acquired by the University of Maryland School of Law. They maintain the hall as a facility for meetings, concerts and performances.

Sources

Burying Ground
  • James E. P. Boulden, The Presbyterians of Baltimore . . . (Baltimore, 1874)
  • Evening Sun, May 25, 1966 (C-1), on the Society for the Preservation of the Old Western Burying Ground, Inc., founded 1964
  • Wikipedia, Westminster Hall and Burying Ground
  • Westminster Hall, University of Maryland School of Law
Godefroy Dorothy M. Quynn, Maximilian and Eliza Godefroy, Maryland Historical Magazine, LII (March, 1957), 1-34
Smith
  • Frank A. Cassell, Merchant Congressman in the Young Republic: Samuel Smith of Maryland, 1 752-1839 (Madison, Wis., 1971)
  • John S. Pancake, Samuel Smith and the Politics of Business: 1752-1839 (University, Ala. [1972])
  • Find A Grave, Samuel Smith

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