|27th Regiment Roll of Honor
The American Civil War caused unprecedented losses on both
sides. In 1870 the U.S. Army's Surgeon General reported a total of 303,504
deaths of Union soldiers. About 95,000 of these soldiers were either
killed in action or died of wounds. Over 185,000 died of disease. By
contrast, a total of only 1,733 United States soldiers had died during the
Mexican War (1846-48). Most of the bodies of soldiers killed in the
Mexican War were never recovered. The few that were recovered had to be
buried as unknowns in a soon forgotten cemetery in Mexico City. To prevent
this from happening again, on September 11, 1861, the War Department issued
General Order #75. This order made the commanding officer of military
departments and corps responsible for the burial of dead soldiers.
Soldier who died in hospitals in the rear were often buried in
civilian cemeteries. As these filled up new cemeteries were started near
the hospital. Soldiers who were killed in battle were normally buried near
where they died. Sometimes the graves were well marked by wooden
headboards, but more often they were not. Standard practice was to bury
the bodies of the unknown casualties in trenches. At Spotsylvania Court
House, only a few bodies were buried before both armies moved toward Richmond.
Not until a year later were any arrangements made to bury the Union dead, and by
then only about 700 of the over 4,100 Union dead could be identified.
On July 17, 1862, President Lincoln signed an omnibus act that
empowered the president ". . . to purchase cemetery grounds
. . . to be used as a national cemetery . . . " Twelve
cemeteries were established in 1862 pursuant to the provisions of this
Alexandria National Cemetery (Virginia)
Of these twelve original national cemeteries only Mill Springs
(also known as Logan's Crossroads) was at the site of a battle. Fort Scott
and Fort Leavenworth were supply depots located far from most of the fighting.
Their existing post cemeteries were expanded. Cypress Hills was started to
bury Confederate POWS and their guards who were killed in a train wreck.
The other cemeteries were located near training camps, large supply depots or in
cities with large hospitals.
Annapolis National Cemetery (Maryland)
Camp Butler National Cemetery (Illinois)
Cypress Hills National Cemetery (Long Island, New York)
Danville National Cemetery (Kentucky)
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery (Kansas)
Fort Scott National Cemetery (Kansas)
Keokuk National Cemetery (Iowa.
Loudon Park National Cemetery (Maryland)
Military Asylum National Cemetery (Washington, D. C.)
Mill Springs National Cemetery (Kentucky)
New Albany National Cemetery (Indiana)
Most of the soldiers who died near Washington were buried in
either the Military Asylum National Cemetery or in the Alexandria National
Cemetery in Virginia. The first burials in the Military Asylum National
Cemetery were made about August 1, 1861. By the time the cemetery was
closed to further burials on May 12 or 13, 1864, a total of 5,211 Union Soldiers
had been interred. Arlington National Cemetery, located on Mrs. Robert E.
Lee's estate, opened May 13, 1864. By June 30, 1865, a total of 5,003
burials had been made in Arlington. By 1871 a total of 11,276 Union
soldiers (7,199 known) had been buried there; 4,276 "others" were also buried in
the cemetery. Some were cemetery employees. A few were "citizens,"
civilians held by military authorities without trial. Three hundred
forty-seven Confederate POW's were buried in Arlington. Before becoming a
cemetery for Union soldiers, part of Arlington had served as a camp for
ex-slaves. By 1871, a total of 3,235 of these refugees (or contrabands as
Union officers often called them) had been buried on the grounds.
The responsibility for overseeing the burial of Union soldiers
fell to the Quartermaster General's Office. During the war the
Quartermaster's Office was more concerned with supplying living Union soldiers
with food, weapons, and clothing than starting cemeteries. Burying the
dead was not a priority.
After the war, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs
assigned much of the early work to reburying the Union dead to Captain James M.
Moore. Moore had charge of burials in the District of Columbia in 1864 and
1865. Later, Captain (later Brevet Lieutenant Colonel) Moore commanded
burial parties sent to the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House battlefields
and the Andersonville POW camp.
