Southwest Quadrant in Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
A National Cemetery System
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 the needs of the 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 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 Association.
Reflection and Memorialization
The country reflected upon the Civil War's human
Erected 2015 by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the National Cemeteries series list.
Location. 38° 48.108′ N, 77° 3.468′ W. Marker is in Southwest Quadrant in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Wilkes Street west of Hamilton Avenue when traveling west. This marker is in the Alexandria National Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1450 Wilkes St, Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. In Honor of Those Who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice (a few steps from this marker); "Pursuers of Booth the Assassin"Alexandria National Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); Hooff's Run Bridge (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Douglass Cemetery (about 500 feet away); The West End (about 500 feet away); Old Presbyterian Meeting House (about 500 feet away); Bethel Cemetery (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest Quadrant.
Also see . . . U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Alexandria National Cemetery. (Submitted on January 8, 2016, by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland.)
Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 8, 2016, by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. This page has been viewed 416 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on January 8, 2016, by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.