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Many from Naval Air Station Patuxent River started their Veterans Day weekend honoring the Sailors who perished aboard USS Tulip 149 years ago when it exploded along the shores of St. Inigoes Creek near Webster Outlying Field.

Joining the group from Pax were four generations of USS Tulip's pilot, James R. Jackson.

"It gives us a feeling of pride," said the pilot's great grandson, John Jackson. "Not just because the Navy felt it deserving, but also at each of the ceremonies so far, the enthusiasm of the naval personnel present was impressive. I have always been proud of our military and meeting them and having the conversations that we do just reinforces that pride."

This was the seventh annual event hosted by the air station and each year, Jackson, his daughter, brother and other family members travel more than two hours from Virginia and around Maryland to witness the event. A few locals were also in attendance.

Jackson said that as more generations of family come, he hopes they learn to appreciate the life that they live and how much their ancestor's actions affected the path their lives have taken.

"The term 'all gave some, some gave all' is relevant to each individual," he said. "Hopefully this will grow to the point that the knowledge by family members won't die out."

The USS Tulip monument rests on a half-acre off St. Inigoes Creek, near Villa Road, where eight of the ship's Sailors washed ashore after the Nov. 11, 1864, tragedy. While burned beyond recognition, they are the only bodies of the 46 lives lost that were ever recovered.

"Those Sailors, just like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, are only known to God, but they will ever be known as shipmates lying next to each other, part of the brave crew of the USS Tulip," said Capt. Heidi Fleming, NAS Patuxent River executive officer. "We remember their sacrifice, upholding those tenets we hold dear in the U.S. Navy today: honor, courage, commitment."

USS Tulip, a Union gunboat, was one of many small ships assigned to the Potomac Flotilla during the Civil War. Its mission was to support Union communication, tow, transport and land Soldiers, and to maintain the Union blockade of Confederate ports.

When the ship came in need of repairs to its starboard boiler, the captain was faced with a difficult decision: travel slowly from St. Inigoes to the Washington Navy Yard with just one boiler, and risk being an easy an easy target for enemy cannons and snipers; or make it a speedy voyage and risk igniting both the port and faulty starboard boilers.

The captain's fateful decision that day was heard 12 miles up the Potomac River as the starboard boiler exploded and the vessel sank near Piney Point and Ragged Point, Va.

"I'm sure a lot of the men thought it would be an easy mission," Fleming said, "but as we all know, being in the Navy is also inherently dangerous, whether we're working on aircraft, working on ships or being part of ship's company, at any point, our lives could be snuffed."

And while USS Tulip may not be infamous for any battles, Fleming said its technology was revolutionary for the time.

During the Civil War-era the Tulip's boilers were considered advanced technology as steam engines, and screw steam vessels such as Tulip, were replacing sail power.

"They were on the cutting-edge of technology," Fleming said. "The Tulip was doing for America's warships what Pax River does today for naval aviation."

The USS Tulip memorial is the nation's smallest federal cemetery. It is located near Webster's main gate. Directions can be found online at, click on Activities & Attractions, Special Themes/Interests, Civil War and then USS Tulip.