View of wooden markers at Dayton National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers cemetery, now Dayton National Cemetery; Entrance to Alexandria (VA) National Cemetery, circa 1865; Rostrum, circa 1890, Loudon Park National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Annapolis National Cemetery

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis National Cemetery
Annapolis National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program
One of the 14 national cemeteries that date from the Civil War, the Annapolis National Cemetery is the final resting place for many Union soldiers who died in the nearby “parole camps” and hospitals of the Maryland capital.  While some died of battlefield injuries, many lost their lives to the diseases that spread through the camps.  The graves are a testament to the sacrifice and service of Union soldiers, including those of U.S. Colored Troop Regiments. Also found in the cemetery are hospital nurses and several Confederate soldiers.  Additionally, the cemetery has the unusual distinction of being the final resting place of a Russian sailor who died in Annapolis during the Civil War.

Annapolis was not the site of a Civil War battle, but the location was significant to the Union forces.  Early in the conflict, the Maryland capital served as the preferred disembarkation point for Union troops arriving by ship from the northern States. Because of sympathies with the South in Baltimore, the Union considered the larger port there unsafe, and Confederate cannons blocked an approach to Washington, D.C. via the Potomac River.   As the war progressed, the Army established military hospitals in Annapolis, the largest of which used the vacated buildings of the U.S. Naval School, now the U.S. Naval Academy. Annapolis National Cemetery lies equidistant from the Naval Academy Army hospital and the largest of the Annapolis parole camps, on the north side of the main road out of town at the marshy headwaters of College Creek.

During the Civil War, both sides routinely exchanged prisoners of war, following a formal system of exchange agreed upon early in the war.  In February 1862, the U.S. military designated Annapolis as a place to house paroled Union soldiers for recuperation and care prior to reuniting them with their regiments.  The first parole camp for soldiers was a small, makeshift collection of tents on the grounds of St. John’s College.  As the number of paroled soldiers increased, the Union established a new parole camp southwest of downtown Annapolis.  With more than 20,000 men filling its tents, this new camp also proved too small and inadequate at providing shelter during the winter of 1862-63.  With the men suffering from cold and illness, the Army saw the need for better shelters for the paroled troops and constructed a new parole camp in 1863 near the tracks of the Annapolis and Elkridge Railroad west of downtown Annapolis.  Known as “Camp Parole,” this facility remained through the end of the war, housing as many as 25,000 men at its peak.  Clara Barton, the “Angel of the Battlefield,” maintained her headquarters at the camp as she fulfilled her final wartime task of registering missing and unaccounted for Union soldiers.

A private cemetery known as Ash Grove received interments prior to the official establishment of the national cemetery in 1862. This graveyard would later become the Annapolis National Cemetery.  Early burials were Union soldiers who died of wounds in the Army hospital.  Many of the later interments in the cemetery were soldiers who died at one of the three parole camps the government established between 1861 and 1863.  In addition to complications from wounds suffered in battle and the poor living conditions in Confederate prisoner of war camps, the paroled Union soldiers suffered from disease that spread due to the unsanitary conditions of the parole camps.  Smallpox, typhoid fever, dysentery, consumption, and tuberculosis were common causes of death. 

Wall and gate
Wall and Gate, Annapolis National Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program

Annapolis National Cemetery is the final resting place for one foreign national who died during the Civil War.  N. Demidoff served on board a Russian man-of-war docked in Annapolis, one of two Russian ships participating in a goodwill tour.  Supposedly, after a local saloon refused him a drink, Demidoff started a barroom brawl, and someone shot him during the melee.  His interment in the cemetery followed a traditional Russian Orthodox ceremony.

The cemetery officially closed to new interments in 1961.  Today, it contains nearly 3,000 graves in 15 burial sections spread over four acres.  A portion of the original late 19th century rubble-stone wall still stands, marking the cemetery’s perimeter.  Dating from 1940, the Classical Revival style entry gate is wide enough to accommodate automobiles.  The current superintendent’s lodge dates from the same year and replaced the original 1871 lodge.  Constructed on the old foundation, the lodge is a brick Colonial Revival style building with a steeply pitched gable roof.  Near the lodge are the cemetery’s flagpole and two brick-and-concrete storage/utility buildings from 1936.
Plan your visit

Annapolis National Cemetery is located at 800 West St. in Annapolis, MD. The cemetery is open for visitation daily between sunrise and sunset. No cemetery staff is present onsite. The administrative office is located at the Baltimore National Cemetery, and the offices are open Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm; the offices are closed on all Federal holidays except for Memorial Day.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 410-644-9696, 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 Annapolis can visit the site of the first parole camp and the second Army hospital, both situated on the grounds of St. John’s College in the Annapolis Historic District.  Visitors are also welcomed at the United States Naval Academy, where the first hospital was established to care for wounded Union troops.

The sites of the second and third parole camps have been covered by buildings as Annapolis grew after the Civil War.  The second camp, established in 1862, is most likely now the site of a shopping center off Forest Drive.  The third camp, Camp Parole, was located along West Street near Old Solomon’s Island Road.

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

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