View of soldiers graves near City Point General Hospital, circa 1865; historic cemetery ID shield; Lithograph of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Hampton National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Hampton VAMC National Cemetery

Hampton, Virginia

Hampton VAMC National Cemetery
Hampton VAMC National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs,
National Cemetery Administration, History Program

Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) National Cemetery on the grounds of the Hampton VA Medical Center contains the remains of only 22 veterans. All but two of those buried in the cemetery died during an 1899 outbreak of Yellow Fever while quarantined at what was then known as the Southern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The cemetery is the smallest national cemetery in the country, covering just 0.03 acres.

The Southern Branch at Hampton opened in 1870, providing housing and long-term medical care to the veterans of the Union Army.  With three branches already located in Togus, Maine; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Dayton, Ohio, the Board of Managers for the National Home chose Hampton for its newest branch based on its location near Fort Monroe, its temperate climate, and its proximity to the veterans, especially those of the U.S. Colored Troop regiments.  The site chosen once served as the Chesapeake Female College, but the college closed at the onset of the Civil War and the Union turned the facility into the Chesapeake Military Hospital.  Building 36, which now serves as the Engineering Services/Security Services Building, is the only remnant of the college remaining on the grounds.

In July 1899, an outbreak of Yellow Fever struck the National Home.  The report of the first case occurred on July 16, and the first deaths followed on July 27.  The threat of Yellow Fever was taken quite seriously at the time, especially in Hampton Roads, where a similar outbreak in 1855 killed more than 2,000, and sent residents fleeing inland to unaffected areas.  In order to contain the 1899 outbreak, the National Home was quarantined from the rest of the city.  In addition, the home relocated 1,500 of its veterans, nearly half of its population, to tents while fumigating the residence halls and disinfecting or burning bed linens.  Ultimately, the quarantine succeeded in keeping the outbreak from spreading to the surrounding towns, and the National Home reported less than four dozen cases total.

The bodies of those who died at the Home during the quarantine were not allowed to leave the premises.  Even though Hampton National Cemetery was just outside the National Home’s gates, a new cemetery was established on the grounds of the Home to bury the victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak.  Of the 22 men buried , 20 were casualties of the Yellow Fever outbreak. Dates of death range from July 30 to September 5, 1899.  Two civilians were buried in the cemetery in 1909 and 1912.  While the cemetery sometimes is referred to as the Spanish-American War Cemetery, the veterans buried here actually served during the Civil War, as indicated by the regimental designations on the headstones.

The 1,300-square foot cemetery consists of three rows of graves surrounded by a hedgerow.  No fences, flagpoles, or entry gates surround the Hampton VAMC National Cemetery.  Instead, a small opening in the hedges that allows pedestrian access to the cemetery is flanked by two small sections of brick walls, each approximately three feet tall and three feet long.  The cemetery has no monuments, but contains two plaques at the entrance.  One identifies the cemetery, and the other features excerpts from Theodore O’Hara’s poem “Bivouac of the Dead.”
Plan your visit

Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) National Cemetery is located on the grounds of the Hampton VA Medical Center on Harris Ave., west of its intersection with Emancipation Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., in Hampton, VA.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from dawn to dusk.  The administrative office is located at the Hampton National Cemetery, and the office is open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm, and is closed on all Federal holidays except for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 757-723-7104, or see the Department of Veterans Affairs website.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground.  Be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.

The Southern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is part of the National Park Service and Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Travel Itinerary

Hampton VMAC National Cemetery was photographed to the standards established by the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey. Numerous buildings on the grounds of the former National Home have been photographed by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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