By James. S Russling----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|Plan of the Gettysburg Cemetery|
The war for the Union is over. Our surviving veterans are once more among us, and the country tenders them its gratitude and homage. We meet them in all the highways and by-ways of life, bronzed of feature, and a little stiff and precise, perhaps, from the pursuit of arms; but there is that in the glance of their eye and firmness of tread that speaks of work well done, and the people welcome them to their hearths and homes as the crowned heroes of the age. Society, without distinction of clique or party, unites to do them honor.
Our Government, with all its multiplied burdens and cares, and though struggling for very existence, does not seem to have forgotten its duty in this regard in our late war, though, in common with other governments, it seems to have omitted it in all previous ones. Common burying-grounds, indeed, appear always to have been kept at the various posts and forts where our troops were stationed, and those who died thus in garrison have doubtless been well cared for; but those who fell in battle, whether in the Revolutionary struggle in the second contest with Great Britain, or in the Mexican and Indian wars, seem to have been hastily interred on the spot where they fell, and that was the last the nation knew or seemed to care for them. At all events we may safely affirm that nothing approaching to the dignity of national respect or national care appears ever to have been manifested afterward. This has struck us as fairly remarkable, all things considered; and we did not suppose that there had been such a total neglect of our national duty in this respect until we came to inquire into the facts for the purposes of this paper. But our record in this matter, as well as in so many others, promises soon materially to improve.
Early in the war, so long ago, indeed, as September, 1861, the Secretary of War, by a General Order, directed accurate and permanent records to be kept of deceased soldiers and their places of burial. To this end the Quarter-Master General was ordered to print and place in every general and post hospital of the army blank books and forms, very minute and specific in their details, for the purpose of classifying and preserving such records. The Quarter-Master's Department was also charged with the further duty of providing proper means for a registered head-board to be secured at the head of each soldier's grave. To guard against the loss or destruction of mortuary records it was further ordered that copies should be transmitted as soon as possible to the Adjutant-General's office at Washington for file. The substance of this order was afterward embodied in the Revised Army Regulations} and thus became a part of the permanent law of the army.
The Quarter-Master's Department had previously been charged with "the burial of officers and soldiers as a part of its general duty; but its instructions were far from specific, and its care about ended ordinarily with the smoke of the guns that were prescribed to be fired over their graves. These additional instructions, however, we rejoice to say, soon worked a radical reform. The surgeons in charge of regiments and hospitals soon began to exhibit a just pride in keeping and perfecting their melancholy records, and the result is, the mortuary history of our armies to-day is about as complete as could well be desired - far more so, indeed, than could reasonably be expected, if we consider the number and vastness of our campaigns, and the heavy lists of mortality invariably attendant on great military operations. Certain we are that it is far in advance of that of any other nation, in any previous war, ancient or modern.
The Secretary, in his Report for 1865, states the aggregate number of men credited on the several calls, and put into the service of the United gates, in the army, navy, and marine corps, from April 15, 1861, to April 14, 1865, when drafting and recruiting ceased, as 2,776,553. Of course it will be remembered that this number does not represent actual men, but enlistments, of which many of our men made two or three. It is probable that the greatest number of men actually in the service at any one time was about May 1, 1865, when they amounted to 1,000,516.
In the same Report, p. 29, he gives the total number of colored troops enlisted into the service during the rebellion as 178,975. Of these, he says, “the loss during the war from all causes, except muster out, was 68,178 ;" that is, about thirty-eight per cent. It would not do, however, to take this heavy percentage as a fair average for mortality among all our troops, because it includes desertions and discharges for sickness or other disability; and, also, because our white troops enlisted oftener under the different calls, were mostly longer in the service, and lost more by battle and desertion, and less by disease, than our colored troops. But if for these differences, which, on reflection, will appear very considerable, we allow say twenty-three per cent., this will still leave our aggregate losses during the war, from both battle and disease, at fifteen per cent of all enlistments, say 400,000 men, which we do not believe will be found very far wrong. A careful examination of official reports, as far as published, and repeated conversations on the subject with those in the army who ought to know, as well as good opportunities of our own of judging in the premises, confirm us in this view. This mournful number, though large, is not so large, however, as the nation a year ago sorrowfully expected, nor nearly so large as our enemies both at home and abroad then gleefully proclaimed. And, large as it is, the Republic, calmer than a Spartan matron, not unwillingly made the sacrifice, rather than yield one jot or tittle to treason, and she would do it again, thank Heaven! yea, thrice over if need were. In the touching lines of one of our best war lyrics:
"Four hundred thousand men,
The brave, the good, the true,
In tangled wood, in mountain glen,
On battle-plain, in prison-pen,
Have died for me and you;
Four hundred thousand of the brave
Have made our ransomed land their grave
For me and you,
Good friends, for me and you."
