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The Civil War and Chicago: Memorialization, Commemoration, and Remembrance at Rosehill Cemetery

National Cemeteries and Battlefield Parks

Soldiers' Cemetery, Alexandria, Va.

Soldiers' Cemetery at Alexandria

Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

 
Responding to the concerns of the country, Congress passed a joint resolution in 1866 and the National Cemetery Act in 1867.  This legislation authorized the Secretary of War to acquire land for national cemeteries.  The arduous task of creating the cemeteries and locating and reinterring the dead began immediately.  By 1870 nearly 300,000 Union soldiers were interred in 73 national cemeteries.  Because of the burial practices described earlier, only about fifty percent of those soldiers could be identified.
 
The National Cemetery System modified the rural cemetery model, creating sites that not only honored the dead, but welcomed the living and encouraged nationalistic inspiration.  Similar sites of memorialization, commemoration, and remembrance were created in the form of battlefield parks.
 
Gettysburg, Pa. November 1863. Dedication of Gettysburg Battlefield.

Dedication of Gettysburg Battelfield

Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The first congressionally authorized battlefield parks – Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg - were created between 1890 and 1900.  Prior to the government’s formal involvement, state and local enterprises sought to preserve battlefields.  Once land was acquired, veterans’ organizations, like the Grand Army of the Republic, and individual regiments and batteries, installed monuments and markers on the battlefields. 
 
The standards of memorialization created at these sites were replicated throughout the cultural landscape. 
A Nation at War
National Cemeteries and Battlefield Parks