Black Diamond Disaster to be Commemorated

Leonardtown, MD – In April 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Quartermaster Corps sent the barge Black Diamond to the lower Potomac to stand on picket duty off St. Clement’s Island. Her main job was to keep John Wilkes Booth from crossing the Potomac river.  During the same time, the steamer Massachusetts headed for Fortress Monroe out of Alexandria, Virginia.  In a tragic turn of events, the Massachusetts struck the Black Diamond on the port side near the boiler, sinking her in under three minutes.  87 lives were lost off the shores of St. Clement’s Island that night.

On Sunday, April 15 at 2 p.m., the St. Mary’s County Museum Division, in partnership with Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the United States Army, historian and author Donald G. Shomette, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Alexandria Fire Department and Maryland Historical Trust’s Archaeology Month will travel to St. Clement’s Island to remember the lives lost in this tragedy. This free event is open to the public and is an excellent opportunity to learn more about one of Maryland’s worst nautical disasters. The event will include a commemorative ceremony, wreath laying, reception and special Civil War programming at Blackistone Lighthouse

Schedule of events:

12:30 p.m. Free boat transportation to St. Clement’s Island from the St. Clement’s Island Museum

2:00 p.m.   Ceremony begins, featuring presentation by Donald Shomette and remarks by Captain Jason Hammond, NAS PAX River

3:00 p.m.   Refreshments and musical entertainment on the Lighthouse lawn

4:30 p.m.   Last boat from the Island to the Mainland

The St. Clement’s Island Museum is managed by the Museum Division of St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks and is located right on the Potomac River in Colton’s Point Maryland.  St. Clement’s Island is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a State Park.  For more information, log on to the Museum Division Facebook page at or call the museum at 301-769-2222.

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