Pierre Charles L'Enfant

Pierre Charles L'Enfant grave
Pierre Charles L'Enfant gravesite overlooking Washington D.C.

Pierre Charles L'Enfant was a captain, U.S. Engineers, and a brevet major, U.S. Army, Revolutionary War. Under the direction of President George Washington, he planned the Federal City of Washington, D.C. Pierre Charles L'Enfant was born in Paris, France, Aug. 2, 1754. He died June 14, 1825, and was interred on the Digges Farm, also known as Green Hill, Prince Georges County, Md.

In 1908 the Board of Commissioners of the City of Washington requested the Secretary of War to make available a suitable burial site in Arlington Cemetery. On Dec. 17, 1908, Secretary of War Luke E. Wright advised the Board of Commissioners of his approval for a site in Arlington Cemetery for the reinterment of the remains of Pierre Charles L'Enfant. The site was selected by the Board of Commissioners with the assistance of Army Capt. A. B. Shattuck, who was in charge of National Cemeteries.

The final site approved by the depot quartermaster, Washington, D.C., was between the Gen. Sheridan Monument and the flagstaff fronting the mansion at Arlington, approximately 6 feet from the north line of Gen. Sheridan's lot and on line with the flagstaff and the Sheridan Monument. On April 19, 1909, the adjutant general of the War Department directed the quartermaster general to arrange for the disinterment of the remains of Pierre Charles L'Enfant buried at Green Hill, Md., on 24 hours notice by the commissioners of the District of Columbia. The remains were moved in a hearse to a vault at Mount Olivet Cemetery, a location designated by the commissioners.

On April 22, 1909, the remains of Pierre Charles L'Enfant were disinterred from the Digges Farm by Depot Quartermaster D.H. Rhodes, with the commissioners of the District of Columbia present. The remains were placed in a metal-lined casket, covered with the American flag and moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery on Bladensburg Road, Washington D.C. They remained there until the morning of April 28, 1909. On that date a military escort conveyed the remains to the U.S. Capitol where they lay in state from 9 a.m. until noon. They were then taken by military escort to Arlington National Cemetery. There they were reinterred at 4 p.m. in the site on the slope in front of the Mansion.

The removal of the remains from the Digges Farm and their subsequent reinterment was pursuant to a special act of Congress which was approved May 27, 1908. The act also provided for the erection of a monument at the grave. A sum of $1,000 was appropriated to accomplish the tasks.

At 4 p.m. May 22, 1911, the monument marking the grave of Pierre Charles L'Enfant was dedicated. The service was conducted on the portico of the Arlington House, where chairs had been arranged to make a miniature open-air theater facing the city. The monument was draped with the American flag.

The dedication ceremony was opened by the Reverend Father Russell, pastor of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church, offering the invocation. At its conclusion Elanora Carroll Morgan, great granddaughter of William Dudley Digges, L'Enfant's closest friend and benefactor in life and on whose farm he died, left her place among the guests of honor and approached the monument. She was escorted by Glenn Brown, of the National Arts Commission; Commissioner Judson and Dr. James D. Morgan who composed the executive committee for the dedication. Miss Morgan untied the silken ribbons that held the flag in place. Then as the band played the national anthem, two soldiers from the Engineer Corps drew the flag aloft.

President William Howard Taft made the dedication address. He was followed by Ambassador Jusserand of France. The concluding address was made by Senator Elihu Root.

More than 350 people attended the ceremony. Many notables attended including the chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court, many senators and members of Congress, high-ranking military, city officials, diplomatic corps and Washington socialites.

The L'Enfant Monument

The monument marking the grave of Pierre Charles L'Enfant was erected under the direction of the commissioners of the District of Columbia who chose the design in addition to selecting the site in Arlington National Cemetery. It is made of white marble (very rough due to weather erosion) consisting of four slabs, the top slab is supported on six marble posts. The base is 10 feet 10 inches by 6 feet 11 1/2 inches by 11 inches deep.

On top of the base is a slab 8 feet 4 inches by 4 feet 4 1/2 inches by 7 inches deep. The upper three inches of this slab are beveled for five inches to form a top 7 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 7 inches. On each corner is an oak leaf. Resting on this is the third slab 7 feet 4 inches by 3 feet 5 inches by 5 inches deep. This slab is offset 2 1/2 inches from the bottom by 6 inches along each side.

On the corners of the recessed area and in the center along the long axis rest six marble posts which support, horizontally, the top slab. The posts are 1 foot 8 1/2 inches tall and are 6 inches in diameter at the widest point. From the recessed area the third slab has a 1 1/2-inch bevel in 4 inches to form a 6 feet 2 inch by 1 foot 2 1/2 inch top. In bold relief on this top is a 4-foot-long broadsword with a floral piece entwined at the hilt. The top slab, overall, is 7 feet 6 1/4 inches by 3 feet 7 1/4 inches by 6 inches deep. There is an oak leaf at each corner and a 4-inch scalloped design around the edge.

On the east end (the design facing the Arlington House) is a circle, 2 feet 7 inches in diameter, inclosing the plan of the City of Washington laid out by L'Enfant.

Below the circle is the inscription:

PIERRE CHARLES L'ENFANT ENGINEER - ARTIST - SOLDIER UNDER THE DIRECTION OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DESIGNED THE PLAN FOR THE FEDERAL CITY * MAJOR U.S. ENGINEER CORPS 1789 CHARTER MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE CINCINNATI DESIGNED ITS CERTIFICATE & INSIGNIA * BORN IN PARIS, FRANCE AUGUST 2, 1755 DIED JUNE 14, 1825 WHILE RESIDING AT CHILHAM CASTLE MANOR PRINCE GEORGE'S CO MARYLAND AND WAS INTERRED THERE REINTERRED AT ARLINGTON APRIL 28, 1909

On April 23, 1931, a bronze marker was placed on the top of the base (east end) by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The inscription on the marker reads:

REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER 1775 (DAR INSIGNIA) 1783 PLACED BY THE NATIONAL SOCIETY DAUGHTERS AMERICAN REVOLUTION
* Note--the inscription on the monument shows the rank of major, U.S. Engineer Corps. The records show he was a captain in the U.S. Engineers, and held the temporary rank of brevet major, U.S. Army Revolutionary War. Discrepancies were not noted until the completion of the monument. They were not changed for fear of disfiguring the monument. L'Enfant was born in 1754, not 1755.

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