One of Captain Moore's duties were answering letters from
parents and wives of soldiers who did not return from the war. In order
for "surviving comrades and friends" to locate the graves of deceased Union
soldiers, the Quartermaster General's Office published a series of 27 volumes of
burial rosters of various cemeteries. This series, published in paperback,
became known as the Roll of Honor, although the title of a few volumes
varies slightly. By 1868 the Quartermaster's Department had received
reports of burials in 72 national cemeteries and 320 post and local cemeteries.
A total of 316,233 soldiers had been buried. Of these 175,764 or about
55.5%, were identified. The
Roll of Honor series contains most of these burial lists.
Two volumes of the series were published in 1865. Volume
1, which "listed" the names of most Union soldiers buried in Washington and in
the Arlington National Cemetery, was published on June 15, 1865. Volume 2,
published on October 6, 1865, listed names of soldiers buried by Captain Moore
at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House battlefields.
Moore's report of his trip to rebury the dead at Andersonville
(printed in Volume 3 of the Roll of Honor) fails to acknowledge two of
the members of his party, Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater. Atwater, a
former prisoner at Andersonville, had served as Andersonville's "Clerk of the
Dead." He secretly made a copy of the original burial roster, but after
the war he had been forced to sell his copy of the burial roster to the War
Atwater apparently mistrusted the War Department's intentions,
and he refused to turn over his copy of the burial roster. He was quickly
court-martialed and sent to prison. Clara Barton, Horace Greeley, and
others pushed for his release, and after two months at hard labor he was freed.
Because the list of names of the Union dead at Andersonville had not been
published, Atwater made arrangements with Greeley to publish his list. On
February 14, 1866, the Tribune Publishing Company published the Atwater list.
The War Department was publicly embarrassed. Three days later, Acting
Quartermaster General D. H. Rucker (Quartermaster General Meigs was on leave)
wrote Moore asking when he had sent the manuscript for Volume 3 of the Roll
of Honor to the "public printing office." According to Moore's reply
the manuscript would ". . . be completed in a few days . . ." (words every
editor has heard).
Apparently this embarrassment spurred the Quartermaster
General's Office to quick action. Eight more volumes of the series were
published in 1866.
Volume 14 of the series, the first of four volumes released in
1868, contained the names of 10,959 Union prisoners who died during the war.
Volume 3 of the series had listed 12,912 POWS buried at Andersonville.
Volume 19 added 2,797 burials at Florence, South Carolina. A total of
3,504 burials (only three unknown) at Salisbury, North Carolina were recorded in
Volume 14, although the unknown writer of the short description of the cemetery
claimed ". . .over five thousand fell
victim. . ." And in 1871 Col. Oscar Mack, the Inspector of National
Cemeteries, claimed although ". . . no records have been found . . .", some
11,700 Union prisoners died at "this golgotha." Mack forgot that just
three years earlier the War Department had published volume 14 of the Roll of
Honor which contained the list of names of 3,504 soldiers buried at
Salisbury. (For a more complete analysis of the burials at Salisbury see
this author's Bivouac of the Dead.)
Volume 14 of the Roll of Honor was the first volume of
the series not completed under the direction of Col. Moore. The remaining
volumes were completed under the direction of Brevet Brigadier General Alexander
J. Perry. However, the real work on Volumes 14 to 24 was done by Brevet
Colonel Charles W. Folsom, Assistant Quartermaster -- U.S. Volunteers.
Col. Folsom remained in service after the war to oversee the completion of much
of the work of burying Union soldiers. He served as Inspector of National
Cemeteries in 1868. By the time he had returned to civilian life, most
bodies of Union soldiers had been reburied in 74 national cemeteries.
Folsom moved to Massachusetts where he owned a landscaping business.
However, he retained his interest in national cemeteries, sometimes writing
magazine articles or writing the Quartermaster General about reports of unburied
bodies being found.
