Monday, January 26, 2009

Benicia Arsenal Post Cemetery 1849

Sunday afternoon we took a drive....

...and tucked away at end of Hospital Road in a southeast corner of Benicia is a small, and very old, military cemetery. As the name of the road implies, there used to be a hospital at this location as well, an army hospital, which was used between 1849 and 1854, and was the only army hospital on the West Coast. The hospital is long gone, but the cemetery remains.

The cemetery is known by a number of names, among them the Benicia Military Cemetery, the Benicia Army Cemetery, and the Benicia Post Cemetery. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Benicia Arsenal-Benicia Barracks Historic District. It is the oldest U.S. military post cemetery in the Pacific States.

This cemetery is the final resting place for 211 people; soldiers, civilians (including some women and children), and prisoners-of-war (Italian and German), as well as three dogs. Originally the graves were marked with wooden plaques but over the years became weather-worn to the point that the names could no longer be read.

When renovations were done and marble headstones erected in place of the wooden ones, many then had to be marked as Unknown.

Seven headstones mark the graves of German prisoners-of-war. These graves are in a far corner, away from the rest.

We found the lone Italian prisoner-of-war buried among the U.S. soldiers and speculated that by the time he died, 1944, Italy had become an ally of the U.S., thus explaining his priviledged resting place.

The cemetery burials date from 1849 through 1958.

The graves of the three dogs, complete with little American flags. These graves are in an area of their own, way off to one side. I wish they had dates on them!

A little later we drove by this building, recognizable by most Benicians; the Clock Tower. We paused to read the plaque out front which stated it was built in 1859 and originally had two towers. An explosion destroyed it in 1912 and when it was rebuilt it had only one tower, this time with a clock installed. We noticed that the clock does NOT keep the correct time!

We met this kitty by the art studios near the Port of Benicia. She was very friendly and let us pet her. Mike even gave her a little beef jerky. Her collar tag told us her name: Sunflower.

Oh, we did see another animal on our little outing, in the cemetery porta-potty:

A raccoon!!

5 comments:

Judy said...

This was really interesting, Debbie! I was curious about the P.O.W.'s and the dogs, so I did a search. I found a site that gave the names of the German P.O.W.'s and what they died of: heart attack, acute gastroenteritis, pneumonia, two had "death by accident", drowning, and two by suicide. And it looks like the pets were 2 dogs and a horse. This was a worthwhile outing - thanks for sharing. :-)

Deborah W said...

Hey, that's great info, Judy! I did some searching, too, and didn't find that kind of detail. Can you send me a link? Also, are you sure about the two dogs and a horse? The signs we read at the cemetery stated they were all dogs....hm! Deb

Judy said...

Sure! Here's the link: http://home.arcor.de/kriegsgefangene/cemetery/benicia_army_cemetery.html

I got the info about the 2 dogs and horse from the following YouTube documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-sulVgUxIk

I'm not sure when the video was shot ... maybe the info was updated?

Deborah W said...

Mike and I have had fun with those links, Judy! Thx! As it turns out, the info has been updated on site since the video was made (in 2007). Apparently, new info came to light that confirmed the horse was, indeed, a dog named Duke.

Deez said...

It's always interesting to get a different take on a cemetery. Thanks for pointing me to your site.