Gallant, high-souled, manly fellows, they loved home and friends, parent, wife, child, domestic ease, and fireside comfort, not less than the best of us; yet they cheerfully forsook all, and marched Southward at the call of patriotism to fight and die - as God so willed unmurmuringly, that the nation might live. There is not a Northern town or hamlet, scarcely a Northern family of spirit that has not been called to mourn the loss of some favorite citizen or darling son. This generation at least will not forget our frequent funerals that for four years darkened with their woe almost half a continent, nor the dull roll of the platoon, that daily announced another Martyr for freedom laid to his rest. Oh, how grand and how glorious our roll of honor! There are Kearney, and Whipple, and Stevens, and M'Pherson, and Bayard, and Shaw, and the countless heroes of the ranks unknown to fame, but who each did his part well, and, falling, died none the less gloriously because carrying a musket or swinging a sabre instead of leading a division or commanding an army corps. If men after death are to be judged and honored according to the work they have done and the results they have achieved, then above all others should we take the memories of these men home to our hearts and lives, and embalm in the nation's remembrance forever and forever. The remains of many, indeed, have been recovered by friends and brought back from the South, and our communities with one accord have united in burying them with booming cannon and muffled drums and half-mast flags beneath our own loyal soil. Many on entering the service or marching into battle made each to the other a solemn vow, that if either fell the other would, if possible, send his body home for burial.
|Plan of cemetery near Murfreesboro, Tennessee|
Comrades in arms and friends at home have no doubt done what they could in this respect, but the number thus brought back and interred among our Northern hills has necessarily been very small compared with the many thousands that fell throughout the South, and still lie buried there, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and from the Ohio to the Gulf. The great majority we say, of necessity, still lie on the fields where they fell, or near the hospitals or prisons where they died, and their rude, hastily-constructed, and now neglected graves are fast being obliterated by the leveling forces of time and nature. In the edges of groves, in the fence corners, by the aside of turnpikes and railroads, everywhere are scattered individual graves, while at locations of former hospitals, and on scores of battle-fields, they swell up into the hundreds and thousands. Where our men died in camps or on the march their comrades usually found some means to mark their resting-places, such as a rough headboard, or, failing that, a whittled stick, with some rude inscription, indicating at least the name and rank of the person buried. In hospitals, as we have heretofore said, full and accurate records were kept of all that died, and the graves were numbered and named, with rank, company, regiment, etc., so as to render certain each man interred.
So, also, on battle-fields where we were victors, our regiments seem to have vied with each other in the attention given to the decent and respectful-burial of their own dead; and the long rows of graves are almost invariably marked by stones and head-boards, however rude. There is something touching, indeed, and that speaks well for American human nature, in passing over our lines of campaign, and observing how anxious our brave fellows appear to have been to pay the last offices of respect to their fallen comrades as far as could be done. Dis-interments made in various places show that so well has this been done, that at least eighty or ninety per cent of our dead can readily be identified, if not more. Even where outward indications fail, it is often found that vials and bottles have been buried with the dead with papers enclosed, giving all needed information; and where these are wanting our army blue woolen clothing ordinarily distinguishes Union from Confederate dead, because of their cotton gray; and names, etc., can generally be gleaned from marks on clothing, belts, or cartridge-boxes, or from letters, diaries, memorandum books, Testaments, etc., something of which sort is usually found on the body of every soldier.