In the March 25, 1869 issue of Nation he wrote about
the problems of identifying the bodies of Union soldiers who had died years
before: "Every pains was taken to preserve all memorials of identity, from
the scrap of a letter hastily pinned on the breast or buried in a can or bottle
with the remains, up to the rudely-ornamented headboard which comrades provided
were more time was allowed." (sic) Volume 2 of the series reprints
extracts from a report of Chaplain William Earnshaw who was in charge of
disinterring Union soldiers and removing the bodies to the new national cemetery
at Stone's River, Tennessee. According to Earnshaw, the troops under his
command saw their duty as a "holy cause."
But not everyone who had charge of burying Union troops took
such care. In 1866, Brevet Major E. B. Whitman, Army Quartermaster, wrote:
Doubtless, in many instances, the mortuary records were
neglected or left incomplete from the influence of circumstances beyond the
control of the officer in charge; but oftener from inexperience and want of
forethought, and sometimes, unquestionably, from culpable and inexcusable
(After attempting to read some of these records in the National
Archives, it appears to the author that many clerks used the plan: "If in
In several cases a large number of interments were made by
contractors, and the records and gravemarks were the work of illiterate or
careless employees. Frequently the lists kept by hospital stewards and
quartermasters' clerks, intended to be correct, have been rendered of
comparatively little value from barbarous spelling and bad or careless
According to a report Col. Folsom wrote in May 1868, there were
many errors in the various volumes of the Roll of Honor. He proposed that
a consolidated report be produced with the dead listed alphabetically by state.
That would save searching through some 300 cemetery burial lists in 27 volumes.
Many burials have been made by troops on detached service or
on the march. The regimental returns alone will show any official record
of these; and the only source of information within reach is to be found in the
inscriptions or marks on the grave itself--sometimes a half-obliterated
penciling upon a rough board, or a rude carving upon a neighboring tree.
Folsom realized that state adjutant general records and other
records would need to be consulted to produce "a record . . . worthy of the
nation, and which will gratify many generations of the brave men therein
commemorated." Folsom proposed that "a zealous and concientious officer be
detailed, so long as needed for . . . republication of these lists. . ."
But the War Department failed to act on Folsom's recommendations. In that
same year, 1868, the Quartermaster General's Office published the so-called
Final Disposition (included in the Genealogical Publishing Company's 1994
reprint edition of the Roll of Honor, as is the Alphabetical Index to
Places of Interment). These four slim volumes identify the original
places of burial from which bodies had been removed and name the national
cemeteries where those bodies were deposited. A total of 197,000
reinterments were recorded, but the Final Disposition
listed reinterments in only 55 of the 74 national cemeteries active in 1871, so
it, too, is far from complete. This present publication is in fact, the
first to provides a comprehensive place index to the Roll of Honor (by
state) and is the only alphabetical name index to the
In 1871, Col. Mack, the Inspector of National Cemeteries,
report a revised total of the burial of 305,492 Union soldiers.
|White soldiers -- known
|White soldiers -- unknown
|Colored soldiers -- known
|Colored soldiers -- unknown
|Unknown and Unclassified*
Col. Mack's report incorrectly lists 12,112 burials at Salisbury,
North Carolina. However, he does not count soldiers who died in western
states and territories because "their deaths were not incidental to the
rebellion." Even though Col. Mack's figure of
about 305,00 Union burials is about 9,000 to high, it compares favorably with
the Union Surgeon General's 1870 report listing 303,504 deaths. Col.
Mack's figure is 11,000 less than Col. Folsom's 1868 report. An unknown
number (Col. Folsom estimated 40,000) who were wounded or "took sick" were sent
home to recuperate, only to die there. Perhaps this accounts for the
discrepancy in the figures. Very few of the burials who died "at home"
were reported in the Roll of Honor.
*Most of these burials were at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
This index contains a total of 228,639 names. However, an
undetermined number of them are either duplications of names in earlier volumes
or corrected names. Volume 14, for example, records a total of 685 burials
at Lawton, Georgia. Volume 17 repeats those names. In 1868 those
bodies were moved to the Beaufort (South Carolina) National Cemetery.
