“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Salisbury in Rowan County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Salisbury National Cemetery

Salisbury National Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010
1. Salisbury National Cemetery Marker
Salisbury Prison and Trench Graves
Salisbury Prison was established by the Confederate government in October 1861 on the site of an old cotton factory. In preparation for the first prisoners, a portion of the grounds was enclosed by a stockade fence. Designed to hold about 2,500 persons, the prison was intended for Confederate soldiers who had committed military offenses and prisoners of state. However, the first Union soldiers arrived in December from Richmond, Virginia, in an effort to reduce the number of prisoners of war (POW) there.

During the early years of the war, prisoners at Salisbury were provided adequate shelter, rations, water and sanitation. But all that changed on 5 October 1864, when 5,000 POWs were transferred to the prison. By the end of the month, more than 10,000 men were incarcerated at Salisbury.

Overwhelmed by a population four times larger than intended, prisoners were quartered in every available space. Those without shelter dug burrows in an attempt to stay warm and dry. Rations and potable water were scarce. Adding to the poor conditions was an unusually cold and wet winter. Disease and
Salisbury National Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010
2. Salisbury National Cemetery Marker
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starvation began to claim lives, and all buildings within the stockade were converted to hospitals to care for the sick.

Each morning, the dead were gathered from the grounds and placed in the “dead house.” Later, they were removed for burial in trench graves located in a cornfield west of the prison. Though there are no complete burial lists for the prison and no headboards were used to mark the graves, records indicate that approximately 3,700 men died between October 1864 and February 1865. Surviving prisoners were released at the end of February when a POW exchange was carried out. Union forces burned down the prison in April.

Unknown Soldiers Monument
After the war, the Office of the Quartermaster worked to locate the graves of Union soldiers. National cemeteries were established, and bodies were removed from battlefields and other locations to these hallowed grounds. Inspection reports from 1866-69 record 13 to 18 trenches present at Salisbury. Early speculation as to the number of dead ranged from 1,800 to more than 10,000. Because there was not a comprehensive list of the dead, the government decided to erect a monument to commemorate the soldiers who died at the prison and place “Unknown” markers at the ends of the trenches. During this time, the Army began reporting an estimated 11,700 burials on limited trench excavations.
Salisbury National Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010
3. Salisbury National Cemetery Marker
The grassy area behind the marker is the site of the trench graves at the former Salisbury C.S. Prison.
This number was ultimately inscribed on the memorial. However, based on earlier documentation and the death figures from 1864-65 when the prison population peaked, a much lower number is more likely.

Lorenzo Deming, Medal of Honor Recipient
Lorenzo Deming, Landsman, U.S. Navy, served on board U.S. Picket Boat No. 1 in action, 27 October 1864, against the Confederate ironclad Albemarle, which resisted repeated attacks by Union Naval vessels. The picket boat, equipped with a spar torpedo, passed the enemy pickets and made for the Albemarle. Under fire, the small boat plunged on, jumped a log boom that encircled the vessel and exploded its torpedo under the port bow. The picket boat was destroyed, and most of the crew of 15 was either taken prisoner or drowned. Deming is recorded as entering Salisbury Prison and dying there in February 1865. He is presumed to be buried in the trench graves. A memorial marker was erected in the Deming plot at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain, Connecticut, in 1991, where there is also a large private memorial commemorating his service.

The Medal of Honor, the highest award for military valor that can be bestowed upon a person in the U.S. Armed Services, was created during the Civil War. In December 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation authorizing “medals of honor” to be bestowed
Marker in Salisbury National Cemetery image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010
4. Marker in Salisbury National Cemetery
The Unknown Soldiers Monument can be seen in the photo next to the Salisbury National Cemetery marker.
upon sailors and marines who “shall distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” A similar bill authorizing medals for noncommissioned officers and privates in the Army was passed 12 July 1862. For the Civil War, 1,522 Medals of Honor were awarded. The medal pictured is the style awarded to Navy and Marine Corps personnel between 1862 and 1912. Such a medal was bestowed upon Deming’s shipmates after they were released from prison in March 1865, and Deming’s medal was sent to his widow.
Erected by Department of Veterans Affairs, 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. A significant historical month for this entry is February 1865.
Location. 35° 39.556′ N, 80° 28.495′ W. Marker is in Salisbury, North Carolina, in Rowan County. Marker is on Government Road when traveling south. Marker is located in Salisbury National Cemetery, at the end of Government Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Salisbury NC 28144, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Burial Trenches and Salisbury Prison (here, next to this marker); Unknown Soldiers Monument (here, next to this marker); Maine
Unknown Soldiers Monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010
5. Unknown Soldiers Monument
(a few steps from this marker); Pennsylvania Monument (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); C.S. Military Prison (approx. 0.4 miles away); City of Salisbury (approx. half a mile away); Meroney’s Theatre (approx. half a mile away); Andrew Jackson (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Salisbury.
More about this marker. The lower left of the marker contains a picture of a “Bird’s Eye View of Confederate Prison Pen at Salisbury, N.C., taken in 1864.” By C.A. Kraus, 1886, J.J. Bufford’s Sons Lith., Library of Congress. A picture from a circa 1900 postcard appearing at the top of the marker shows detail of the Unknown Soldiers Monument. The right of the marker features several photos pertaining to MOH recipient Lorenzo Deming. These include a picture of the “Attack of the CSS Albemarle, originally published in ‘Deeds of Valor,’ Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. Naval History and Heritage Command.” Near this are photos of the Naval Medal of Honor, courtesy of Naval History Heritage Command; and of the memorial for Lorenzo Deming in Fairview Cemetery, courtesy of Richard Thompson, Public Affairs, VA Connecticut Healthcare System.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 14, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,019 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 14, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.

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Aug. 19, 2022