“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Richmond in Henrico County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

A National Cemetery System

A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 19, 2015
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 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.
A National Cemetery System Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 19, 2015
2. A National Cemetery System Marker
Click or scan to see
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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 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
Richmond National Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 19, 2015
3. Richmond National Cemetery
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
Soldiers' graves near the General Hospital, City Point, Va. image. Click for full size.
By Mathew B., Brady, circa 1863
4. Soldiers' graves near the General Hospital, City Point, Va.
Library of Congress (LC-DIG-stereo-1s02692)
for Veterans and families, visit
Erected by U.S. 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 date for this entry is July 17, 1862.
Location. 37° 30.894′ N, 77° 23.59′ W. Marker is near Richmond, Virginia, in Henrico County. Marker can be reached from Williamsburg Road (U.S. 60) east of Government Road (U.S. 60), on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1701 Williamsburg Rd, Henrico VA 23231, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Richmond National Cemetery (here, next to this marker); Darbytown Road (approx. 0.2 miles away); Richmond Defences (approx. 0.4 miles away); a different marker also named Richmond Defences (approx. 0.6 miles away); Indian School in Fulton (approx. 0.6 miles away); Daniel Webster Davis (1862-1913) (approx. 0.7 miles away); Powhatan Hill (approx. ¾ mile away); Charles City Road (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
Also see . . .  Richmond National Cemetery. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration (Submitted on October 19, 2015.)
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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on October 19, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 219 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 19, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.   4. submitted on October 19, 2015.

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Sep. 22, 2021