During its years as the Confederate capital, Richmond would see its fair share of state funeral processions winding their way through the streets bound for Hollywood Cemetery. But on January 22nd, 1862, the Confederacy buried their first and only U.S. President: John Tyler
During its years as the Confederate capital, Richmond would see its fair share of state funeral processions winding their way through the streets bound for Hollywood Cemetery. But on January 22nd, 1862, the Confederacy buried their first and only U.S. President. The tenth president, John Tyler, who held office from 1841-1845, passed away at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond at the age of 71. Tyler, referred to by opponents as the “accidental President,” held the unique distinction of being the first Vice President to ascend to the presidency after the death of the President–William Henry Harrison died after just a few short weeks in office.
At the end of his presidency, Tyler returned to his Virginia home just outside of Richmond. He remained largely out of the political limelight until the secession crisis in 1861. Tyler, an advocate for states’ rights but not for war, worked to try to find a compromise to keep Virginia from seceding from the Union. Despite his best efforts prior to secession, he ultimately stood with his state and supported the Confederacy, even taking political office in the Confederate House of Representatives shortly before his death.
When he passed, Tyler achieved another unique death-related distinction: he became the only U.S. president whose death was not officially recognized in Washington due to his allegiance to the Confederacy. However, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government made sure to give him a state funeral with all the pomp and circumstance afforded a president, paying homage to him as a hero to the Confederacy.
The funeral procession took Tyler’s body from the Capitol to St. Paul’s church where Bishop Johns gave an eloquent sermon to a packed house of mourners. From there, the procession continued to Hollywood Cemetery where he was buried near President James Monroe. The long line of carriages contained a who’s who of the Confederate political establishment: Davis and his cabinet, members of the Confederate Congress and judiciary, Virginia’s governor, members of the state Senate and House of Delegates, all the way down to the mayor of Richmond. Many citizens also joined in to pay their last respects to the former President.
You’re about 150 years late to the funeral, but you can still pay respects to both Tyler and Monroe in Hollywood Cemetery. Their monuments are both located at the President’s Circle, one of my favorite spots in the vast grounds of the cemetery, on a hill overlooking the James River rapids and Belle Isle. If you’ve lived in Richmond for any extended period of time and haven’t been to Hollywood Cemetery or visited the final resting places of some of the Civil War’s most well-known characters, you’re truly missing out.