The Presbyterian Cemetery

Gazaway Bugg Lamar: The Wealthy Banker, Cotton Merchant, and Steamship Pioneer Buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery

Gazaway Bugg Lamar (October 3, 1798 – October 5, 1874) was a prominent figure in the American business landscape of the 19th century, hailing from Georgia. His legacy is etched in various entrepreneurial pursuits, spanning banking, cotton trading, shipbuilding, and steamship technology innovation.

Born and initially raised in Augusta, Georgia, Lamar’s business acumen started to take shape in his early years. Later moving to Savannah, Georgia, he embarked on a business career that would see him become one of the wealthiest men of his era.

Lamar’s interests initially revolved around trading. He expertly navigated the Savannah docks, buying and selling a multitude of goods from cities like England, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. His strategic investment in cotton, a highly sought-after commodity at the time, allowed him to establish profitable trade routes, sending cotton back to these cities on returning ships.

His success in trading led him to expand into banking, where he found new opportunities to amass wealth. Lamar’s insights into the shipping industry led him to pioneer innovative steamship technology. His shipbuilding endeavors contributed to the maritime industry’s technological advancement and fortified his financial standing.

Beyond his wealth, Lamar was renowned as a talented and visionary businessman whose impact still resonates in various aspects of American business history. His final resting place is in the Presbyterian Cemetery, a testament to his life and enduring legacy.

Gazaway Bugg Lamar. Image from the Public Domain.

Early Years

Born on October 3, 1798, in Augusta, Georgia, Gazaway Bugg Lamar came from a family of Huguenots, originally named “Lamore” in Flanders. Fleeing religious persecution, they escaped to America during colonial times, briefly settling in Virginia and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland, where they owned vast tracts of land. In 1759, the Lamars made their permanent home in Georgia.

Lamar’s grandfather was a staunch patriot, serving as a member of the Georgia Militia during the American Revolutionary War. He also astutely increased his wealth by purchasing lands that were confiscated from Loyalists.

Lamar was raised by his parents, Basil and Rebecca, devout Presbyterians who imbued their children with strong religious values, teaching them about the Bible and its teachings. Growing up in a rural setting, young Lamar’s formal education was limited, but his father, an astute businessman working for the Georgia Steamboat Company, imparted valuable business knowledge to him.

The early influences of his family’s faith, history, and entrepreneurial spirit undoubtedly shaped Lamar’s later success in various fields, including banking, cotton trading, shipbuilding, and pioneering steamship technology. His upbringing in a family with a rich heritage of courage, faith, and business acumen prepared him for the challenges and triumphs ahead in his remarkable life.

First Marriage

In October 1821, Gazaway Bugg Lamar married Jane Creswell, a member of a distinguished Augusta family. Together, they brought seven children into the world, including a son named Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar. The family connection to the Marquis de Lafayette was so significant that the famed French aristocrat and Revolutionary War hero is said to have held Charles during his baptism and served as his godfather.

In the early 1830s, Lamar relocated his family to Savannah, where his entrepreneurial spirit began to flourish. He embarked on diverse business ventures, delving into factoring, shipping, insurance, and warehousing. Among his more innovative projects was the creation of a unique steamboat made of iron.

Named the “John Randolph,” this steamboat was crafted in England and then disassembled for transport to Savannah, where it was reassembled in 1834. Although not the first iron boat in America, the “John Randolph” holds the distinction of being the first iron steamboat to turn a profit in the United States, marking a significant achievement in maritime technology.

Around the same time, Lamar sold another steamboat, the “Zavala,” to his cousin Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, a hero in the Texas Revolution. Mirabeau would later go on to become the second President of the Republic of Texas, succeeding Sam Houston. This transaction exemplifies the Lamar family’s wide-reaching influence in business and politics, reflecting their innovative thinking and strong connections during a formative period in American history.

The Pulaski disaster

On June 14, 1838, the Pulaski, a packet steamer constructed by Gazaway Bugg Lamar and his partners, set sail to Baltimore, Maryland. Among the 189 passengers on board were Lamar, his wife Jane, their seven children, a niece, and Lamar’s sister Rebecca. The family was journeying to England to witness the coronation of Queen Victoria.

