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)|
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.