Nashville National Civil War Cemetery in 3D
1420 Gallatin Pike S, Nashville, TN 37115 • Monday-Friday 8:00 -16:30
General Thomas chose a site on the battlefield, marked by a hill, to bury the more than 2,000 Union dead. He said:
The War Department renamed the 64-acre Union burial ground Nashville National Cemetery in 1866. Remains were moved here from city hospital grounds, battlegrounds, sites along the Cumberland River, and forts, blockhouses, and engagement sites along the three railroads that converged in Nashville. Because two years had elapsed between the original burials and the reinterments, many dead could not be identified. However, the Roll of Honor No. XXII (1869), published by the War Department, lists soldiers likely buried here in graves marked “unknown.”
In 1870 the army built a 32-foot-high monumental Neoclassical archway facing Gallatin Pike as the cemetery entrance. It is the oldest of five such arches erected in southern national cemeteries. By 1874, an estimated 16,538 individuals were buried here, with approximately one-quarter unknown.
Monuments at Nashville National Cemetery
Two monuments honor Civil War soldiers here. In 1913, the Minnesota Monument Commission selected St. Paul sculptor John K. Daniels to create monuments for five national cemeteries. His design reflected Minnesotans’ perception of the noble character of their fallen soldiers, and the cause for which they fought. This monument was dedicated May 18, 1921.
[Minnesota lost more men (87) at the Battle of Nashville than in any other Civil War battle.]
The Tennessee U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) Monument, a 9-foot-tall bronze figure of a black soldier, honors the 1,910 USCT buried here. Many were members of the 1st and 2nd Colored Brigades who fought and died in the Battle of Nashville. Sculpted by Roy Butler, the monument was dedicated in 2006.*
[A soldier in the 18th Alabama fumed, “To our disgust, they were all Negroes.” Five color bearers of the 13th USCT — carrying a flag emblazed with its origin: “Presented by the Colored Ladies of Murfreesboro” — were shot down before their banner was captured. The regiment lost 40 percent of its men, the highest casualty rate of the battle. No side lost more than the 13th at Nashville.] – cwpt.org
*source: signage from below (front entrance to the cemetery)
3D Imagery of the Nashville National Cemetery Civil War Monuments
Note: get the full screen experience of this virtual tour by clicking the icon in the lower left of the video frame. A zoom option is available also for reading the historical signage. Some markers are embedded in the floating icons.
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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. 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 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 Administration.
Reflection and Memorialization
The country reflected upon the Civil War’s human toll – 2 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 the national cemeteries.**
**source: signage from below (north side of the cemetery)
Bob Henderson | Athens-South