This list presents the graves of ten soldiers who made remarkable contributions to the founding of the United States and who have a headstone or memorial that is unique in its design. Each of the tombs or graves on the list are in the eastern United States. After George Washington, this list is not in any particular order.
A noted significant patriot, Benedict Arnold, is not included because he switched sides. It would have been interesting to include Arnold’s grave, as it is in a church in England. The Marquis de Lafayette’s grave in France was also excluded because of its overseas location.
General George Washington, Mt. Vernon, Virginia
One cannot exclude the obvious top choice for most people. Washington’s grave is somewhat unique in that it is located on his own property at Mount Vernon and that he was removed from a smaller temporary crypt on the same property to a more permanent location in a crypt made of brick. Washington was worshipful master of a masonic lodge in Alexandria for a number of years, which is why a masonic memorial to Washington, some ten stories tall, stands there. There is a misunderstanding that only Masons are allowed inside the Washington crypt when the iron gates are opened each year on the date of his death, December 14; in fact, whichever organization lays a wreath is allowed inside, including military veterans and leaders of groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution.
Major General Nathanael Greene, Georgia
Washington was devastated to learn of the untimely death of his most trusted general, Nathanael Greene, who died at the young age of forty-three in 1786 at his Mulberry Grove plantation outside of Savannah. For over a century his remains were interred at the Graham Vault in Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah. On November 14, 1902, through the efforts of Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati President Asa Bird Gardiner, he was reinterred in downtown Savannah at Johnson Square, under an impressive, handsome obelisk that includes a high-relief sculptured likeness of the general.
Crypt of Major General Jabez Huntington and his sons, Brevet Major General Jedediah Huntington and Brigadier General Ebenezer Huntington, Connecticut
Located in the Old Burying Ground in the Norwichtown section of Norwich, this may very likely be the only grave in the entire U.S. where not one or two but actually threeRevolutionary War-era generals are buried. Jabez was a militia general in charge of the entire eastern Connecticut militia, and hosted Generals Washington and Gates at his house in Norwich for a conference on April 8, 1776. Because he was a wealthy merchant, his son-in-law, John Trumbull, painted his first full-length portrait in 1776 or 1777, which is on permanent view at the Connecticut State Museum. Sons Jedediah and Ebenezer Huntington served throughout the entire war, from 1775 to 1783, and were both original members of the early sixteen signers of the Society of the Cincinnati Institution created in May 1783. Ebenezer went on to be commissioned by President John Adams as a brigadier general in the Quasi-War with France in 1798. He later served two terms as a Federalist U.S. Congressman, alongside Culper Spy Ring case officer, Lt. Col. Benjamin Tallmadge. A third son, Joshua, Huntington was a major then colonel in the militia who served in the siege of Boston in 1776 and the Battle of New York. He then served as agent for the naval board for U.S. Congress in supervising the nearby construction of the U.S. Navy frigate Confederacyin 1777-78, which was named for the Articles of Confederation.
Joseph Plumb Martin, Maine
Most readers of Journal of the American Revolution are very familiar with the exploits and published memoirs of the humble private, later corporal, from Connecticut and then Maine, Joseph Plumb Martin. He lived until he was eighty-nine, and luckily was among the very few Revolutionary War patriots who were photographed. Rarer still is that his wife was still alive and photographed with him. Joseph died in 1850 in Stockton Springs, Maine, and is interred with his wife at Sandy Point Cemetery in Waldo County, Maine. This cemetery provides a view of the Penobscot River and distant Atlantic Ocean off on the horizon.
Captain John Paul Jones, Annapolis
This grave of the legendary, arguably co-founder of the U.S. Navy, is the most ornate. Captain Jones’s grave is located in the crypt of the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. His remains had been buried where he died in France in 1792, but were reinterred in Annapolis in a 1906 a ceremony presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt. I first visited this grave as a child with my parents because my mother was once a U.S. Navy nurse.
Major General David Wooster, Connecticut
General Wooster was mortally wounded while riding his horse in fighting the British raid on the military stores at Danbury, commonly referred to as the Battle of Ridgefield. The battle occurred on April 28, 1777, and Wooster lingered in his deathbed until he passed away on May 2. At age sixty-six, Wooster was the oldest general to die in service during the Revolution. Wooster was a founding member of the Hiram Lodge Number One in New Haven, and it is for that reason that members of the Lodge erected a thirty-foot-tall obelisk-style monument to him in the mid-nineteenth century. It is covered in Masonic symbolism and is one of the most artistic, intricate monuments to a Revolutionary War patriot one can encounter.
