Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg

Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. This gallery offers a sampling of photographs of Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Hover over the image to read the caption (or on a mobile device, lightly touch and hold the image.)

Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg

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Highlights

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin agreed to appropriate funds to establish a national cemetery in Gettysburg. The cemetery was for the burial of Union soldiers who perished as a result of the battle. To that end, Curtin appointed Gettysburg lawyer, David Wills, to handle the financial transactions and to oversee the development of the property. They worked with the governors of northern states so that the cost of the Cemetery Hill property would be shared proportionally.

At the same time, Botanist William Saunders designed the lay-out of graves as semi-circular arcs around a prominent monument. Moreover, he designed the gravestones to be flush to the earth. The named the Soldiers’ National Monument was created by sculptor Randolph Rogers. Standing sixty-foot high, this large monument had five marble statues. Its cornerstone was dedicated on July 4, 1865, and the monument in 1869.

Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. A crowd of 15,000–20,000 people listened to a two-hour speech by Edward Everett followed by two minutes of “appropriate remarks” by Abraham Lincoln. It was called the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s words gave meaning to Gettysburg when he said that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Of the more than 51,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, about 3,600 are buried at the national cemetery. Nine Confederate soldiers are likely buried here too, because of challenges identifying bodies. (“Dog tags” were not yet invented.)

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