Union soldier figure atop monument at Baxter Springs National Cemetery; Bivouac of the Dead plaque at Wood National Cemetery; Flagpole and graves at Togus National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Hot Springs National Cemetery

Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hot Springs National Cemetery
Sandstone Obelisk, Hot Springs National Cemetery
James Rosenthal, Historic American Buildings Survey Photographer
Hot Springs National Cemetery was created in 1907 as a burial place for veterans who died while receiving treatment at Hot Springs Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The sanitarium, a branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, was the first and only facility designed for short-term treatment. The cemetery, at the foot of Battle Mountain and affording impressive views of the mountains and hills to the north, contains nearly 1,500 interments. A 32-foot-tall obelisk stands watch over the cemetery’s graves, erected in honor of those who died in defense of the country.

The Civil War left thousands of volunteer soldiers with injuries and disabilities. Some required long-term care that was often more than families could provide.  In 1865, the U.S. Congress passed legislation creating homes for disabled volunteer soldiers to provide medical care and the basic necessities of life: shelter, meals, clothing, and employment.  The establishment of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in 1902 represents the evolution of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. While earlier homes were designed primarily as residential facilities, the sanitarium provided short-term medical care, releasing veterans when their treatments were completed.

The sanitarium focused on the treatment of lung and respiratory problems and took advantage of the area’s dry climate and natural spring waters.  A move to create a National Home branch in Hot Springs began in the late 1890s, spurred by the success of a state soldiers’ home in the area. After an inspection by a representative of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and lobbying by the Grand Army of the Republic—a Union veterans association—Congress authorized the construction of a National Home branch in Hot Springs in 1902.  The Battle Mountain Sanitarium opened in 1907.

Named for the wooded elevation east of the facility, the sanitarium is located on a bluff overlooking the canyon of the Fall River. Architect Thomas Rogers Kimball designed the distinctive buildings that comprise the sanitarium’s campus.  The original building complex featured a radial design with wards projecting from a central courtyard, similar to the spokes of a wheel.  Kimball used a combination of Spanish Colonial Revival and Richardsonian Romanesque architectural styles, incorporating locally quarried sandstone into his buildings. 

A cemetery was established in 1907 for the burial of veterans who died while in treatment at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The first interment took place in May 1907.  The cemetery site, northeast of the main hospital complex and at the foot of the mountain, is bounded by mature pine and cedar trees. More than 1,400 burials are laid out in regular rows, with each grave marked by a white marble headstone. The cemetery’s entrance is flanked by rubble stone piers that taper down and continue as a level wall.  A bronze plaque on each pier identifies the cemetery.

Hot Springs National Cemetery
Hot Springs National Cemetery
James Rosenthal, Historic American Buildings Survey Photographer

At the top of the cemetery’s slope, southeast of the graves, stands a 32-foot-tall sandstone obelisk. Built in 1914, the obelisk is inscribed with: “In Memory of the Men Who Offered Their Lives in the Defense of This Country.”  A granite block memorial erected in 1940 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars honors Army Chaplain Guy Squire. Squire served during both the Spanish-American War and World War I, and later became chaplain at the Hot Springs facility.

Hot 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.”

During the 1930s, the National Home branches became a part of the newly formed Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs). The cemetery operated as a Veterans Affairs Medical Center cemetery until 1973, when it was officially declared a national cemetery.  Today the historic Battle Mountain Sanitarium is a part of the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System, which continues to provide care and comfort to U.S. veterans.
Plan your visit

Hot Springs National Cemetery is located on the grounds of the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System, which is located at 500 N. 5th St in Hot Springs, SD.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from sunrise to sunset; however, no cemetery staff is present on site.  The administrative office is located at the Black Hills National Cemetery and is open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm; it is closed on all Federal holidays.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 605-347-3830, 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 historic National Homes for Disabled Volunteers Soldiers are the subject of a National Park Service  National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Travel Itinerary developed by the National Park Service. The itinerary features the 11 homes established after the Civil War, including the Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

Visitors to the sanitarium can walk or drive around the facility. The only building open to the public is a museum located in Building 11 that is open from 7:00am to 5:00pm from Memorial Day through September or October and otherwise by request.  The museum displays military records and ledgers in addition to old medical equipment. For more information, see the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System website. Please respect the privacy of veterans utilizing the facility.

Hot Springs National Cemetery was photographed to the standards established by the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey. Battle Mountain Sanitarium has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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