Major General Israel Putnam, Connecticut
So popular was his original gravesite that tourists from all over chipped off pieces of his original headstone as souvenirs. As a result, a group congregated in the late nineteenth century, raised money and had a figure of Israel atop a horse sculpted and erected as a mammoth monument over his grave. This is located in rural Brooklyn, Connecticut, a small town that was once part of Putnam (yes, named after the general, their most famous resident ever). It is easy to access since “Ol’ Put” peers over the local highway in the center of town.
Major General Alexander Hamilton, New York
Hamilton served as one of Washington’s most-trusted, important aides-de-camp between 1777 and 1781. Hamilton also finally had the field command he begged for, which resulted in his leading the nighttime assault by light infantry on the Yorktown Redoubt Number 10. Hamilton’s funeral was impressive following the controversial death by duel at the hands of Vice President Aaron Burr. The funeral included members of the Society of the Cincinnati in New York as well as the St. Andrews Society that paid homage to members’ Scottish ancestry. He very appropriately was laid to rest in the churchyard of Trinity Church, overlooking Wall Street’s western edge from the northern section of the churchyard. The grave was recently restored and cleaned over a year-long project as a result of the popularity of Hamilton thanks largely to the musical Hamilton. It is worth noting that a simple flat stone marking the grave of Maj. Gen. William Alexander, aka Lord Stirling, is tucked behind the church only a few hundred feet away, sadly largely forgotten. Thanks to the efforts of myself and a dear friend, John Resto, several U.S. flags were planted at the grave to help the public find him since even the docents at the church are unaware of his important contributions to the Revolution or the exact location of his grave.
Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, New York
This rather young general died during his ill-fated attack on Quebec City in a winter storm. This was the same nighttime attack in which Benedict Arnold and the then-obscure Maj. Daniel Morgan were wounded. The idea of attacking Canada was largely the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, who felt so guilty about Montgomery’s death that he convinced Congress to commission the first-ever memorial to a fallen U.S. general. Franklin hired French sculptor Jean Jacques Caffieri. Montgomery’s remains were relocated to New York in 1818. Almost as impressive in its intricate design and use of marble and other expensive materials as the grave of John Paul Jones, Montgomery’s might be the only memorial/grave inside a church (St. Paul’s, New York City) yet also viewable from driving in a car, since it is built into the wall of the church.
Major General John Sullivan, New Hampshire
This general and his grave are notable for the confusion as to the whereabouts of his remains. One might assume they are in front of his house—a beautiful home that was for sale only about five years ago. It is unclear how many viewers of the property liked (or were spooked by) what is thought to be the grave of the famous patriot prominently marked with a vertical memorial in the front yard of this house. Not only was he governor of New Hampshire, but he was also a prominent Mason. The surprising fact is, however, his remains are at another location, marked by a weeping willow headstone at the nearby Sullivan family cemetery.
Pierre L’Enfant, Virginia
Famous architect Pierre L’Enfant, also a military engineer, is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in front of Arlington House, which was famously the home of Robert E. Lee. He was originally buried at the Green Hill Farm in Maryland. The marker is a prominent table stone grave with a panoramic view of Washington D.C. This monument was created in 1911 and was dedicated in a ceremony led by President William. Howard Taft. Engraved on the monument is a portion of L’Enfant’s own plan of a diagramed map of the capital city which he designed.
Doctor Joseph Warren, Massachusetts
Dr. Warren, famous as a leader of the Boston Sons of Liberty, was killed at the age of thirty-four at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His grave is located at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston. In addition to his vertical headstone, leaning against a large rock, is a life-sized bronze statue of Warren commissioned by the masonic grand lodge of Massachusetts.
Strangest Civilian Patriot Grave: John Jay, New York
There is only one Founding Father whose grave is not open to the public: John Jay. The grave of Jay is inside the Jay family cemetery on the property of the Jay Estate in Rye, New York. The cemetery is located in the woods. It is unclear why the Jay family chose to make the cemetery private; perhaps a reader might know the answer?