Established out of necessity during the Civil War, national cemeteries have evolved from simple burial grounds to national memorials honoring all those who serve. An online Civil War Era National Cemeteries travel itinerary, developed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is available at Civil War Era National Cemeteries. The itinerary commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by tracing the history and importance of the 116 national cemeteries created before 1870.
Statue “The Private Soldier”: Dedicated in 1867, Antietam National Cemetery, located within the boundaries of the Antietam National Battlefield, is the final resting place for more than 4,700 Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Antietam and on other Maryland battlefields.
“A visit to a national cemetery is accompanied by many emotions – gratitude, awe, pride, sadness,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “It is important to honor those buried there and remember that each one of them made sacrifices, many the ultimate sacrifice, to protect our country and our way of life.”
Arlington National Cemetery: Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the country, is the final resting place for many of America’s greatest heroes, including more than 300,000 veterans of every American conflict, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maps, information and essays provide insight into the history and role of military cemeteries. The first national cemeteries were started in 1862; a year after the Civil War began. Although first set aside only for those killed in battle, by 1873 any Union veteran of the war could receive burial in a national cemetery.
Congressional Cemetery: In Washington, D.C., contains the remains of some of the early nation’s most respected leaders. In 1807 a burial ground for citizens in the east end of the new federal city was founded. In the first 5 years, 13 members of Congress, two vice presidents, and numerous military and government officials were interred, along with a number of ordinary citizens.
Today, almost all of the national cemeteries are administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, whose mission is to provide burial benefits to veterans and their families. The National Park Service maintains 14 and the Department of the Army administers two national cemeteries.
Gettysburg National Cemetery: Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union victory often cited as a turning point in the Civil War.
The National Park Service’s Heritage Education Services and Federal Preservation Institute, the Department of Veterans Affairs Historic Preservation Office and the National Cemetery Administration History Program, and the National Preservation Institute produced the itinerary in partnership with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. This itinerary is in the online National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage travel itinerary series. The series supports historic preservation, promotes awareness of history, and encourages visits to historic places throughout the country. Start your journey here: Civil War Era National Cemeteries.
[Image Credits: Library of Congress]