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

Alexandria National Cemetery

Alexandria, Virginia

Main Gates
Main Gate, Alexandria National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs,
National Cemetery Administration, History Program

First known simply as “Soldiers’ Cemetery,” the Alexandria National Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia is one of the original 14 national cemeteries established in 1862.  Located just west of Old Town Alexandria, the cemetery features a historic superintendent’s lodge designed by U.S. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs.  The cemetery is also the final resting place of the four civilians who died in pursuit of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

During the Civil War, Alexandria served as a major staging ground for Union troops charged with defending the nation’s capital across the Potomac River.  The Union established six infantry companies and one artillery company here.  Even as the fighting shifted westward away from Washington, the city remained an important supply depot and hospital center.  To provide burial space for Union soldiers who died in the city’s hospitals, the Federal Government established Alexandria National Cemetery in 1862.  The relatively small site, covering just 5.5 acres, filled up quickly.  Within two years the cemetery was nearly full, contributing to the creation of Arlington National Cemetery five miles to the north.  Alexandria National Cemetery officially closed to new interments in 1967, and is the final resting place for over 4,000 individuals.

The main entrance to the cemetery is on Wilkes Street, which terminates at the cemetery’s 12-foot wide, cast-iron gates.  Leading from this entrance is the only paved roadway in the cemetery, which extends west past the lodge and then loops around the central flagpole and rostrum.  Built in 1870 in the Second Empire style, the lodge is of Seneca sandstone blocks quarried from the Potomac River Valley. The same material was used to construct the four-foot high wall that encloses the cemetery.  The only other structures on the grounds are a utility building built in 1887, a flagpole plaza erected by the New Deal-era Civilian Works Administration, and the marble rostrum built in 1946.  Near the flagpole is the Alexandria Bicentennial Tree, recognized in 1980 as one of the oldest trees in the city.

Four civilian employees of the Quartermaster Corps—Peter Carroll, Samuel N. Gosnell, George W. Huntington, and Christopher Farley, who drowned crossing the Rappahannock River in pursuit of John Wilkes Booth on April 24, 1865—are buried in Section A, Graves 3174-3177.  The Federal Government erected a bronze tablet atop a granite boulder base in 1922 to honor the men.  Five “Buffalo” soldiers—African American soldiers who served in the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalries and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantries —are interred in Section B. 

While there are presently no Confederate troops buried in the cemetery, at one time 39 Confederate prisoners of war who died in nearby prison camps were interred in the cemetery.  All of the Confederate soldiers are now buried elsewhere, including 34 reinterred in the nearby Christ Church Cemetery by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1879.
Plan your visit

Alexandria National Cemetery is located at 1450 Wilkes St., in Alexandria, VA.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from sunrise to sunset.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  The administrative office is located at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, and the office is open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm; it is closed on all Federal holidays except for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 703-221-2183, 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.

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

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