But on battle-fields which we lost, of course, as a general thing, the enemy cared little for our dead, except to get them out of the way and underground with the least labor and as soon as possible. As a rule, when we triumphed, we religiously buried the Confederate dead, and in many instances, where time sufficed, we marked their graves as carefully as our own. On the battle-field at Corinth, near the foot of Fort Robinett, our men magnanimously interred a Confederate officer who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his command, and out of admiration for his conduct erected a rude head-board over his grave with the generous inscription, "Col. Wm. Rogers, 2d Texas Infantry, said to be the Bravest of the Brave.”
Here was true chivalry worthy of the Black Prince or Richard Coeur de Lion, and the best days of Agincourt and Cressy. But the Confederates undoubtedly were less particular in this respect than we.
Those of our men who died in Confederate prisons seem as a rule to have fared much better. Though tortured and tormented with cold and hunger, disease and vermin, while living, when dead they were turned over by their keepers to burial-parties of their own comrades, who gave them the most decent and respectful interment they could, and kept accurate records of the same in all instances where allowed to. Even at Andersonville the last privilege to the dead was permitted; for which let history award such credit as is due.
These remarks now conduct us naturally to the question, what shall be done with these fallen heroes, the nation's martyrs, the Republic's slain? Shall we permit their honored graves, holding the best ashes of the land and proudest of the century, to be left liable to desecration by hostile hands, or to be obliterated quickly by time and nature, as among other nations and in other ages? Or rather shall we not at once gather their remains tenderly together into great national cemeteries, few in number but centrally located; beautify and adorn these in a moderate but just way, and solemnly commit them to posterity as a part of the precious price our generation paid for the Union, to be the republic's legacy and the nation's inheritance for evermore? We are glad to find that Congress has already anticipated this question, at least in part, and for what it has done we say, most heartily, hail and thanks. By act approved July 17, 1862, section 18, it was enacted, "That the President of the United States shall have power, whenever in his opinion it shall be expedient, to purchase cemetery grounds, and cause them to be securely enclosed, to be used as a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country." We are not aware what action has been had under this law as yet, if any, though surely there has been none worthy of the subject, and a lawyer-like mind might construe it, we suppose, as authorizing the establishment of only one cemetery. If this be so, we submit all loyal and patriotic hearts will agree (and none others have a right to speak in this matter) that Congress should at once give us additional legislation, and call on the President, respectfully but earnestly, "to go forward" with this great and humane national undertaking, before the lapse of time and the obliteration of the graves render it too late.
The Country and the Army have already shown their deep and abiding interest in the premises by what has been done voluntarily at Gettysburg and elsewhere. In the absence of any national action, immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, "took the responsibility" of purchasing some seventeen acres of ground, embracing the center of our line of battle there, and proceeded to disinter and re-bury there the bodies of all our soldiers who fell in that memorable struggle. They were found to belong to eighteen States, including Pennsylvania, and the Governors of those States were invited to participate in the purchase and assist in the further work of reinterring the slain and beautifying the grounds. Of course they all readily assented, and those eighteen States are now joint stock-holders of the cemetery there, in the ratio of their representation in Congress. We give herewith a plan of the cemetery there, which, as we have said, embraces about seventeen acres. It is enclosed on three sides by a substantial stone-wall, surmounted with heavy dressed capping-stone, and on the fourth side by an iron fence, that divides it from the old local or town cemetery at Gettysburg. The grounds have been simply graded and tolerably planted with shrubbery and trees, and roads and walks have been introduced, so as to combine utility, as far as possible, with pleasing landscape effects, at the same time having reference to economy both in the present and the future. As will be seen by the plan, the interments are arranged in a semicircular form, the ground appropriated to each State being, as it were, a part of a common center. The position of each lot, and indeed of each interment, is by this means relatively of equal importance, the only difference being that of extents which, of course, had to be determined by the number of interments belonging to each State. The coffins are deposited side by side in parallel trenches, a space of twelve feet being allowed to each parallel, of which about five feet are reserved for a walk between each row of interments. At the heads of the graves are granite head-stones, all precisely alike, bearing the name, company, and regiment of the man interred, each rising nine inches above the ground, and showing a face or width of ten inches on its upper surface. A main roadway, or drive, courses round the grounds, and in the center of the semicircle it is proposed to erect a simple, unostentatious monument, some sixty feet high, twenty-five feet square at the base, and crowned with a colossal statue representing the Genius of Liberty. Into this cemetery have been collected all of the Union dead that fell at Gettysburg that have not been claimed by friends and removed elsewhere for burial, and the total number of interments now foot up 3512.
