What is a National Cemetery?
A U.S. national cemetery is a military cemetery that contains the graves of U.S. military personnel, veterans, and sometimes their spouses or dependents.
When Was the First National Cemetery Established?
The authority to create U.S. military cemeteries arose during the Civil War, in 1862. It’s unclear which was the very first, but within six months of congressional approval for a national cemetery system, 14 national cemeteries had been established.
How many National Cemeteries are there in the United States?
There are a total of 171 national cemeteries located in the U.S., and an additional 26 U.S. national military cemeteries outside of the country.
Who Maintains National Cemeteries?
The National Cemetery Administration maintains the majority of the national cemeteries across the country. However, a few national cemeteries are located within national parks, battlefields, and historic sites. These are maintained by the National Park Service. Finally, the Department of the Army maintains two – Arlington National Cemetery and the United States Soldiers and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
Note: the American Battle Monuments Commission – an independent agency – maintains the 26 national cemeteries outside of the U.S.
Where Can I Find a List of National Cemeteries?
Each administration maintains a list of the cemeteries under their provision.
- The National Cemetery Administration list of cemeteries
- The National Park Service list of National Cemeteries
- And add to that the two National Cemeteries managed by the Army (Arlington and U.S. Soldiers and Airmen’s Home)
That said, Wikipedia actually has a helpful list of all national cemeteries in one place.
What is the Largest National Cemetery?
Riverside National Cemetery, located in Riverside, CA, is the largest national cemetery. It spans 1236 acres.
For reference, the 10 largest national cemeteries are as follows:
- Riverside National Cemetery (Riverside, CA) – 1,236 acres
- Calverton National Cemetery (Calverton, NY) – 1,045 acres
- Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Elwood, IL) – 982 acres
- Georgia National Cemetery (Canton, GA) – 774 acres
- Fort Custer National Cemetery (Augusta, MI)- 770 acres
- Massachusetts National Cemetery (Bourne, MA) – 749 acres
- Quantico National Cemetery (Quantico, VA) – 725 acres
- Indiantown Gap National Cemetery (Annville, PA) – 667 acres
- Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery (Dallas, TX) – 638 acres
- Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, VA) – 624 acres
Note: The smallest national cemetery is the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center National Cemetery in Hampton, VA. It is just under 1/3 acre.
Is There Significance to the Type of Grave Markers Used in a National Cemetery?
There is! You can tell a bit about the general era from which a grave originated simply by its size and shape. And there are specific markers, plaques, and headstones available to our service men and women buried in national cemeteries, today.
What is Listed on a Grave Marker in a National Cemetery?
There are just a few pieces of information permitted on military grave markers in national cemeteries. Always included is name, date of birth, and date of death. If applicable, the following can also be included: service branch, war service, rank, specialty, and Medal of Honor insignia.
Are Confederate Soldiers Buried in National Cemeteries?
Yes. It took some time, but eventually soldiers fighting for the Confederacy were allowed to be buried in national cemeteries. Confederate graves are marked with the Southern Cross of Honor.
Are National Cemeteries Popular Tourist Destinations?
In fact, they are. Over 5.4 million people visit national cemeteries every year.
Which National Cemetery is the Most Famous?
Because Arlington National Cemetery is maintained by the U.S. Army instead of the National Cemetery Administration, it is often omitted when discussing national cemeteries. However, it may be the most famous of all historic cemeteries in the United States.
As Civil War casualties began to outnumber available gravesites in Washington, D.C., the need for a national cemetery in the area became glaringly apparent. Arlington National Cemetery was established in May of 1864 and tens of thousands of Union Soldiers were buried at Arlington in the years that followed. Many high-ranking military and government officials continue to be interned here today, thus making it the most well-known cemetery of its kind.
Who is Eligible for Burial in a National Cemetery?
Burial in a national cemetery is free to most veterans as well as spouses and some dependent children. Burial benefits through the Veterans Administration include opening and closing of the grave, ongoing care and maintenance, a government headstone or grave marker, a burial flag, and a memorial certificate. Visit the National Cemetery Administration’s webpage for more details on Veteran and dependent burial benefits.
How Can I Find a Specific Gravesite in a U.S. National Cemetery?
Use the National Cemetery Administration’s gravesite locator tool. Enter the information you know (last name, birthdate, etc.) and the tool will return a list of veterans buried in a U.S. national cemetery which meet the same criteria.