The Black Diamond Disaster Weekend, An American Civil War Event Occurring at St. Clement’s Island Museum in April, 2020

February 26, 2020

Head to St. Clement’s Island Museum for a weekend of activities commemorating a forgotten tragedy of the American Civil War, the Black Diamond Disaster.

On April 23, 1865, 87 lives were lost when the Black Diamond and the steamer Massachusetts collided in the Potomac River near St. Clement’s Island during the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.

  • Saturday & Sunday (10AM – 5PM)
    FREE water taxi rides to St. Clement’s Island where interpreters will be on hand to discuss the 1863 Goldsmith Raid (The final water taxi will leave at 3PM – water taxi operates as weather and wind conditions allow)
  • FREE Civil War-focused tours of Blackistone Lighthouse
  • FREE admission to the St. Clement’s Island Museum

Special exhibits and presentations, including:

  • Carolyn Ivanoff as Clara Barton
  • Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office
  • Sons of Union Veterans
  • The National Museum of Civil War Medicine and more!

Saturday Only (4PM) – Concert by the The Federal City Brass Band. This group appears in period dress, uses mostly period instruments, and their musical selections are based on the military music books from the 1860’s.

Sunday Only

  • Commemorative ceremony (2PM – 3PM) with guest speaker David Price, Director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and remarks by Naval Air Station Patuxent River Base
  • Commander. The ceremony will include a wreath laying and the reading of the names of the deceased.
  • Reception (3PM) at St. Clement’s Island Museum follows the ceremony.

This program is sponsored in part by a grant from the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium and the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.

Background: 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. More info:

Call 301-769-2222 for more information.

Additional fun – Sunday evening Dinner & a Cruise Series at St. Clement’s Island Museum: The weekend concludes on Sunday with a fun evening of cruising on the St. Clement’s Island Water Taxi, cocktail reception at St. Clement’s Island Museum and delicious seafood dinner at waterside Morris Point Restaurant.

Occurring from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., this event’s theme is “The Search for the Wreck of the Black Diamond” and will include a guided presentation about searching for shipwrecks in the nearby Potomac, led by David Howe of the Institute of Maritime History.

As a special addition, the event will include attending the Black Diamond Ceremony on St. Clement’s Island at 2PM. While the entire weekend is free and open to the public, the cruise requires prior reservation as only 20 tickets will be sold. Call 301-769-2222 to reserve your space.

This event is funded by the Southern Maryland Heritage Area and the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.