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.
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."
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
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."
Of course, many who could be identified were buried in local
cemeteries if their bodies could be removed home.
Included 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.