All this, it will be observed, has been done by the States themselves, represented there, the only contribution made by the National Government being a supply of rough deal coffins, through the Quarter-Master's Department, by direction of the Secretary of War, on application, when the re-interments began. All honor to these States, we say; and their surviving soldiers, we are sure, with bent heads and grateful hearts, will respond, Amen. This cemetery, however, we must say, is in no true sense a "National Cemetery," because established and now supported by certain of the States themselves. It is unfortunate, we think, that the distinction of States should have been kept up there so carefully. Gettysburg was fought by the nation, for the nation, to save the nation. It should have been the work of the nation to consecrate its precious soil to freedom and the fallen now and forever.
We believe some preliminary action has also been had with reference to the establishment of a cemetery at Antietam, but we are not sufficiently advised of the facts to speak of them at length. The facts, however, appear to be, briefly, about as follows: Some time in 1865, we think during the spring, Maryland made an appropriation to purchase and enclose certain grounds, embracing a part of the battle-field at Antietam, to be held hereafter as a national cemetery, and we believe she has since invited the other States that lost troops at Antietam to join with her in removing the dead of Antietam thither, and in grading and somewhat ornamenting the grounds. This, it will be seen, if carried on to completion, will give us only a duplicate of Gettysburg, and we object to it because it involves only State action, not National, as the subject deserves.
Just here we would say a word about the dead of the Sixth Massachusetts that fell in the streets of Baltimore on the famous 19th of April, 1861. They were all, we believe, of humble, if not obscure origin; but Massachusetts, true to her high professions and great traditions, promptly secured their remains and bore them home to Lowell for interment, where they were awarded a public funeral and given an appropriate monument at the expense of the Commonwealth. Nor did Maryland fail in her duty toward them, after the first wave of treason was past. As soon as a loyal Legislature was convened she communicated to Massachusetts her desire to redress the wrongs of the 19th of April as far as possible, and as evidence of her sincerity proffered annuities in perpetual support of the families and widowed mothers of those who, in her hour of madness, had been so traitorously slain.
So much for what the Country has done. The Army, it will be found, has not waited in the matter, but, on the contrary, has proceeded to prompt action of its own wherever time and opportunity have offered. In the East our troops in the Department of Washington, in the summer of 1865, when having but little to do, collected together many of our dead from the battlefield of Bull Run, and erected over them a plain but substantial monument, to mark the spot, at least, until something better could be done. Another monument, erected at the same period, marks the scene of the battle of Groveton, or Manassas, fought near the same place, August 29 and 30, 1862. The materials were derived from the vicinity, and consisted only of common stone, arranged suitably for the purpose.
We are not aware of any further action by the army in the East; but in the West our troops have begun, and pretty well finished, two great cemeteries that are worthy of the subject. The first one we refer to is that near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on the battle-ground of Stone River. It is about four miles west of Murfreesboro, with the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad on one side of it, and the Nashville Pike on the other. It is of a rectangular form, and comprises about sixteen acres in the grounds were selected by General Thomas, and the work has been carried forward chiefly by his direction, though the troops have ordinarily vied with each other in the work to be done. Sufficient walks and roads have been laid out and graveled, trees and shrubbery have been introduced, and a plain but substantial stone-wall, some four feet and a half high by two feet thick, is well under way to enclose the whole. The graves are arranged in lines, parallel to the railroad, without regard to States, though those of the same regiment are kept together as much as possible. The plot in the center is reserved for a suitable monument, to be hereafter determined on. A space nine feet by four feet is allotted to each grave, which will afford room, it is estimated, for some eight thousand interments, should so many become necessary. About one thousand five hundred bodies have already been disinterred from where they were scattered over the battlefield, and re-interred here, which is supposed to comprise all who fell there that have not been taken North.