Volume 27 of the series which lists the Beaufort cemetery, repeats those names
again. It appears that about 20% of the names are duplications.
A few names were apparently corrected by comparing burial lists with other
Although the Roll of Honor was supposed to list all
Union deaths, it does not. It fails to list the one known soldier buried
at the Ball's Bluff (Virginia) National Cemetery. Nor does it list the
1,262 burials at Grafton (West Virginai) National Cemetery. The Roll
even missed the 200-odd burials at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington!
One reason for these names being omitted from the Roll of
Honor appears to be the utter chaos in the Quartermaster General's cemetery
records. Although the records were supposed to be in some form of
alphabetical order, the records that remain in the National Archives are in
utter disarray. As one archivist put it: "As you know, the material
on national cemeteries before 1920 is incomprehensible." In 1885
Quartermaster General Samuel Holabird wrote: "No published reports on this
subject (the history of national cemeteries) are now reliable or accurate . . ."
Holabird admitted: ". . .we have not at hand the necessary data upon which
to base such [history]."
One example of this lack of data is the soldiers' lot at
Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Volume 7 of the Roll of Honor list 70
burials at Carlisle. By 1878 a total of 313 soldiers were believed to have
been buried at Carlisle. An 1890 report stated that 41 soldiers were
buried in Carlisle's Ashland Cemetery. According to current Department of
Veterans Affairs records, a total of 523 soldiers are buried in 24 grave sites.
Today, the Union graves in the Ashland Cemetery Soldiers' Lot
are marked by a bronze tablet. The tablet's inscription reads: "500
US SOLDIERS OF THE CIVIL WAR ARE HERE INTERRED." The tablet then lists the
thirty-five names found in Volume 7 of the Roll of Honor. The
inscription concludes: "THE REST ARE KNOWN BUT TO GOD."
The War Department didn't even know what cemeteries they owned.
Volume 18 of the Roll of Honor, listed a total of 655 burials in the
Spring Grove National Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the
Roll of Honor, two of the lots were donated to the federal government by the
State of Ohio. However, when Col. Mack completed his 1871 report, he could
not determine if the land had been deeded to the Uniited States. The
Spring Grove Cemetery believes the federal government owns the land but cannot
determine when the title was transferred. Today the Department of Veterans
Affairs does not list Spring Grove as either a national cemetery or a soldiers'
lot. The War Department did not mark the graves at Spring Grove.
That means the Department of Veterans Affairs has no record of the soldiers
A similar problem occurs with the Rose Hill Cemetery near
Chicago. Volume 9 of the series lists 159 burials "at Chicago."
Volume 18 adds 317 burials in Chicago's Rose Hill Cemetery. Although
several reports state that the lots in Rose Hill Cemetery were owned by the
federal government, today the VA has no record of burials in the cemetery
because the graves were not marked when the graves in national cemeteries were.
Although there are errors in the Roll of Honor it
remains the only record of burials of many of the Union soldiers who died during
the Civil War. Most of the graves listed in the Roll of Honr were
not permanently marked until headstones were placed in national cemeteries in
1873. The Department of Veterans Affairs uses copies of the orders for
headstones to determine if a soldier is buried in a national cemetery. If
a wooden headboard had been destroyed before a permanent headstone was ordered,
the VA will have no record of the burial. Burials in most post cemeteries
were not marked until 1885. Often the Roll of Honor is the only
record of the burial of Union soldiers.
The VA turned its copy of the Roll of Honor over to the
National Archives in the early 1970s. As a VA spokesman explained:
"As you know there is no index for the Roll of Honor. It's just too hard
to search through all those books for a name. Anyway, many of those bodies
were moved and we have no record of where they are now." Martha and
William Reamy, along with the Genealogical Publishing Company, have solved those
problems with this volume. After more than 125 years we finally have the
means of accessing the only official memorial to the Union dead ever published.