Fredericksburg National Cemetery

Fredericksburg National Cemetery Burial Roster

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A Walking Tour

As you enter the cemetery on this 30-minute walking tour, you will encounter steep slopes and uneven ground. Please watch your footing. Monuments throughout the cemetery stand as memorials to the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in the four nearby battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. Burial plots are consecutively numbered; thus, the cemetery is not organized by state, unit or campaign. Soldiers are mostly privates because higher-ranking officers were often transported home by family members.

When the Civil War ended, the people of Fredericksburg set about the task of restoring shell-damaged buildings and war-torn lives. But the evidence of the war lingered on, in the trench-scarred hillsides and crude cemetery plots scattered haphazardly across the nearby battlefields. Thousands of battle casualties lay under stark mounds of earth, with very little to identify the soldiers, beyond perhaps a name scratched on the lid of an ammunition box.

In July 1865, three months after the restoration of peace between the states, Congress authorized the establishment of a National Cemetery in Fredericksburg to honor the Federal soldiers who died on the battlefields or from disease in camp. The site chosen was Marye's Heights, the formidable Confederate position which had proven so impregnable to repeated Federal attacks on December 13, 1862.

A soldier who fought with the 14th Indiana in the recent war returned to Fredericksburg as a member of a veteran corps assigned the task of locating and identifying the dead. He made these observations in a letter: "Your correspondent roamed all over the battle field of December 13, 1862. No headboards or monuments mark the spot where the gallant defenders of the old flag fell on that ever-memorable day. The great 'slaughter pen' of General Ambrose E. Burnside is most all under cultivation, enriched with the blood of as brave men as ever answered their country's call."

Sketch Showing Original Burial of Dead at Fredericksburg

The Fredericksburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 15,000 United States soldiers. Most of the soldiers died during the Civil War, but there are about 100 20th century soldiers and a couple of spouses. The cemetery was officially closed to further burials in the 1940's. The Union Civil War soldiers buried here include those who died of illness in the camps around Fredericksburg, in the four major battles around Fredericksburg as well the Mine Run and North Anna campaigns. Only about 20% of the soldiers are identified. Confederates who died in the Fredericksburg area were interred in Confederate cemeteries in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania. The park maintains a data base of information on the known burials in all three cemeteries. For information on the known burials, call the visitor center at (540) 373-6122.

Countless thousands died in the Civil War in defense of their home, state, or nation. General Robert E. Lee described the cost aptly from a vantage point just south of this ridge during the Battle of Fredericksburg: "It is well war is so terrible -- we should grow too fond of it."

Below is the text from the Fredericksburg National Cemetery walking trail folder.

Tour Stop #1: Fifth Corps Monument

Dedicated in 1901 to the service of the Fifth Corps in the war, it was erected largely through the efforts of its commander in the The Battle of Fredericksburg, Daniel Butterfield. It is one of eighty monuments in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Behind the monument are the graves of several officers, including Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hill of the 16th Michigan Infantry, who won the Medal of Honor leading his troops in a charge at the Battle of Cold Harbor. He is one of the highest ranking officers in the cemetery.

Tour Stop #2: Moesch Monument

Joseph Anton Moesch, a Swiss immigrant, was a member of the 83rd New York Volunteers, known as "Swiss Rifles." Killed at the Wilderness while leading his regiment, Colonel Moesch's body was placed in an unmarked grave on the battlefield. Years after the war, his comrades returned to have his remains reinterred in the National Cemetery and marked with a suitable monument. Few are so honored. Of the 15,243 Civil War soldiers resting here, only 2,473 are in identified graves. Identified soldiers occupy a single grave marked by a rounded tombstone on which are inscribed the soldier's name and state. You will see small stones which mark the graves of the unknown. On the stones are two sets of numbers: the top number identifies the grave plot; the lower one identifies the number of bodies in that grave.

From atop these heights you have a panoramic view of the countryside below. Much has changed since that cold afternoon of December 13, 1862, when the roar of battle focused on this ridge. Green-carpeted terraces now replace the rugged slopes. It took several years for military details from Washington to complete the task of building the cemetery and interring the thousands of Federal soldiers.

Tour Stop #3: Parker's Battery Memorial

Five months after the Battle of Fredericksburg, during the Chancellorsville Campaign, Union troops again attacked Marye's Heights. This time only a few hundred Confederates defended the ridge, and this time the Union forces succeeded in taking it. They captured seven guns, among them two pieces of Captain William Parker's Virginia Battery, which was posted here. Although hundreds of Confederate soldiers perished defending this ridge, none are buried here. Southern soldiers who died in this area are interred at Confederate cemeteries located in downtown Fredericksburg and at Spotsylvania Court House

Tour Stop #4: Humphreys' Division Monument

Commanding the center of the cemetery, this monument commemorates the charge of General Andrew A. Humphreys' Division of Pennsylvania Infantry, Fifth Corps, on December 13, 1862. This was the last and most nearly successful of several attacks directed toward Marye's Heights and the Confederate defenses. Surging forward at dusk, Humphreys' men got within 100 yards of this ridge before being driven back by the fire of Confederate riflemen located in the Sunken Road. In 1908 the State of Pennsylvania erected this monument to honor the more than one thousand soldiers of Humphreys' division who were casualties in that attack. Ironically, many who lost their lives in these attacks now rest peacefully on this same ridge.

Tour Stop #5: Willis Cemetery

The Willis Cemetery, enclosed by the brick wall, has stood since before the Civil War on what was then known as Willis Hill. The stone gate posts still bear the marks of war. The Willis House, which stood at about the site of the present post-war residence, burned before the war began. Beyond the Willis home and out of view stood Brompton, the home of the neighboring Marye family. The two homes were separated by a gap in the ridge. Due to the national attention focused here in 1862 and 1863, the name Marye's Heights came to identify the entire ridge.

Tour Stop #6: 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Monument

The 127th Pennsylvania was a nine-month unit. Its only battle experience came in the assaults against Marye's Heights on December 13, 1862 and May 3, 1863. On December 13, 1862, it lost one-third of its men in a failed attempt to storm these heights. Five months later, in May 2, 1863, it supported the Sixth Corps in a successful attack across the same ground. Near this monument and throughout the cemetery are several plaques containing verses of the poem "The Bivouac of the Dead." Written by Theodore O'Hara to commemorate Kentuckians killed in the Mexican War, the poem has since become associated with national cemeteries throughout the country.

127th Pennsylvania Monument

127th Pennsylvania Monument

Humphreys Division Monument

Humphreys' Division Monument, Fredericksburg National Cemetery

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