It is proposed to make this cemetery the general burying-ground of our dead in all that section, and with this view bodies are being removed to it from hospital-grounds at Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, Decherd, Cowan, and other points along the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. These, it is supposed from records obtained, will swell the aggregate up to some seven or eight thousand graves, the capacity of present grounds. As the bodies are removed to the cemetery the graves are all numbered and recorded on a plan kept for that purpose ; and neat head-boards of hard wood, with inscription containing name, rank, company, and regiment, are placed at, each grave. It may not be amiss to add that the work is now being carried on chiefly by colored troops, though few of that class have fallen or died in that vicinity. Steps have already been taken to secure the monument referred to, but we deem them in the wrong direction, and trust they will all fail.
The estimated cost of the proposed monument is some twelve thousand dollars; of this amount it is said that the four regular regiments present at Stone River have already pledged themselves for five thousand dollars, and for the balance it is proposed to appeal to the States that had troops engaged there. In the name of the Union, for which their comrades fought and fell at Stone River, we protest against these regulars paying one cent for this purpose, and against the States contributing a dollar. They have both given their bravest and best blood there for the Union, in the face of all mankind. Now let the Union, saved by them, do its part, by simply but fitly commemorating their deeds, or stand disgraced to the end of history.
In this connection we must not omit to mention a small but neat cemetery some two miles west of Murfreesboro, founded by the soldiers of Hazen's Brigade. This was done by them soon after the battle of Stone River, and before the idea of a general cemetery there seems to have occurred. As it is already so complete of itself, indeed a model in its way, we think it should be retained as it is. It consists of a small lot of ground, one hundred feet long by forty feet wide, enclosed by a substantial wall of hewn stone, four feet high by two thick. Within are the graves of twenty-nine privates of the brigade, who fell at Stone River. Neat head-stones of cut limestone, bearing the name, rank, company, and regiment of these, are placed at the head of each grave. In the center is a simple but tasteful monument of hewn limestone, consisting of a pedestal ten feet square at base, and a quadrangular pyramidal shaft, with a height in all of eleven feet. The sides of this monument bear the following chaste and most appropriate inscriptions:
HAZEN'S BRIGADE TO THE MEMORY OF ITS SOLDIERS WHO FELL AT STONE RIVER, DEC 31, 1862. THEIR FACES TOWARD HEAVEN, THEIR FEET TO TUE FOE.
THE BLOOD OF ONE-THIRD OF ITS SOLDIERS, TWICE SPILLED IN TENNESSEE, CRIMSONS THE BATTLE-FLAG OF THE BRIGADE, AND INSPIRES TO GREATER DEEDS.
(Here follow names of officers of the brigade.)
KILLED AT STONE RIVER, DEC. 31, 1862.
KILLED AT STONE RIVER, DEC. 31, 1862.
ERECTED 1863 UPON THE GROUND WHERE THEY FELL, BY THEIR COMRADES.
(Here follow names of regiments composing the brigade, and of commanding officers.)
THE VETERANS OF SHILOH HAVE LEFT THEIR DEATHLESS HERITAGE OF FAME ON THE FIELD OF STONE RIVER.
(Here follow names of officers.)
KILLED AT SHILOH, APRIL 7, 1862.
KILLED AT SHILOH, APRIL 7, 1862.
This work was all done by our common soldier; while the Army of the Cumberland was encamped in that vicinity, the materials being obtained from the country there. We think it reflects marked credit on all engaged in it, both officers and men.
The second one we refer to as established by the army, and the main one in the West, however, is near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is located about a mile and a half southeast of Chattanooga, and perhaps a mile or so beyond the present line of fortifications there. It consists of about seventy-five acres of undulating land, rising by successive slopes to a very considerable hill near the center. The whole of it is enclosed by a rough but substantial wall of limestone, laid up dry, about four feet high by two and a half thick, which it is proposed to crown eventually with a plain capstone, laid in mortar, so as to give stability to the whole. The materials for this were of course obtained upon the spot.
|Plan of the National Cemetery at Chatanooga|
The plan adopted contemplated a central area, with sections of different sizes grouped around this. These sections are no two alike, but depend for their form and size on the varying features of the ground. Twelve of these have already been laid out and partly filled up - ten for white and two for colored troops - and the grounds are large enough for quite as many more. In these sections the dead are interred in concentric layers or circles, with officers in the middle, and non-commissioned officers and privates spreading out to the circumference. The center of each is still vacant, and it is proposed to establish there such minor monuments as may hereafter be determined on. These sections are now designated by letters of the alphabet, though it has been thought to name them after some of our great battlefields or distinguished officers who have fallen in battle in this war.
