Beginning on April 12, 2018, Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital will host its fourth annual Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration. In commemorating the end of slavery in the nation’s capital, Hill Center will present four days of celebratory and scholarly programs. These free and public events will bring together a diverse group of prominent scholars, artists, and public figures for programming that will engage attendees in a deeper understanding of the African American experience, prior to, during, and post-Civil War.

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln commissioned a Civil War Naval Hospital near the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill. The Old Naval Hospital opened its doors in 1866 and Benjamin Drummond, an African American seaman, was the hospital’s first patient. The series is named in his honor.


About Benjamin Drummond

In 1843, Benjamin Drummond was born in Nassau, New York. By 1850, according to census records, eight-year-old Drummond resided in New Bedford, Massachusetts with forty-four year old Richard Pass, forty-year-old Nancy Pass, and five-year-old Fanny Drummond. In that same census, it is noted that both Benjamin and Fanny were attending school.

On April 15, 1860, twenty-year-old Benjamin Drummond married Laura Berkely in Richmond, Virginia. A year later, the mariner and laborer, enlisted in the United States Navy at New Bedford. Drummond served on several ships throughout his tenure. On March 20, 1862, he was assigned to the USS Morning Light. On January 21, 1863, the Morning Light (along with the Schooners Velocity and Rachel Seaman) came under attack by Confederate steamships in Sabine Pass, Texas. The Morning Light was pinned down and Acting Master John Dillingham surrendered the ship. Several seamen were severely injured. Drummond was shot in the leg.

Drummond, along with his shipmates, was imprisoned at Sabine Pass. While most of the men remained prisoners for up to 18 months, Drummond escaped after seven months. On August 19, 1863, gunboat USS Katahdin encountered a vessel “containing seven Negroes escaped from Galveston…” Drummond was among them. The same day, he was transferred to the USS Tennessee and upon arrival in New Orleans; he was admitted to the naval hospital.

On December 6, 1864, Drummond reenlisted in the Navy. One of the ships he served on was the USS Squando. Less than two years after returning to sea, his wound reopened. On October 1, 1866, Drummond became the first patient at the Naval Hospital, Washington City. On March 23, 1868, Drummond was discharged from the Navy and left the hospital. Days before being released, he was awarded fifty-percent disability for his combat wound. In 1872, thirty-eight-year old Drummond filed a Declaration for Invalid Pension. The federal government awarded him a pension of $4 per month. On May 14, 1876, Laura gave birth to their son Benjamin W. Drummond. Five years later, On March 11, 1881, forty-year-old Benjamin Drummond, who was working as a chimney sweeper, died in New York City from chronic diffuse nephritis.

Check out this video from the 2016 Celebration that discusses who Benjamin Drummond was.

Who is Benjamin Drummond?


Plan Your Visit

General Information

  • Please register online through the “Read More” button under the Schedule or call Hill Center at (202) 549-4172.
  • Limit of two (2) tickets per person, per event. You must register separately for each event.
  • Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the event’s scheduled start time.
  • Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Unoccupied seats will be released 15 minutes to the start of the program.


Hill Center is located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, two blocks from the Eastern Market metro. Metro buses and the Circulator all run in front of within two blocks of Hill Center. There is no public parking available, but street parking is available around Hill Center.

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