Saturday, October 29, 2011

Something of an Epilogue

Wherein Edward Baker's body begins its journey home

A brief post today, courtesy of the Evening Star reprinted in the New York Times. Baker is the blog's first reoccurring individual during the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War to depart from our area of interest permanently (since Cump Sherman will be back), though he will not be the last and the impact of his death will loom over the remainder of the war.
The Evening Star,
October 29, 1861
The Body of Col. Baker  
The evening after the funeral of the lamented Col. Baker, the corpse was removed from the vault in the Congressional Cemetery, where it was deposited, to the embalming rooms of Dr. Holmes, to be prepared for transmission to its final resting place in California. The committee of Californians who have charge of the body, have taken great care that all the arrangements for the removal of the body should be made in the most appropriate manner. The undertaker's work, by Buchly, is in his best style. 
The temporary coffin in which the body of Col. B. was brought from Poolesville, has been replaced by a handsome metallic case, imitation of rosewood, mounted with silver; a large plate of glass covering the face, through which the features of the deceased may be seen by his friends, below which, over the breast, is a silver plate with the inscription: "Col. E.D. Baker, killed in battle near Ball's Bluff, Virginia, Oct. 21, 1861." 
The process of embalming was made very difficult by the shattered condition of the body, upon inspection of which eight wounds were apparent. One large wound in the left temple; a small ball wound above the right ear; one in the back of the neck; one between the collar bone and shoulder blade, passing down into the body; one through the chest; one passing across the thighs; one dividing all the interior fleshy portion of the left arm; and one in the breast, near the left armpit.  
Notwithstanding these difficulties, Dr. Holmes succeeded in thoroughly embalming the body. The torn and blood-stained uniform in which he was killed was removed, and this morning, clad in a new uniform, he lay in the coffin not a ghastly and pale corpse, but as life-like as we have seen him in all the glow of health, and if lying upon a couch, he would be easily mistaken for a sleeping soldier.  
Today, by invitation of the committee, the President and other distinguished friends of the gallant dead will visit the rooms of Dr. Holmes, at Buchly's establishment, Pennsylvania avenue near Ninth street, and see the face of their late friend for the last time; after which the case will be sealed for transmission to New York, thence to California.
Baker's body would reach its final resting place at San Francisco National Cemetery after a tour through the Union, including a massive parade in Philadelphia. Long after the war, a statue of Baker would be commissioned, and then delivered to the Capitol.
The Evening Star, April 13, 1868
Statue of General Baker  
On Saturday last a beautiful statuette of the late General E.D. Baker, Senator from Oregon, who was killed at the battle of Ball's Bluff, in the early part of the war, was received here from Rome, by Colonel Stephens, of California, for whom it was made by the well-known Washington, Dr. Horatio Stone, who is now in the Eternal City. It is now on exhibition at Messrs. Galt & Bro.'s jewelry store. 
Gen. Baker is represented with a roll of manuscript in his right hand, in the act of delivering a speech, and the likeness is pronounced by all who knew the deceased, to be most striking. The work is mounted on a pedestal, the upper portion of which revolves with the statue. It bears representations of justice, war, etc., and below are the following lines from the last speech of the deceased in the Senate delivered August, 1861. 
"There will be some graves reeking with blood, watered by the tears of affection. There will be some privation. There will be some loss of luxury. The will be somewhat more need of labor to procure the necessaries of life. When that is said, all is said. If we have the country, the whole country, the Union, the Constitution, Free Government, with all these will return all the blessings of well ordered civilization. The path of the country will be a career of greatness and glory, such as our Fathers in the olden time foresaw in the dim visions of years yet to come; and such as would have been ours today had it not been for the treason for which the Senator [Breckinridge] too often seeks to apologize."
Galt & Brothers opened in 1802 near the White House and operated as a District cornerstone until 2001. Baker's statue (which fittingly inscribed part of his final stemwinder countering John Breckinridge) stood for years in the Capitol rotunda and is still somewhere in the building (your intrepid blogger is hunting down its location). But the impact of his death would return to haunt the capital must more quickly.

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