Wandering Bodies: A Tale of One Burying Ground, Two Cemeteries, and the U.S. Navy’s Search for Appropriate Burial for Its Career Enlisted Dead
The United States Naval Asylum (later the United States Naval Home) was built at Philadelphia in the late 1820s as a permanent residence for elderly and disabled long-service naval enlisted sailors and Marines. It received the first residents in 1831. Given the ages of these men, deaths should have been expected. But when a Marine named Jacob Dehart died in 1835 the Asylum’s commanding officers realized that no provision had been made for burials. In Dehart’s case the authorities punted, securing a burial site for him in the cemetery of one of Philadelphia’s churches. Over the next thirty years, several new cemeteries would replace the original functional burying ground for its long-service enlisted veterans to a landscaped and intentionally beautiful permanent memorial for these men who had given their active adult lives to their country’s service. This presentation, taken from the social history of Asylum’s nineteenth-century residents is richly illustrated with maps and photographs of the Asylum and its successive burial sites.
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