In the central area or section, the most elevated part of the grounds, and overlooking the whole, it is proposed to erect a chief monument, or a temple, embodying the national ideas as affirmed and vindicated by the war. Broad roads and paths, well graded and mostly macadamized, have been laid out, with much skill and taste, though the plan embraces many others not yet commenced. Shrubbery and evergreens have also been introduced from Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge, and though considerable died last summer, yet enough remain to promise well for the future. A large amount of blasting and grading has been necessary to bring the hill into proper shape, but this is now mostly over.
The interments in this cemetery footed up over seven thousand in November, 1865, and fatigue parties were making additional ones daily, by transfer from battle-fields and hospitals adjacent to Chattanooga. They were mostly through, however, and had collected here the great majority of those who fell in battle from Bridgeport to Loudon, embracing the dead of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, and all who expired in hospital at Chattanooga and about there. The interments are made without regard to States, as we think justly, though members of same regiments arc kept together as far as practicable, on a good suggestion of a distinguished Major-General, as we learn, that "there had been quite enough of State Rights; that these soldiers had died fighting for the Union, against rebellious States, and now we had better mix them up and nationalize them a little." He thought our poor fellows would like that best, if they could have a voice in the matter, and we heartily concur in the opinion. The graves are all carefully named and numbered, and steps have been taken to prepare and keep a full military history of each soldier interred. Copies of this are to be sent to the Adjutant-Generals of the States from which the soldiers enlisted, so that corrections may be made if errors have occurred. Head-boards have been erected to a part of the graves; but it is designed to remove these, and to put up plain stones of Tennessee marble instead at the heads of all the graves, the materials for which are readily obtained but five or six miles away.
This cemetery was established in 1863, in pursuance of General Orders No. 296, Headquarters Department of the Cumberland, for the purpose of providing a place of interment for the dead at and about Chattanooga; and all the work so far done has been performed by our troops when encamped or stationed there. No State has contributed a dollar toward it so far, and we trust none will be asked to. It stands out a truly Union and national work as far as completed, simple but grand in its conception and execution ; and General Thomas well deserves high praise and the united thanks of the army and the country for what has there been done so promptly and appropriately for our slain and dead soldiery.
In addition to these national cemeteries proper there are other quasi ones, but none, we believe, that merit any extended notice. We refer to those that have sprung up at Washington and elsewhere by the accumulation of interments chiefly from hospitals, and which have since been enclosed and partially cared for. In all of these cases, we believe, accurate mortuary records have been kept; but the grounds were originally selected more for convenience or from chance than aught else, and, as a rule, it was not until they had grown into vast grave-yards that they began to be enclosed and to take the name of cemeteries. All such are enclosed only by a common deal fence, and no proper regard has been had to method or to permanence as at Gettysburg, Murfreesboro, and Chattanooga. As examples of these we refer to the soldier cemeteries about Washington, including Arlington and Alexandria, that foot up in the aggregate over twenty-five thousand interments; to those at Nashville, that foot up over seventeen thousand; to those at and near Vicksburg, about ten thousand; to those at New Orleans, about the same; to those at Louisville, over nine thousand; to those at Memphis, about eight thousand; to those at St. Louis, about seven thousand; and those at New York, about four thousand. There must also be heavy interments at Cincinnati and elsewhere North, as well as at many other points South; but we are without sufficient data at this writing to speak intelligently of any more. The cemetery at the Soldiers' Home near Washington and that at Arlington are the best of this class; but neither of them approach to the dignity of a national cemetery in either design or execution. We think all who have visited them will concur in this opinion, at least substantially.
