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

Staunton National Cemetery

Staunton, Virginia

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

Located in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Staunton National Cemetery, in Staunton, Virginia, is the final resting place for nearly 1,000 veterans, including many who died defending the Union against Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862.  Established in 1866, the cemetery retains much of its historic integrity, including the original stone wall and a superintendent’s lodge that U.S. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs designed.  Located 1.5 miles east of central Staunton, the national cemetery is both a vivid reminder of the brutal Civil War conflicts in the valley and a place of honor for fallen United States soldiers.

While the town of Staunton avoided direct fighting during the Civil War, it served as an important supply depot for the Confederacy, and several major battles occurred in the vicinity.  On June 8, 1862, as Union Major General John C. Frémont pursued Major General “Stonewall” Jackson’s forces, he engaged the troops of Major General Richard S. Ewell at Cross Keys.  A surprise Confederate attack, led by Brigadier General Julius Stahel, forced the Union to retreat.  The following day at the Battle of Port Republic, five miles southeast of Cross Keys, Jackson’s men defeated the forces of Union Brigadier General Erastus B. Tyler, marking the end of the Valley Campaign.  The campaign proved a great success for the Confederates, yielding a string of victories, which forced the Union to retreat from the valley and reorganize their forces and leadership.

Two years later, at the Battle of Piedmont, ten miles northeast of Staunton, Union Major General David Hunter faced off against Confederate forces led by Brigadier General W. E. “Grumble” Jones.  Jones was killed during the battle, and the North scored a decisive victory, capturing more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers, causing 600 casualties, and looting the Confederate’s supply depot at Staunton.

In order to provide a burial ground for Union soldiers who died during the battles of the Shenandoah Valley, the Federal Government established the Staunton National Cemetery in 1866.  Of the first 749 burials at the cemetery, 518 were unknown soldiers, reinterred from western Virginia battlefields.  The cemetery closed to new interments in 1983, and contains the remains of veterans from every major conflict from the Civil War to Vietnam.

Headstones, Staunton, National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program
Surrounded by a limestone wall on all sides, the cemetery consists of five burial sections covering 1.15 acres.  The main entrance is in the center of the southern wall and is marked by a double wrought-iron gate anchored by dressed stone piers.  Just inside the gate is the superintendent’s lodge.  Built in 1871 and designed by Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, the 1½-story lodge features the distinctive mansard roof common to the Second Empire style.  The cemetery’s central axis, which begins at the entrance gate, extends north to the flagpole at the middle of the grounds.  Located in front of the flagpole is a seacoast cannon, planted upright with a cannonball in its mouth. Affixed to the gun is an 1874 shield plaque with the cemetery's name, date of establishment and the number of known and unknown interments.

Among the honored dead at Staunton National Cemetery is Nicolai Dunca, who immigrated to the United States from his native Romania in December 1861, and four months later, enlisted in the Union army despite remaining a Romanian citizen.  With his prior military experience, he was made a captain of the 12th New York Infantry, and he served as aide-de-camp to General Frémont.  Dunca died at the Battle of Cross Keys, and was initially buried at nearby Perkey’s Farm, but was later reinterred to Section B, Grave 292 of the national cemetery.  Also buried at the cemetery are 67 Union prisoners of war, two of whom are buried as unknowns.
Plan your visit

Staunton National Cemetery is located at 901 Richmond Ave., in Staunton, VA.  The cemetery is open for visitation from dawn to dusk.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  The administrative office is located at the Culpeper National Cemetery, in Culpeper, 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 540-825-0027, 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.

Staunton National Cemetery is in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Heritage Area.

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

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