Sunday, July 2, 2017

It's almost Independence Day in the United States.

This is the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

Tomb of George Washington - wide - Mount Vernon - 2014-10-20

Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799, at the age of 67. The cause of death was a severe upper respiratory infection that caused his throat to swell shut. It was complicated by severe bleeding (administered by his physicians), which cause hypovolemic shock.

Washington was buried in a lead inner casket, and a wooden outer one. The caskets were placed in the "family tomb" -- a small, rectangular, brick structure erected about a century earlier on a bluff about 250 yards to the southeast of Mount Vernon. Several of Washington's forebears already lay in the family tomb. Martha Washington died on May 22, 1802, and was buried next to her husband in a similar two-coffin arrangement.

Washington's will dictated that a larger tomb be built for his family after his death. The old family vault was just too small, poorly located, and in disrepair to last much longer. This new tomb, whose architect is not known, was finished in 1831 and George and Martha Washington and Washington's ancestors where moved from the old vault to the new one.

Washington's wooden casket had been replaced three times by 1830, and the leaden inner casket was sagging. Washington's executors agreed that new marble sarcophagi should be sculpted, in which the lead coffin should be placed. These were supposed to be ready in 1831, but sculptor John Struthers pointed out that the marble would disintegrate if placed in the moist interior vault. The marble sarcophagi were ready by October 1837. The vault was opened, the rotting wooden coffins of the Washingtons discarded, and the lead coffins sealed inside the marble ones on October 7. Construction on the antechamber then commenced, and it was finished about two months later. The marble sarcophagi were move into the antechamber, the vault sealed, and the antechamber locked with an iron grate.

Buried in the vault is Bushrod Washington, George Washington's nephew (by George's older half-brother, John A. Washington). A member of the Virginia Assembly and a U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1798 to 1829. He inherited Moun Vernon, and died in November 1829. When the antechamber was built, an obelisk (to the right in this image) was erected in front of the new tomb in his honor. Bushrod's brother, Corbin, had a son named John A. Washington II. He died in 1855, having inherited Mount Vernon from his uncle Bushrod. His obelisk is the left.

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