2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Life and the Civil War
American National Cemeteries

Gettysburg National Cemetery
In 1862, the United States Congress passed legislation to establish the first National Cemeteries for the growing number of Union War dead. Dedicated in November of 1863, the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg is the final resting place for thousands of Union soldiers who lost all but honor during the wars bloodiest battle. The small stones in this picture mark the graves of those men whose names are now lost to the indifferent winds of war. The markers form concentric semi-circles that surround the monument at their center. Graced with only numbers that count off the brave who lay here, the unknown soldiers thus buried number nearly one thousand. Each of the total 3,512 markers silently honors the many who offered their lives to a restored Union they would not live to see. According to the National Park Service, "In the center of the cemetery stands the Soldiers National Monument, erected in 1869 as a national memorial of sorrow." The statues around the base of the monument represent War, Peace, History and Plenty.

Antietam National CemeteryFurther south, a blanketing fog settles on the graves of the dead as another day passes at the hallowed ground of the Antietam National Cemetery. Within its walls rest 4,776 Union soldiers. Consider what each soldier, each man, thought as they volunteered for war, prepared for the horrors of battle, defended, advanced upon, or retreated from, their ground, and eventually passed into eternity. Just out of view, at the center of this cemetery stands a monument depicting a soldier reverently bowing his head as he stands watch over his comrades. This is no general but a monument to the common soldier. The inscription beneath "Old Simon" as he is known honors their contributions and memory. It reads, "Not for themselves, but for their country."

Of course, the Southern States also had to confront the issue of burying their faithful dead. One can easily find still dotting the landscapes of the southern states the many Confederate Cemeteries established for the Southern war dead. Battlefields such as Fredericksburg, Confederate Cemetery at Spotsylvania Court HouseManassas, Appomattox, and Spotsylvania (pictures here) have Confederate Cemeteries close by. Oddly, Arlington National Cemetery, established on the grounds of Robert E. Lee's former home, includes a section to include some Confederate dead.

A good proportion of those who served the Union and the Confederacy remained on the fields of battle, either above ground where they died or in shallow, unmarked graves. Concerning a conversation with a soldier who had been wounded at Gettysburg, young Tillie Pierce would observe, "During the early part of the forenoon my attention was called to numerous rough boxes which had been placed along the road just outside the garden fence. Ominous and dismal as was the sight presented, it nevertheless did not prevent some of the soldiers from passing jocular expressions. One of the men near by, being addressed with the remark that there was no telling how soon he would be put in one of them, replied, "I will consider myself very lucky if I get one." [50] Of course, many who could be identified were buried in local cemeteries if their bodies could be removed home.

Tomb of the Unknown Civil War Dead - Arlington National CemeteryIncluded in those who remain unidentified are those buried under this stone in Arlington National Cemetery. Here lay the remains of 2,111 of those who fought, fell, and died upon many fields of battle during the American Civil War. Sadly, the realities of war occasionally rendered impossible the delivery of aid and finally, the removal of bodies. Not until after all hostilities ended could soldiers gather the remains of many of their comrades. Placed in a sectioned vault beneath this stone are the arms, legs, and bodies of the numerous anonymous dead. Although intended for Union Soldiers, the unidentified undoubtedly included Confederate Soldiers who now rest here at peace with their former adversaries.

 
The Inscription on this Monument Reads:

"Beneath this Stone
Repose the Bones of Two Thousand One Hundred and Eleven Unknown Soldiers
Gathered After the War
From the Fields of Bull Run, and the Route to the Rappahannock.
Their Remains Could Not Be Identified. But Their Names and Deaths are
Recorded in the Archives of Their Country; And Its Grateful Citizens
Honor Them as of Their Noble Army of Martyrs. May They Rest in Peace!
September, A.D. 1866."