“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
San Antonio in Bexar County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)

A National Cemetery System

A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, December 24, 2020
1. A National Cemetery System Marker
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 US government struggled with the urgent but unplanned need to bury tallen 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 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 die in the service of the country." Fourteen national cemeteries were established by 1862.

When hostilities ended, a grim
The National Cemetery System Marker is the first marker on the right image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, December 24, 2020
2. The National Cemetery System Marker is the first marker on the right
Click or scan to see
this page online
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
Flag Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, December 24, 2020
3. Flag Marker
In Honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States of America and the families they left behind. The sacrifice will not be forgotten.
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 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 windling, more than 120 monuments had been placed in national cemeteries.

Soldiers' graves near General Hospital. City Point, Va., c. 1863. Library of Congress.

Knoxville was established after the siege of the city and Battle of Fort Sanders in 1863. Cemetery plan, 1892, National Archives and Records Administration.

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.

National cemetery monuments, left to right; Massachusetts Monument, Winchester, Va., 1907; Maryland Sons Monument, London Park, Baltimore, Md., 1885; and Women's Retief Corps/Grand Army of the Republic Monument to the Unknown Dead, Crown Hill, Indianapolis, Ind., 1889.

Erected by
Gettysburg Address image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, December 24, 2020
4. Gettysburg Address
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesWar, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is July 17, 1862.
Location. 29° 25.28′ N, 98° 28.009′ W. Marker is in San Antonio, Texas, in Bexar County. Marker can be reached from Paso Hondo, 0.2 miles west of North Palmetto Street, on the right when traveling east. The marker is located just past the entrance of the San Antonio National Cemetery on the west side of the cemetery road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 517 Paso Hondo, San Antonio TX 78202, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. San Antonio National Cemetery (here, next to this marker); Folded Flag Memorial (here, next to this marker); Gettysburg Address (here, next to this marker); Bivouac of the Dead (a few steps from this marker); Captain Lee Hall (within shouting distance of this marker); Samuel S. Smith (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Charles Frederick King (about 300 feet away); D.A. (Jack) Harris (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Antonio.
Also see . . .  American Civil War. Wikipedia (Submitted on December 30, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 30, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 95 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on December 30, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 9, 2022