Martha & William Reamy
With a Foreword and
Index to Burial Sites
by Mark Hughes
National Cemeteries where 27th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry
soldiers are buried.
(Per the Roll of Honor)
Note, for each cemetery, I have included the description of the cemetery. After the description there is a table that includes the names and other information about the men that are buried there. So you will have to scroll down to see the names of the men. Some cemeteries were in multiple volumes of the Roll of Honor. I put them on the same page, Each man listed in the Roll of Honor has a link by his name on the roster. Each man's name is linked to the correct volume.
I have visited the Little Rock National Cemetery and the Alexandria National Cemetery, Louisiana. I have included some pictures that were taken by me. (ejj)
Mississippi River National Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee
Now known as Memphis National Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee
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 legislation:
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.
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 Department.
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 neglect.
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 penmenship.
(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 doubt--scribble.")
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.
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.
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 Roll ever attempted.
In 1871, Col. Mack, the Inspector of National Cemeteries, report a revised total of the burial of 305,492 Union soldiers.
*Most of these burials were at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
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 too 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.
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 records.
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 buried there.
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.