Tragically, near the coast of North Carolina, the boat exploded. In the ensuing chaos, Lamar became separated from his family. The Pulaski sank in less than an hour, claiming the lives of 128 passengers, including Lamar’s wife, six of his children, and his niece.

Miraculously, Lamar, his son Charles, and his sister were among the 59 survivors. The event, known as the “Titanic of its era,” had a profound effect on Lamar, leading him to deeply contemplate his life’s meaning and purpose. He became intensely religious, a devotion that remained with him for the rest of his days.

The sinking of the Pulaski continues to resonate in American maritime history. In January 2018, divers believed they had discovered the remains of the ill-fated steamer approximately 40 nautical miles (74 km; 46 mi) off the coast of North Carolina. The find serves as a somber reminder of a tragedy that not only took many lives but also forever altered the course of one of the era’s most prominent and innovative businessmen.

Charles Ellms – From page 170 of the 1848 book The tragedy of the seas, or Sorrow on the ocean, lake, and river, from shipwreck, plague, fire, and famine.

Second Marriage

In 1839, a year after his family’s tragic loss in the Pulaski sinking, Gazaway Bugg Lamar found love again and married Harriet Cazenove (May 2, 1817 – May 3, 1861). Harriet was the daughter of Anthony Charles Cazenove, a prominent and wealthy merchant based in Alexandria, Virginia. (For more information about Anthony Charles Cazenove, please click on this [link.)

The newlyweds, along with Charles, Lamar’s sole surviving child from his first marriage, settled in Alexandria, Virginia. Their life there marked a new beginning for Lamar, yet his entrepreneurial spirit called him back to his roots.

In 1840, Lamar returned to Savannah, Georgia, reestablishing himself as a successful businessman and influential politician. His comeback in Savannah’s business circles was marked by his innovation, tenacity, and leadership.

By the beginning of 1846, Lamar’s life took another turn as he relocated his growing family, which eventually included six children, to Brooklyn, New York. This move signaled a new phase in his professional and personal life, allowing him to explore fresh opportunities in the thriving economic environment of New York.

Meanwhile, he entrusted the management of his Savannah business affairs to his capable son, Charles. The trust he placed in his son was emblematic of Lamar’s belief in family and continuity, values that had guided him through both triumph and tragedy.

Lamar’s resilience and adaptability stood out throughout these transitions, marking him as a figure of note in American business and political history. His story reflects a journey filled with success, loss, love, and renewal, highlighting the multifaceted nature of human experience in a rapidly changing world.

New York Businesses

New York’s vital role in the “cotton triangle” presented Gazaway Bugg Lamar with an enticing opportunity to expand his business ventures. The term refers to the triangular trade network that connected the southern states, New York, and Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. New York-owned boats controlled the transport of most of the South’s cotton, which was then shipped to Europe. Goods destined for the South arrived in New York before being transported on those same vessels. This intricate trade system was pivotal in creating a lucrative business environment.

Recognizing the strategic value of New York within this trade network, Lamar moved there, launching new business ventures that capitalized on the city’s connections to the cotton industry. Along with his brother-in-law, William Cazenove (October 27, 1819 – August 8, 1877), who is also interred in The Presbyterian Cemetery, Lamar expanded his operations. He sold cotton, wheat, corn, and flour to England, tapping into a booming market that demanded these commodities.

Lamar also resumed his shipping business, overcoming the painful memories associated with the Pulaski disaster. This renewal of his maritime interests demonstrated his resilience and adaptability, key traits that had marked his career.

In 1850, Lamar further diversified his interests by founding the Bank of the Republic. Situated at the iconic intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, the bank’s location symbolized its ambition and prominence. Under Lamar’s leadership, the Bank of the Republic became an influential financial institution, reflecting his continued success in both business and finance.

Lamar’s decision to relocate to New York and his subsequent endeavors there underscore his ability to recognize and capitalize on emerging opportunities. His story is a testament to his innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, and the complex interconnections that shaped the American economy during his time.