Much similar in character to the ones above-mentioned are those that have been established in the Wilderness and elsewhere by direction of the War Department. In the Wilderness are two, both enclosed by paling fence; one containing one hundred and eight graves, and the other five hundred and thirty-four. At Spotsylvania there are some seven hundred graves more. These are the dead of the Army of the Potomac, resulting from Grant's obstinate, determined fighting there in 1864; though some of those slain at Chancellorsville, under Hooker, in 1863, may also be included. In all of these instances the graves have been marked by simple white tablets of wood, containing the names and regiments of the men as far as ascertainable. Working parties were sent out from Washington by the Quarter-Master's Department for this purpose, and the usual practice seems to have been to select grounds where the dead lay thickest, and to collect in that locality, after inclosing it, all the dead found in the vicinity. The dead at Ball's Bluff, we believe, have been removed to Washington, or at least similarly cared for; but those at Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, Gaines's Mill, Cold Harbor, Seven Pines, the Seven Days' Fight, Petersburg, Five Forks, etc., still lie substantially where they fell, with such poor burial as our troops could then give them. So, also, those in the West, at Perryville, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Chickasaw Bluffs, Pea Ridge, Red River, Port Hudson, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, and other points; though in some of these cases the graves may have been roughly enclosed as at Memphis and elsewhere.
In this connection we must not forget the cemeteries at Salisbury and Andersonville. We are without positive data as to the one at Salisbury; but the cemetery at Andersonville consists of fifty acres, and contains twelve thousand nine hundred and twelve graves. On the collapse of the rebellion Captain James M. Moore of the Quarter-Master's Department was sent there with a force of men to enclose the grounds and erect head-boards. He found our own men had taken great pains in burying their dead, numbering the graves, and keeping a careful record of the names and numbers, as well as erecting rude head-boards as far as possible, so that he was able to identify twelve thousand four hundred and sixty-one out of those buried there. This, however, left four hundred and fifty-one poor fellows to be recorded forever as "Unknown," their names and very resting-places, as it were, blotted out of existence. We have been fortunate to obtain photographic views of that hell on earth when in full blast, that we think at a glance readily account for its terrible mortality. By way of specimen we give the "View from the Main Gate." We received this from an officer who escaped from Andersonville when a prisoner there in 1864, and he vouches for the liberal accuracy and fidelity to everyday experience in that living hell when he was imprisoned there. He says all the horrible accounts of cold and hunger, of dirt and filth, vermin and disease, outrage and cruelty at Andersonville, during the reign of Winder and Wirz there, are true, but only half the truth, because human language is incapable of expressing the whole, or the human mind of comprehending it - so fearful and hideous was the reality.
|View of Andersonville Prison from the main gate|
On a previous page we have spoken of the War Department, early in the war, requiring a record to be kept of all who died. We have also spoken of the law, passed in 1862, authorizing the purchase of grounds for cemetery purposes. In addition to this we are glad to say there are indications that the Government is about moving further in the matter - though as yet apparently somewhat casting about as if uncertain of its policy. The Quarter-Master-General, by two General Orders (Nos. 40 and 65), late in 1865, called upon all officers of his Department for Special Reports of the location and condition of soldier grave-yards known to them, with recommendations as to the means necessary to preserve from desecration the remains of those interred there, having reference especially to the following points, to wit : (1.) location; (2.) condition, whether enclosed or not, whether with headboards or other means of identification; (3.) place and condition of mortuary records and names of officers who have had charge of same; (4.) recommendations as to disposition to be made of the graveyards, whether to be continued or removed to some permanent cemetery near the place. General Thomas's chief quarter-master, General Donaldson, acting, we suppose, on these orders of General Meigs, has issued a circular, calling on all who have served in the army at any time during the war, in the Military Division of the Tennessee, for information as to the places of burial or scattered graves of our soldiers in that region, and he goes a step farther than the Quarter-Master General by intimating that the information is desired "with a view to the establishment of national cemeteries, and the removal to these of the dead, on the plan of those already in process of completion at Chattanooga and Stone River." We have found this circular in the papers, but judge it to be authentic, and sincerely hope General Thomas and his Quarter-Master are only a step in advance of what is meant by the Government at Washington.
We go for closing up the war now, and ending it fitly and nobly. And with this view we submit that the nation, with a united voice, should call for these scattered dead of the Union army, whether white or black, to be disinterred from the places where they lie, and brought speedily together into great national cemeteries, where they may repose in peace and dignity beneath the aegis of the Republic while time endures. The cost need not be large; and should it be millions, no Congress that we are likely to have for some years to come would refuse it, if properly called on. Gettysburg, Murfreesboro and Chattanooga are models in their way, because of their grandeur yet simplicity, or at least will be, when the nation has done its share of the work, by erecting plain but tasteful monuments there, as we have elsewhere indicated. So the cost of maintaining them will be small, as the troops might be charged with this duty in time of peace, and in time of war they could readily be provided for.
