A National Cemetery System

© Photographed October 8, 2016
Erected by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
and National Cemetery Association
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
43.029480, -87.981556
Google Map


Civil War Dead
As estimated 700,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Civil War between April 1861 and April 1865. As the death toll rose, the U.S. government struggled with the urgent but unplanned need to bury fallen Union troops. This propelled the creation of a national cemetery system. 
On September 11, 1861, the War Department directed commanding officers to keep "accurate and permanent records of deceased soldiers." It also required the U.S. Army Quartermaster General, the office responsible for administering to the needs of troops in life and in death, to mark each grave with a headboard. A few months later, the department mandated interment of the dead in graves marked with numbered headboards, recorded in a register.
Creating National Cemeteries
The authorities to create military burial grounds came in an Omnibus Act of July 17, 1862. It directed the president to purchase land to be used as "a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country". Fourteen national cemeteries were established by 1862. 
When hostilities ended, a grim task began. In October 1865, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs directed officers to survey lands in the Civil War theater to find Union dead and plan to reinter them in new national cemeteries. Cemetery sites were chosen where troops were concentrated: camps, hospitals, battlefields, railroad hubs. By 1872, 74 national cemeteries and several soldiers' lots contained 305,493 remains, about 45 percent were unknown.
Knoxville was established after the siege of the city and Battle of Fort Sanders in 1863. Cemetery plan, 1892, National Archives and Records Administration.
Reflection and Memorialization
The country reflected upon the Civil War's human toll -- 2 percent of the U.S. population died. memorials honoring war service were built in national cemeteries. Most were donated by regimental units, state governments and veterans' organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic. Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, was a popular patriotic spring event that started in 1868. Visitors placed flowers on graves and monuments, and gathered around rostrums to hear speeches. Construction of Civil War monuments peaked in the 1890s. By 1920, as the number of aging veterans was dwindling, more than 120 monuments had been placed in the national cemeteries.
The marker is located at Wood National Cemetery, adjacent to the Civil War Monument, and is accessible from Juneau Avenue, at its intersection with Walker Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53295.

See also, Wood National Cemetery, also at this location.

Soldiers' graves near General Hospital, City Point, Va., c. 1863.
Library of Congress.

Lodge at City Point, Va., pre-1928. The first floor
contained a cemetery office, and living room and
kitchen for the superintendent's family; three
bedrooms were upstairs.

National cemetery monuments, left to right: Massachusetts Monument, Winchester, Va., 1907; Maryland Sons Monument, Loudon Park, Baltimore, Md., 1885; and Women's Relief Corps/Grand Army of the Republic Monument to the Unknown Dead, Crown Hill, Indianapolis, Ind., 1889.

The nearby Civil War Monument.

Follow the highway signs to Wood National Cemetery.

The memorial is located at Wood National Cemetery
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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