Bank of the Republic on Broadway. The bank is dressed in black for President Lincoln’s New York funeral procession: Stacy, George, photographer.

Certainly! Here’s a revised version of the text that elaborates on Gazaway Bugg Lamar’s involvement with banking and the guano trade, as well as his reappointment as the President of the Bank of the Republic:

Gazaway Bugg Lamar, leveraging his extensive network and business acumen, elevated the Bank of the Republic into one of the North’s most prominent financial institutions. However, in 1855, he resigned as the bank’s President to pursue other intriguing business opportunities.

Among these ventures was the establishment of the Bank of Commerce in Savannah and a unique role as the sole agent for the American Guano Company in New York, representing several Southern States.

Guano, the accumulated excrement of seabirds, became a valuable commodity as a fertilizer. Rich deposits were found on islands near the coast of Peru, which led to a thriving trade. Peru’s control over these deposits allowed them to command high prices, fueling demand in the United States, especially among Southern farmers.

In 1855, a significant discovery of guano on Baker Island, near Hawaii, opened new opportunities for American merchants. Firms from New York and Boston, recognizing the potential, founded the American Guano Company of New York to market this newfound source.

They appealed to Congress to annex Baker Island, leading to the passage of the Guano Islands Act of 1856. This legislation authorized American citizens to claim any uninhabited guano-rich island as U.S. territory. Under this act, over 70 islands were claimed, including the strategic Midway Island in the Pacific.

Lamar’s involvement in the guano trade exemplified his ability to recognize and capitalize on unconventional opportunities, further solidifying his reputation as an innovative businessman.

In 1860, Lamar’s banking career came full circle when he was reappointed President of the Bank of the Republic. His return to the helm of the institution he had founded demonstrated his enduring influence in the financial sector. It marked another significant chapter in a multifaceted career filled with triumphs, challenges, and remarkable adaptability.

Gazaway Returns to Georgia

Certainly! Here’s a revised version of the text focusing on Gazaway Bugg Lamar’s actions and involvement during the Civil War:

In May 1861, with the onset of the Civil War between the North and the South, Gazaway Bugg Lamar returned to Savannah, Georgia. His decision to go back to his roots reflected his deep connection to the region and his determination to support the Confederate cause.

Upon his return, Lamar quickly regained control of his various companies and assumed an advisory role to key figures in the Confederate and Georgia governments. He lent his expertise to President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger, and Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown. His counsel was undoubtedly valued, given his extensive business experience and knowledge of the economic landscape of the time.

In 1863, Lamar embarked on an audacious venture, forming an import and export business that sponsored blockade runners. These specialized ships were used to bypass Union naval blockades, enabling the transportation of essential products and supplies in and out of the Confederacy.

Lamar’s involvement in the blockade-running business was not merely a commercial pursuit; it was a strategic response to the dire circumstances faced by the Confederacy. His ability to facilitate the movement of vital goods despite the formidable obstacles presented by the Union blockade demonstrated his ingenuity, resourcefulness, and commitment to the Southern cause.

His actions during this turbulent period reflect a complex blend of business acumen, loyalty to his region, and a willingness to adapt to the challenging conditions of the time. They further cement his legacy as a multifaceted figure whose influence extended beyond commerce into the political and military spheres of 19th-century America.

Capture, Imprisonment, and legal troubles after the Civil War

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Gazaway Bugg Lamar found himself in a precarious situation. In a case of apparent confusion or misunderstanding, he was captured and imprisoned in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., suspected of involvement in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

After spending three agonizing months in confinement, Lamar was released, his name cleared of the heinous charge. The ordeal, however, was far from over.

Upon his release, Lamar sought to reclaim his stored cotton, which had been sequestered in various locations across Georgia and Florida. His efforts were met with legal resistance, leading to his arrest on charges of theft of government property and bribery of a government official.

A military committee reviewed his case and found him guilty, returning him to prison. His sentence was brief this time, and Lamar found an unlikely ally in President Andrew Johnson. Just days before Johnson’s term expired, he intervened and ordered Gazaway released from jail.