To get at this practically we would suggest that Gettysburg be retained where it is in the bosom of Pennsylvania, and that all the dead in Pennsylvania be concentrated there; that Antietam be pushed forward to completion in the heart of Maryland, and all the dead in Maryland concentrated there; that a great national cemetery he established at Washington, to include all the dead there and in that vicinity; those at Bull Run, Groveton, and Chantilly, those in the Valley of the Shenandoah, those at Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and all who fell under Grant, from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor - this to be the largest and grandest of all, as befits its location; that another be located at or near Richmond, to include all the dead who fell on the Peninsula under McClellan, and all of Grant's dead from Cold Harbor to Lee's surrender, together With all other dead in Virginia, not sent to Washington; another, at or near Wheeling in West Virginia, to include all the dead of that region; another at or near Bentonville, or Fort Fisher, to include all who fell in North Carolina; another at Charleston, to include all who fell in South Carolina, both white and colored; another at Atlanta, to include all who fell in Georgia; another at Mobile, to include all who fell in Alabama; another at New Orleans, Galveston, Vicksburg, Arkansas Post, or Fort de Hussy, St. Louis, and Perryville, to include all who fell in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kentucky respectively. Tennessee has been so great a battle-ground, and is so large a State, that she seems to require four. The two at Murfreesboro and Chattanooga, of course, ought not to be disturbed, and we trust never will be; the seventeen thousand dead at Nashville should have a cemetery of their own, to include the dead of Franklin, Fort Donelson, and other points adjacent, and Shiloh should be marked by a cemetery, to take in the dead at Fort Henry, Memphis, and all West Tennessee, except Fort Pillow, where we had almost forgotten to say the Secretary of War has already ordered a small cemetery in perpetual memory of the savage massacre there. Of course the dead from each place should be kept together in these cemeteries, as far as practicable, at least those from different battlefields, for obvious reasons. This would give a national cemetery to every State affected by the war, on the field of our greatest victory or at place of most importance, to stand as a monument forever to the South, and to us all, of the crime and folly of Secession. We would establish and keep these, not from Northern glorification, nor as a taunt to "our wayward sisters" of the South; but as a just return, due our heroic dead, from the enlightened civilization of the age, and as a standing exhibition to the world of the might and majesty of the Union, the dignity and power of a free republic, the sentiment and culture of a self-governing people.
We esteem this the Nation's solemn duty, and would urge it from every consideration of patriotism and humanity. We owe it to patriotism. We owe it to humanity. We owe it to the intelligent progress we boast, and to the perfect freedom God has permitted us to save and enjoy. Dulce et decorum est pro patria unori is a good sentiment for soldiers to fight and die by. Let the American Government show, first of all modern nations, that it knows how to reciprocate that sentiment by tenderly collecting, and nobly caring for, the remains of those who in our greatest war have fought and died to rescue and perpetuate the liberties of us all. Let us emulate the lofty example of that other republic, Athens, in the best days of her supremacy, and thus rebuke forever the current calumny and slander about "the ingratitude of republics." We are sure the army would rejoice, through all its grades, to see this done, from the humblest private to the Lieutenant-General, and the people would approve, large-hearted, great-thoughted, as they always are, where the national name and fame are involved.
We acknowledge to have written this article con amore, and to have lingered upon it perhaps more than we should have done. Our excuse is, that we served with our armies, both in the East and in the West, throughout the war; are conversant with many of the fields and most of the facts we have mentioned; and we frankly confess to the instincts and feelings born of the march and fight, the bivouac and camp-fire. We do not know how we can better or more appropriately end it than by Mr. Lincoln's brief dedicatory address at Gettysburg in 1863, which, in the light of subsequent events, sounds more like inspiration or prophecy in this connection than the utterance of mere human lips:
"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting-place of those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that, from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to the cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve, that the dead shall not have died in vain - that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. August 1866.