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Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

A National Cemetery System

 
 
A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
1. A National Cemetery System Marker
Inscription. Civil War Dead
An estimated 700,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Civil War between April 1861 and April 1865. As the death toll rose, the U.S. government struggled with the urgent but unplanned need to bury fallen Union troops. This propelled the creation of a national cemetery system.

On September 11, 1861, the War Department directed commanding officers to keep "accurate and permanent records of deceased soldiers." It also required the U.S. Army Quartermaster General, the office responsible for administering the needs of the troops in life and in death, to mark each grave with a headboard. A few months later, the department mandated interment of the dead in graves marked with numbered headboards, recorded in a register.

Creating National Cemeteries
The authority to create military burial grounds came in an Omnibus Act of July 17, 1862. It directed the president to purchase land to be used as "a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country." Fourteen national cemeteries were established by 1862.

When hostilities ended, a grim task began. In October 1865, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Megis directed officers to survey lands in the Civil War theater to find Union dead and plan to reinter them in new national cemeteries. Cemetery
Closeup of detail on marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
2. Closeup of detail on marker
Soldiers' graves near General Hospital, City Point, Va., c. 1863. Library of Congress
sites were chosen where troops were concentrated: camps, hospitals, battlefields, railroad hubs. By 1872, 74 national cemeteries and several soldiers' lots contained 305,492 remains, about 45 percent were unknown.

Most cemeteries were less than 10 acres, and layouts varied. In the Act to Establish and to Protect National Cemeteries of February 22, 1867, Congress funded new permanent walls or fences, grave markers, and lodges for cemetery superintendents.

At first only soldiers and sailors who died during the Civil War were buried in national cemeteries. In 1873, eligibility was expanded to all honorably discharged Union veterans, and Congress appropriated $1 million to mark the graves. Upright marble headstones honor individuals whose names were known; 6-inch-square blocks mark unknowns.

By 1873, military post cemeteries on the Western frontier joined the national cemetery system. The National Cemeteries Act of 1973 transferred 82 Army cemeteries, including 12 of the original 14, to what is now the National Cemetery Association.

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Reflection and Memorialization
The country reflected upon the Civil War's human toll - 2 percent of the U.S. population died. Memorials honoring war service were built in national cemeteries. Most were donated by regimental units, state governments and veterans' organizations
Closeup of detail on marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
3. Closeup of detail on marker
Knoxville was established after the seige of the city and Battle of Fort Sanders in 1863. Cemetery plan, 1892, National Archives and Records Administration.
such as the Grand Army of the Republic. Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, was a popular patriotic spring event that started in 1868. Visitors placed flowers on graves and monuments, and gathered around rostrums to hear speeches. Construction of Civil War monuments peaked in the 1890s. By 1920, as the number of aging veterans was dwindling, more than 120 monuments had been placed in the national cemeteries.
 
Erected 2015 by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration.
 
Location. 38° 48.108′ N, 77° 3.468′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Wilkes Street west of Hamilton Avenue when traveling west. Click for map. This marker is in the Alexandria National Cemetery. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1450 Wilkes St, Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. "Pursuers of Booth the Assassin" (within shouting distance of this marker); Alexandria National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Hooff's Run Bridge (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); The West End (about 500 feet away); The Duke Street Tanyard
Closeup of detail on marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
4. Closeup of detail on marker
Lodge at City Point, Va., pre-1928. The first floor contained a cemetery office, and living room and kitchen for the superintendent's family; three bedrooms were upstairs.
(about 800 feet away); Original Federal Boundary Stone SW 1 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Shiloh Baptist Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); 1323 Duke Street – From Slavery to Freedom and Service (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Alexandria.
 
Also see . . .  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Alexandria National Cemetery. (Submitted on January 8, 2016, by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland.)
 
Categories. Cemeteries & Burial SitesWar, US Civil
 
Closeup of detail on marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
5. Closeup of detail on marker
National cemetery monuments, left to right: Massachusetts Monument, Winchester, Va., 1907; Maryland Sons Monument, Loudon Park, Baltimore, Md, 1885; and Women's Relief Corps/Grand Army of the Republic Monument to the Unknown Dead, Crown Hill, Indianapolis, Ind., 1889.
A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
By A. Taylor, January 4, 2016
6. A National Cemetery System Marker
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. This page has been viewed 263 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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