'The Washington Arsenal Explosion' by Brian Bergin
Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 10:22am
On the hot summer day of June 17, 1864, the Washington Arsenal exploded. A major cause was unattended materials for a batch of flares. Dangerous working conditions were also factors in the explosion. Many of the victims were working-class young women from what was then known as the Island neighborhood, near the Waterfront. Although victims were identified as best as it could be done at the time, several were unidentifiable because of the horrific fire. News of the explosion and the funerals were widely covered by Washington newspapers. At one of the widely attended funerals, President Abraham Lincoln arrived unannounced, but made no public remarks. The arsenal's superintendent, Thomas Brown, was charged.
In 1865, a statue commemorating the unknown victims was erected at Congressional Cemetery. Over the years, however, the explosion was forgotten. Today Fort Lesley J. McNair stands near the grounds of the former arsenal.
On June 11 at 7 p.m., Steve Hammond from Congressional Cemetery and Erin Bergin Voorheis, who published The Washington Arsenal Explosion by Brian Bergin after her father's death in 2009, will be speaking about the book, the explosion and its aftermath.
For more information or questions, please call 202-282-3072.