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Macomb's remains reinterred at Washington cemetery

WASHINGTON, D.C. A long-deceased military leader from the Battle of Plattsburgh was laid to rest for a second time during a ceremony July 17 at his historic gravesite administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The remains of Maj. Gen. Alexander Macomb and his wife, Catherine, were placed in their underground burial vault, which partially collapsed and was recently repaired in the citys Congressional Cemetery. Descendants of the Battle of Plattsburgh and War of 1812 general officer witnessed his re-interment at the cemeterys chapel, where a box holding the remains was displayed in front, as in a traditional funeral. Along with family descendants in attendance were representatives of the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Army and the National Park Service. This event is a dramatic collaboration among preservation organizations within agencies of the federal and district government, and with the private Congressional Cemetery, to ensure the proper rehabilitation of historic properties, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. Im proud that VAs Construction Office and History Program stepped up to the challenge. Macomb was born in Detroit, Mich., in 1782 and distinguished himself during the War of 1812. His success holding off a larger British force at the Battle of Plattsburgh earned him the rank of major general and a Congressional Gold Medal. Later, he attained the rank of commanding general. At his death in 1841, Macomb was buried with the highest military honors in a ceremony attended by President John Tyler, members of Congress and other dignitaries. Archaeologists from the Smithsonians Museum of Natural History excavated the site last month and temporarily housed the remains. In the excavation, Smithsonian archaeologists found most of Macombs wooden coffin exterior had deteriorated, but a metal coffin liner still held his skeletal remains. Found on the coffin was a silver name plate with the text: Alexander Macomb, Major General Commanding in Chief the Army of the United States, Born Detroit Michigan, Died at Washington, 25th June 1841. In 1973, VAs cemetery system inherited from the Army the stewardship of more than 800 gravesites in the non-profit cemetery, most of them containing the remains of veterans. Included among the sites are 168 above-ground stone cenotaphs that memorialize members of Congress who were buried in the mid-1800s, plus two monuments, one of them on Macombs grave. The cenotaphs and monuments were restored by National Park Service stone masons and conservators in an ongoing project begun in 2006 at a cost to VA of $1.75 million. Repair of the Macomb vault and monument a 13-foot-high marble obelisk crowned with a helmet was estimated to cost $24,000. Organizations involved in the Macomb tomb restoration included the Park Services Historic Preservation Training Center, the Museum of Natural Historys Department of Anthropology, the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office, VAs National Cemetery Administration and the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery.

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