Detail of gate post at Alexandria (VA) National Cemetery; Rows of unknown graves at Memphis National Cemetery; Directional sign post to Fort Gibson National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Mill Springs National Cemetery

Nancy, Kentucky

Entrance gates, Mill Springs National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program
Mill Springs National Cemetery, located in Nancy, Kentucky, initially opened in 1862 to provide a final resting place for the Union dead from the nearby Battle of Mill Springs, one of the first significant northern victories of the Civil War.  Brigadier General George H. Thomas, the Union commander at the battle, laid out the plan for the original cemetery.  His plan can still be seen today within the historic perimeter wall.  The cemetery remains open to new burials, making it one of the oldest national cemeteries that can still accept new interments.

The Battle of Mill Springs in January 1862 saw 4,400 Union troops turn back nearly 5,900 Confederates.  Union casualties amounted to 40 killed, 207 wounded, and 15 missing; Confederate losses amounted to 125 killed, 309 wounded, and 95 missing.  The Confederacy’s most significant casualty was General Felix Zollicoffer, the first southern General killed in action. Reportedly, he died after wandering into Union ranks, thinking they were his own men. 

The battle, also referred to as the Battle of Logan’s Cross Roads, occurred in part on farmland owned by William H. Logan and his wife Nancy.  After the battle, Logan donated land to the Federal Government for the cemetery, then known as the Logan’s Cross Roads National Cemetery.  To honor their donation, the Logans are interred with private markers in Section F of the cemetery.  During the 1880s, the cemetery’s name was changed to match the most common moniker for the battle.

The cemetery's original 6.3-acre plot features a roughly rectangular layout, with central cross axes intersecting at the flagpole.  Brigadier General Thomas laid out the plan of the cemetery, arranging the graves in orderly east-west rows.  While the central axes are no longer evident, the flagpole remains at its original location.  Additional sections to the east, north, and west now flank the oldest parcel of land.

Site Plan
1893 Site Plan of Mill Springs National Cemetery.
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
(click on image to enlarge)
Wrought iron gates with stone piers mark the main entrance to the cemetery at the middle of the southern property line, with a pedestrian gate adjacent to the entry.  The first cemetery wall, constructed in 1868, consisted of a three-foot high stone wall with cement coping; the only portion that remains today is located along the southern and eastern boundaries of the oldest sections.  Wrought iron fencing runs from the main entrance to the southwest corner of the cemetery, and wire fencing surrounds the remainder.

The first superintendent’s lodge, a three-room wooden cottage built in 1870, sat just outside the cemetery walls.  This lodge burned in 1916, and a new stone lodge was constructed by 1920.  It was demolished sometime after 1980.  Other structures on site include a 1936 service building and a committal shelter, both north of the main entrance.

Mill Springs National Cemetery is the final resting place for a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, given for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Major General John Jacob Bethurum Williams, who fought along the Mexican border in 1916, saw action in Europe during World War I, and served as one of the Army’s top officers during World War II, is buried in Gravesite 790-H.
Plan your visit

The Mill Springs National Cemetery is located at 9044 West Highway 80, in Nancy, KY.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photographs.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from dawn to dusk.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  The administrative office is located at the Camp Nelson National Cemetery, and the office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm, and is closed on all Federal holidays.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 859-885-5727, 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.

Visitors to the Mill Springs National Cemetery may also be interested in Mill Springs Battlefield Visitor Center and Museum, located adjacent to the cemetery.  The Mill Springs Battlefield is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Historic Landmark; click here for the National Register file: text and photographs, or the National Historic Landmark file: text and photographs.  Also of interest is the Zollicoffer Park Cemetery, located on State Highway 235 approximately one mile south of Nancy, the final resting place for many of the Confederate casualties of the Battle of Mill Springs.

Mill Springs National Cemetery is the subject of an online lesson plan, The Battle of Mill Springs: The Civil War Divides a Border State.  The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.  To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage.

Mill Springs National Cemetery was photographed to the standards established by the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey.

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