Vicksburg National Cemetery embraces 116 acres, and holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, a number unmatched by any other national cemetery. Covering ground once manned by the extreme right of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's XV Army Corps during the siege of Vicksburg, it was established by an act of Congress in 1866, and serves as the final resting place for United States soldiers who gallantly served this country in times of national and international conflict.
During the Civil War, soldiers that succumbed to wounds or disease were typically buried close to where they died. If their name was known, their grave could be marked with whatever materials were at hand — most commonly the etching of the name into a wooden board.
After the creation of Vicksburg National Cemetery, extensive efforts were made by the War Department to locate the remains of Union soldiers originally buried throughout the southeast in the areas occupied by Federal forces during the campaign and siege of Vicksburg — namely, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. However, by the time of these re-interments many of the wooden markers had been lost to the elements, and identification of many of the soldiers was rendered impossible.
Others who died during the Federal occupation of Vicksburg were buried at various points in the Vicksburg vicinity prior to the cemetery's establishment. Record-keeping was haphazard under wartime conditions and these grave locations were often lost. Following the Civil War, the U.S. Army located and exhumed the remains of 300,000 Union soldiers buried in the South, re-interring the remains in national cemeteries throughout the country.
Nationwide, 54% of the number re-interred were classified as "unknown". At Vicksburg National Cemetery, 75% of the Civil War dead are listed as unknowns, while at Salisbury (N.C.) National Cemetery, 99% of the 12,126 Federal soldiers interred are listed as unidentified. Rounded, upright headstones mark the graves of the known soldiers, while small, square blocks, etched with a grave number only, designate the burials of the unknowns. A few graves are marked by nongovernment-issued headstones. No one of national fame is buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery, with Brevet Brig. Gen. Embury D. Osband qualifiying as the highest-ranking veteran interred (Grave #16648, Section O). In the late 1860's, two Confederates were mistakenly buried in Section B of the cemetery (Private Reuben White, 19th Texas Infantry Regiment, Grave #2637; Sergeant Charles B. Brantley, 12th Arkansas Sharpshooters Battalion, Grave #2673).
The first national cemeteries established by Congress in 1862 were to provide a burial place for "soldiers who shall die in the service of the country". At the time, this provision applied only to Union war dead. Following the Spanish-American War, veterans of later wars became qualified for burial in national cemeteries, and approximately 1,300 veterans of conflicts subsequent to the Civil War are interred in Vicksburg National Cemetery. A scattering of other burials includes veterans who served during peace time, former cemetery superintendents and their families, wives and children of veterans, government workers, and a few civilians of the past century.
Vicksburg National Cemetery was under the jurisdiction of the War Department until 1933, when administration was turned over to the Department of the Interior's National Park Service. The last cemetery superintendent, Randolph G. Anderson, retired in 1947, and supervision of the cemetery became the added responsibility of the superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park.
Vicksburg National Cemetery has been closed for burials since May 1961 except to those individuals who had reserved space for interment prior to that time.
The names of the soldiers interred in Vicksburg National Cemetery have been compiled from the original cemetery ledgers. The three-volume set contains only basic information about each known veteran, recorded at the time of re-interment. Although the handwritten pencil entries are in remarkable condition, many do contain inaccuracies and/or only partial information about the soldier. The listings on this site identify information as it was recorded in the Vicksburg National Cemetery ledgers.
Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign originally buried behind Confederate lines, have now been re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery (Cedar Hill Cemetery), in an area called "Soldiers' Rest." Approximately 5,000 Confederates have been re-interred there, of which 1,600 are identified.