Hidden from view in a forest on the campus of the nation’s best-known psychiatric institute rest at least 300 fallen Civil War soldiers. Interspersed are warriors from the Confederacy and the Union, white and black. For years, this secret cemetery along the Potomac River just off of Interstate 295 has been closed to the public.
But recently, 23 historic gravestones have gone missing under the stewardship of the federal government, a rate an audit said is too high — and one massive granite marker was found in the home of an employee of the D.C. government.
In April 1864, a commander in the Confederate Army detailed an officer and two privates to accompany Jordon Mann, a teenage soldier from the 12th Missouri Cavalry, to St. Elizabeths, then named the U.S. Government Hospital for the Insane. The young soldier had been termed “an insane man,” a letter from the commander shows. Months later, he died of typhoid fever.
He became one of as many as 450 military burials on a sharply sloped, disjointed three-fourths-acre site that, in highly unusual fashion, mixes the fallen of two races and two opposing armies.
Sometime between the 1990s and 2007, his marker disappeared, the results of two federal inventories showed. Last summer, when former D.C. employee Guy L. Schultz died, an auctioneer “found the gravestone standing in a corner of the garage, with some rakes and mesh in front of it, obscuring it from view,” according to an inspector general’s report obtained by The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
Schultz worked for the D.C. Highway Department until retirement, but his son did “not know if that has any connection to how he acquired the gravestone,” the report said.
Mark Schultz, the son and heir to the estate, “remembered seeing the gravestone at the house on an earlier occasion, but did not remember when, nor did he have any information on how the gravestone came to be at the house or how long it has been there,” the report said.
Mark Schultz told The Times that contrary to GSA records that counted the gravestone present in the 1990s, his father had had it since the mid-1970s. He wasn’t entirely pleased that the auction company confiscated the gravestone and contacted the GSA. “The auctioneer company took it and they shouldn’t have taken it,” he said.
The gravestones are valued at up to $30,000.
But the resolution likely would have been similar regardless, he said: “I was heading to Texas and we opted not to sell it.”
Daniel Sanders, president of Four Sales, the Virginia estate-sale company that found the gravestone, noted that it is illegal to sell a gravestone, adding that “once we realized the item was government property there was only one thing to do, and that was return it.”
Still, to settle any desire for compensation he may have had, Mr. Sanders said, his company donated $500 to a veterans’ organization in Mark Schultz’s name.
Mr. Schultz said Mann “really weighed heavy on my heart” and he is glad it is back at St. Elizabeths.