National Cemetery (Part 5) – Remembering the Fallen

This is the final post in my series on the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Memorial Day is the time when our nation honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. For this post, I selected about a dozen soldiers. These men range from those who fought in the Civil War to one who died in WWII. The Fredericksburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for men who died during the Civil War within a thirty mile radius of the cemetery. As such, here are short histories of men who fought and died during the battles of: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna, Mine Run, Massaponax and WWII, as well as some who died of Continue reading

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National Cemetery (Part 4) – Creation of the Cemetery

The National Cemetery in Fredericksburg was officially created on February 22, 1867 when Congress passed an “Act to establish and protect national cemeteries.” This act “authorized the Secretary of War to purchase cemetery land, build enclosures, appoint superintendents, construct caretaker lodges, and erect markers over each grave.” This legislative action caught up with what was already happening in the field. What was behind all this?

Before going further, I must acknowledge the work of Don Pfanz, former National Park Service Historian who researched and pulled together information concerning the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. I liberally borrowed ideas and information found in his unpublished manuscript titled Where Valor Proudly Sleeps. Thanks Don.

As far back as September 1861, shortly after the first battle of Manassas, the army directed its commanders to bury their dead. By April 1862, when it was apparent that the ongoing Civil War would be long and hard fought, Congress empowered President Abraham Lincoln, “to purchase cemetery grounds and cause them to be securely enclosed, to be used as a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country.” This small but significant new presidential power was given in “[A]n act to define the pay and emolument of certain officers of the Army, & for other purposes.” The army then directed its commanding generals to establish cemeteries near battlefields, to mark graves with headboards, and to keep a register of the burials. Continue reading

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National Cemetery (Part 3) – Swale Trench and Wallace’s Ice House

This is the third in a series on the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. I return to the Anderson sketch of the Union burial trenches used in the previous post. These trenches were created to accommodate the large number of Union dead that remained exposed on the open fields in and around Mercer Square following the Battle of Fredericksburg. Now let’s jump to the ‘big’ trench. I call this one the ‘SWALE Trench’. Based upon the work I did finding the Swale in Mercer Square (click here), and reading participant accounts of the battle, I am convinced the location of this trench was along a portion of the Swale Continue reading

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National Cemetery (Part 2) – Stratton Burial Trench

The purpose of this post is to honor the memory of the fallen, and to identify some of the prominent locations of the temporary Union war-time burials, prior to their being gathered into the Fredericksburg National Cemetery on Willis Hill.

During my initial research on the Swale in Mercer Square, I came across references concerning the burial of Union dead. There was a map related to these burials which intrigued me, and it closely matched my Swale findings. I knew that someday I would look further into this part of the history of the battle.

The Anderson Burial Trench map. The Stratton burial trench was located between the Stratton house and his wheelwright shops

You can see that the author of the burial sketch was clearly attempting to convey what he remembered from his time during the battle and at the burials. While the author’s map is Continue reading

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National Cemetery (Part 1) – The Fallen

A year ago, I posted three items concerning the Confederate Cemetery (click here). This year I deal with war casualties and the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg. This is the first of five in this series.

The American Civil War was our first national experience with casualties of war, both civilian and military, on an “Industrial scale”.  Overall, the nation’s armies suffered more than 618,000 deaths. Reliable information on military losses is very hard to come by and accurate civilian losses are almost impossible to determine.

How does this tally of death correspond to other wars in which the nation has been involved? In the first graph, we see how all other wars pale with the civil war in comparison. Interestingly, the author of the American War Deaths table records the figure of Civil War deaths to be 618,000. When you add in wounded in action and prisoners of war we see Continue reading

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