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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Near Springfield in Sangamon County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

A National Cemetery System

 
 
A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, September 26, 2020
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 directing 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 to the needs of 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 died in the service of the country." Fourteen national cemeteries were established by 1862.

When hostilities ended,
Camp Butler National Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, September 26, 2020
2. Camp Butler National Cemetery Marker
Marker (on the left) is in front of the cemetery's Administration Building.
a grim task began. In October 1865, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs directed officers to survey lands in the Civil War theater to find Union dead and plan to reinter them in new national cemeteries. Cemetery 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 Administration.

Reflection and Memorialization

The country reflected upon the Civil War's
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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 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 by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and National Cemetery Administration.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the National Cemeteries series list.
 
Location. 39° 49.925′ N, 89° 33.473′ W. Marker is near Springfield, Illinois, in Sangamon County. Marker can be reached from Second Dr north of South Camp Butler Road. Marker is in front of the Administration building. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5063 S Camp Butler Rd, Springfield IL 62707, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Camp Butler National Cemetery (here, next to this marker); Camp Butler
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(about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Confederate Burials in the National Cemetery (about 600 feet away); Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (approx. 0.2 miles away); Potawatomi Trail of Death (approx. 0.7 miles away); Abraham Lincoln and the Talisman (approx. 3 miles away); Illinois Remembers POW/MIA (approx. 4.3 miles away); Abraham Lincoln (approx. 4.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Springfield.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 31, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 31, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 40 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on October 31, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.   2. submitted on October 12, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.
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Feb. 25, 2021