This turbulent chapter in Lamar’s life paints a picture of a man ensnared in the chaotic aftermath of a nation torn asunder by war. His experiences reflect the wider societal struggle of the Reconstruction era, where political tensions, legal entanglements, and personal vendettas often converged, complicating the lives of those caught in the crosshairs. The fact that Lamar managed to navigate these challenges, albeit not without difficulty, adds further complexity to his legacy as a businessman, politician, and survivor of one of America’s most tumultuous periods.

Charles Lamar’s Connection to the Clotilda: The Tragic Story of the Last Known Slave Ship to Arrive in the United States

Charles Lamar, the son of Gazaway Bugg Lamar, is renowned for his co-ownership of the Wanderer, a ship implicated in the second-to-last officially recorded instance of bringing enslaved individuals into the United States, a brazen violation of the 1808 restriction.

On November 28, 1858, the Wanderer arrived at Jekyll Island, Georgia, carrying 371 enslaved individuals. This audacious act caught the attention of authorities when Lamar carelessly boasted about the deed to a port official. He and several accomplices were promptly taken into custody, and the ship was confiscated and sold.

Lamar’s actions were in direct defiance of the 1808 ban on importing enslaved people into the United States, a capital offense punishable by death under the “1820 Piracy Law,” section 5. Despite the gravity of the charges, Lamar’s trial was marred by irregularities, likely influenced by his political connections and his father’s wealth. Notably, the judge presiding over the case was Lamar’s father-in-law, Judge John Nicoll.

Ultimately, Lamar was found guilty of a minor offense, resulting in a mere 30-day confinement at home and a $250 fine. The lenient sentence stemmed from his assistance in helping a partner escape jail for a party, an offense mitigated when the accomplice voluntarily returned to custody the next day.

Lamar’s success with the Wanderer may have inspired the voyage of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States, on July 7, 1860, in Mobile Bay, Alabama. This dark chapter in American history was later explored in the 2022 Netflix documentary “Descendant,” chronicling the story of Clotilda and the descendants of those brought to America on the ship.

During the Civil War, Lamar served as an officer in the 7th Georgia Battalion and 61st Georgia Infantry. Tragically, he died in battle near Columbus, Georgia, on April 16, 1865, just days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Lamar’s death is remembered as the final loss of a Confederate Officer in the war, a somber conclusion to complex and controversial life.

Gazaway Lamar’s Last Years

In the twilight years of his life, Gazaway Bugg Lamar was consumed with the pursuit of financial compensation for his confiscated cotton. The arduous legal battle saw him suing a multitude of parties, including the federal government, the former Treasury Secretary, and a treasury agent.

After years of litigation, Lamar finally tasted victory just six months before his death in 1874. He won a substantial judgment against the U.S. government for property that had been seized, receiving an award of $580,000. But Lamar’s pursuit of justice didn’t stop there; he continued to seek compensation for the remaining cotton, and his determination was so fervent that he included a decree in his will, urging his heirs to continue the legal process.

Gazaway Bugg Lamar passed away, leaving behind a complex legacy interwoven with business acumen, political influence, and a relentless quest for restitution. He was laid to rest beside his beloved wife, Harriet, who had died in 1861, in the Presbyterian Cemetery, Section 43, Plot 107.

A living testament to Lamar’s influence, several of his descendants continue to reside in Alexandria, preserving the family’s deep connection to the area.

Gazaway Bugg Lamar’s Gravestone, Located in the Presbyterian Cemetery within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex. Photographed by D. Heiby.

Sources of Information

Pippenger, Wesley E. Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1, Family Line Publications, Westminster, MD, and Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD. 1992.

Ben Raines. The Last Slave Ship. The True Story of How the Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning. Simon and Schuster. New York, NY. 2022.

Dahmann, Donald C., Archivist, and Old Presbyterian Meeting House member. The roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Updated 2022.

The official records of the Presbyterian Cemetery & Columbarium.

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By David

As a public historian, I am dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep passion for bringing the past to life, I serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before this, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a blog focused on Alexandria's cemeteries, where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, reading my blog, or connecting with me on social media. It is my sincere pleasure to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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