The Black Diamond Disaster Event, American Civil War Commemoration Weekend to be Held at St. Clement’s Island Museum on Sunday, April 25, 2021

April 13, 2021

On Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m., the St. Mary’s County Museum Division will remember the 87 lives lost in a tragedy during the American Civil War in a military ceremony with remarks from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River Base Commander and wreath laying on the waterfront at St. Clement’s Island Museum.

Further weekend activities will happen all day Saturday, April 24, and Sunday, April 25, at St. Clement’s Island Museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. This free event is open to the public and is an excellent opportunity to learn more about one of Maryland’s worst nautical disasters and other information regarding St. Mary’s County during the American Civil War.

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.

Throughout the weekend, the public can enjoy free water taxi rides to St. Clement’s Island (the final water taxi will leave daily at 3 p.m.) and free admission to the St. Clement’s Island Museum.

On Saturday at 4 p.m., there will be a free, family friendly outdoor concert on the waterfront lawn of the museum by 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 1860s. This concert was made possible by the Southern Maryland Heritage Area and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

The weekend concludes Sunday, April 25, 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 6 p.m., this event’s theme is “The Search for the Wreck of the Black Diamond” and will include a guided presentation during your cruise. While the entire weekend is free and open to the public, the cruise requires prior reservation as only 20 tickets will be sold.

Local artist, Angela Wathen, has created an original painting depicting the collision of the Black Diamond and the Massachusetts on that fateful night, which will be on display during the event weekend. The artist has generously donated the piece to the museum’s permanent collection. This artwork will be the only known portrayal of this event; it is based on an actual photograph of the Massachusetts and an image of a coal barge thought to be very similar to the Black Diamond.