Danville in Vermilion County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
A National Cemetery System
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 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 task began.
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 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 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 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, 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.
To learn more about benefits and programs for Veterans and families, visit www.va.gov
Erected by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • War, US Civil.
Location. 40° 7.617′ N, 87° 34.783′ W. Marker is in Danville, Illinois, in Vermilion County. Marker is on East Main Street (U.S. 136), on the right when traveling east. In the center of the National Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1900 E Main St, Danville IL 61832, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Landing Ship Tanks (LST's) Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Danville (Illinois) National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Danville National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Address by President Lincoln (approx. 0.2 miles away); Alumni who Served in Korean War (approx. half a mile away); Lincoln & Douglas in Danville (approx. 1.8 miles away); Abraham Lincoln (approx. 2.4 miles away); Women's War Memorial (approx. 2.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Danville.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 18, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 17, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 35 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 17, 2021, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.