Why Are No Confederate Soldiers Buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery?
The national cemetery system was established by Congress in 1862, in response to the mortality rate suffered by Union forces during the Civil War. These national cemeteries initially served as the final resting place for "soldiers who shall die in the service of the country," and by this definition, did not include those states which had seceded from the Union. In 1873, the right of burial in a national cemetery was extended to all honorably discharged Union veterans of the Civil War, and, over the years, Congress passed legislation that gradually extended burial privileges to a larger portion of the population. This would include Confederate veterans who served in the army or navy of the United States in later wars.
Vicksburg National Cemetery was established in 1866 to serve as a central burial location for Union soldiers who were killed in action or died of disease during service in this region. Union soldiers whose remains could be located in battlefield graves or at hospital sites were disinterred, brought to Vicksburg, and placed in the national cemetery. There are approximately 17,000 Union soldiers interred in the national cemetery at Vicksburg of which number 13,000 are listed simply as "Unknown."
The Confederate soldiers who were killed or died of disease during the siege of Vicksburg were, by necessity, buried behind Southern lines. Mr. J.Q. Arnold, a local undertaker under contract with the Confederate government to bury soldiers, selected Cedar Hill (Vicksburg City) Cemetery as the final resting place for those who died in the defense of Vicksburg. As these men did not meet the criteria established by Congress for burial in a national cemetery, their remains were not disinterred, and remain today in the Soldiers' Rest section of Cedar Hill Cemetery, where their graves are lovingly maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Did You Know?
In 1903, Massachusetts was the first state to erect a memorial to its soldiers who served during the Vicksburg campaign on the grounds of Vicksburg National Military Park.