Alexandria (VA) National Cemetery; Superintendent’s Lodge at City Point National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Alton National Cemetery

Alton, Illinois

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

Alton National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 500 soldiers, including veterans of every major conflict from the Civil War to Vietnam.  This small national cemetery consists of three terraced burial sections and features a distinctive entrance and rostrum constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Due to Alton’s location on the Mississippi River, approximately 20 miles upstream from St. Louis, it became an important Union hospital center during the Civil War.  Soldiers wounded in battle in the South were transported upriver via steamboat.  For those who died in area hospitals, a soldiers' lot was established within Alton City Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the State of Illinois.

After the conclusion of the war, the Federal Government proposed reinterring the Union soldiers buried in Alton to Springfield National Cemetery, 80 miles to the northeast, but local citizens successfully campaigned to keep the soldiers’ remains where they were.  In 1940, the Alton City Cemetery Association agreed to transfer control of the soldiers' lot to the Federal Government, on the condition that a rostrum be constructed onsite for Memorial Day services and other events.  The WPA completed the rostrum in 1941.  From 1941 to 1942, 49 soldiers were reinterred in the national cemetery from other locations throughout Alton City Cemetery. 

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

The half-acre cemetery is located at the northeast corner of Alton City Cemetery.  The rectangular site slopes downward from west to east, with terraces separating each of the three burial sections.  The integrated entrance gate and rostrum is located on Pearl Street. Wrought-iron gates flanked by a cast-stone and wrought-iron fence open onto a central set of brick stairs which leads up to a plaza at the bottom of the rostrum.  Two additional flights of brick stairs lead up to the upper speaking platform and podium, which overlooks the cemetery. The platform is enclosed by a decorative wrought-iron railing, and the surrounding concrete blocks feature a modified Greek-key motif.  The cemetery’s flagpole sits below the podium within the cemetery.

A concrete walkway extends up the northern side of the cemetery and provides access to the three burial sections. The oldest burials in the national cemetery, including those dating to the Civil War, are on the highest terraces in Sections B and C.  These sections are shaded by mature trees and are enclosed by low concrete curbing on all sides. A concrete walkway, also defined by low curbing, separates the two sections. The burials gradually become more recent as one descends from the hilltop towards the rostrum, and all graves in the cemetery lie in rows running north and south.
Plan your visit

Alton National Cemetery is located at 600 Pearl Street, in Alton, IL.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from dawn to dusk.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  The administrative office is located at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, MO, and the office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm; it is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 314-845-8320, 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 Alton National Cemetery may also be interested in the North Alton Confederate Cemetery located approximately four miles to the northwest. 

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

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