National Cemeteries Were Authorized by the U.S.
July 17, 1862
happens to soldiers when they die during a battle? During
the Civil War, soldiers who died on the battlefields, in field
hospitals, or in prison camps were buried where they fell.
At the end of the war, search and recovery teams visited all the
places where soldiers might have been hastily buried and dug up
the remains to bring them home. It took five years to
complete this process, and more than 250,000 sets of remains
On July 17, 1862, President Lincoln signed legislation
authorizing the creation of national cemeteries by the U.S.
government. By 1870, 73 national cemeteries had been
established, many in the southeastern United States, the site of
many battles and field hospitals during the war.
"We here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in
vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for
the people, shall not perish from the earth."
President Lincoln spoke these words on November 19, 1863, as he
dedicated the national battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania. His short speech became known as the
Gettysburg Address and is one of the most often-quoted addresses
in American history.
Of all the national cemeteries in the U.S., Arlington National
Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is the best known.
Soldiers who died in battle, other war veterans, U.S.
presidents, and government leaders are all buried there.
Arlington National Cemetery also includes the Tomb of the
Unknowns, a tomb in honor of the people who lay unidentified on
battlefields from wars fought for freedom and independence.