Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Battleground National Cemetery

Located at 6625 Georgia Avenue NW Washington, this one acre military cemetery, one of  the nation's smallest, is a solemn reminder of the sacrifice made by those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" in the defense of Washington. 
A commemorative statue at Battleground National Cemetery .  In 2005, the cemetery made the DC Preservation League's list of most endangered historic sites in Washington.  The National Park Service recently restored the cemetery, including the Superintendent's Lodge (designed by Montgomery Meigs) and the ceremonial rostrum, with $1.2 million in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds.    (Photo by author)

In July 1864, a Confederate force under General Jubal Early threatened Washington, D.C.. All available troops within Washington, including walking wounded, were brought up to the city's northern defenses.   In a relatively small battle by Civil War standards, Union forces, reinforced by units rushed by Grant from Petersburg, repelled the Confederate host.  Each side suffered several hundred casualties. 

Union forces next turned to the grim task of burying their fallen comrades.  One acre of farmland adjacent to the 7th Street Pike (now Georgia Avenue) was chosen as the final resting place for 41 Union soldiers.  President Lincoln, who had witnessed the battle, was also on hand for the cemetery's dedication.

August 1865 view of Battlefield National Cemetery (Courtesy Library of Congress)
The entrance to the Cemetery is flanked by two 6-pounder, smoothbore guns.  Over the years, veterans of the battle erected  memorial pillars in memory of some of the units that fought at Fort Stevens:   New York Volunteer Cavalry, 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry, 150th Ohio National Guard, Company K, and 98th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. 
Through the early 20th century, aging Civil War veterans and government dignitaries regularly gathered at the cemetery for Memorial Day events.  Speaking there in 1919 just after World War I, Vice President Thomas Marshall exclaimed "The American soldier who lies beneath the soil of France or the Philippine Islands or his own beloved country is not dead, nor will he die.  And when the  roll is called for him, let us answer for him 'Absent in the discharge of duty.'" 

The last internment at Battleground National Cemetery occurred in 1936 when Edward R. Campbell, who had fought at the battle of Ft. Stevens and witnessed Lincoln dedicate the cemetery, died at the age of 92. (Courtesy Natl. Archives)

VISITING BATTLEGROUND NATIONAL CEMETERY:  The cemetery is stop #13 on Cultural Tourism DC's Battleground to Community Brightwood Heritage Trail.  The cemetery is open from dawn to dusk.  There is parking available on Georgia Avenue.

1 comment:

  1. As a Military Policeman at Walter Reed on Georgia Avenue, it was part of our job each morning and evening, to go to the cemetery and raise and lower the Flag.