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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fort McNair in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Women War Workers 1861 - 1865

 
 
Women War Workers 1861 - 1865 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
1. Women War Workers 1861 - 1865 Marker
Inscription. During the Civil War the Washington Arsenal was both the largest Federal arsenal and the one closest for shipping its war materials to the various fighting fronts in Virginia. Here thousands of caissons and limbers, wagons and ambulances, cannon balls and mortar shells were built and stored. This heavy work was done mostly by male members of the Ordnance Department and civilian contract employees.

The Civil War saw the first large scale employment of women outside the home. Because of their superior finger dexterity hundreds of women were employed here to hand make small arms cartridges. By June of 1864 they were turning out 120,000 cartridges per day.

On Friday, June 17, 1864, a tragic accident occurred when a spark flew through an open window and ignited an open bin of gunpowder. Twenty-one women war workers were killed. Others were saved due to the heroism of Storekeeper E.M. Stebbins and officers and soldiers of the 16th and 19th US Infantry Regiments.

The roaring noise of the tragic explosion came like the shock of an earthquake. Despite all the suffering of the war this catastrophe sent a pall of intense sorrow over Washington.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton notified the Commandant of the Arsenal that all expenses for the funeral and internment would be paid for by the government. He further stated: "You
Women War Workers 1861 - 1865 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
2. Women War Workers 1861 - 1865 Marker
will not spare any means to express the respect and sympathy of the government for the deceased and their surviving friends."

The funeral cortege was led by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. It numbered 150 carriages and took half an hour to pass. They died doing their duty for their country.

The remains of four victims were interred in Mt. Olivet Cemetery under Catholic auspices. They were: Johanna Connors, Bridget Dunn, Margaret Horan, and Rebeca Hull.

The remaining seventeen victims were buried at Congressional Cemetery near the Middle Gate close to the Western Wall. Their 25-foot tall marble monument is adorned by the figure of a young woman.

Women War Workers Killed June 17, 1864
1. Melissa Adams
2. Annie Bache
3. Emma Baird
4. Lizzie Brahler
5. Bettie Branagan
6. Kate Brosnaham
7. Mary Burroughs
8. Emily Collins
9. Johanna Connors
10. Bridget Dunn
11. Susan Harris
12. Margaret Horan
13. Rebecca Hull
14. Eliza Lacey
15. Louisa Lloyd
16. Sallie McElfresh
17. Julia McEwen
18. Ellen Roche
19. Pinkey Scott
20. W.E. Tippett
21. Margaret Yonson
 
Erected by Fort Myer Military Community.
 
Location. 38° 51.938′ N, 77° 0.958′ W. Marker is
Filling Cartridges at the Watertown Arsenal image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 5, 2012
3. Filling Cartridges at the Watertown Arsenal
This illustration originally appeared in Harper's Magazine.
Close-up of photo on marker
in Fort McNair, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Avenue and C Street, on the right when traveling north on 4th Avenue. Click for map. Located on Fort Leslie J. McNair. Photo ID is required for entry to the installation. Check with the official fort web site for access information. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20319, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lincoln Assassination Trial (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Building 20, Grant Hall (about 600 feet away); Walter Reed (approx. 0.3 miles away); a different marker also named Walter Reed (approx. 0.4 miles away); Housing Reform and the Syphax School (approx. 0.4 miles away); Military Education at Fort McNair (approx. 0.4 miles away); Titanic Memorial (approx. half a mile away); Linking the "Island" to the City (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Fort McNair.
 
More about this marker. In the upper right of the marker is a drawing depicting women working in an armaments factory. In the lower center is a small photo of the Arsenal Monument mentioned in the text.
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Arsenal Fire Monment at Congressional Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 5, 2012
4. Arsenal Fire Monment at Congressional Cemetery
Close-up of photo on marker
National Defense University image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
5. National Defense University
The ground where the arsenal stood during the Civil War is today the site of the National Defense University.
Arsenal Fire Monument -- Congressional Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, February 24, 2012
6. Arsenal Fire Monument -- Congressional Cemetery
by Irish Sculptor Lot Flannery.
Statue of Grief image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 11, 2011
7. Statue of Grief
by Lot Flannery
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,868 times since then and 34 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   3, 4. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   6, 7. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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