To schedule a burial: Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
A road construction project is underway on Lincoln Blvd. adjacent to the cemetery and will continue through 2012. The cemetery main gates will remain accessible throughout the Presidio Parkway construction project. Recommended access to the Presidio is through the Arguello, Presidio or Lombard Gates. To reach the cemetery proceed west on Moraga Avenue, right onto Infantry Terrace, left onto Sheridan Avenue. Cemetery main gates are on the left at the beginning of the road closure.
San Francisco National Cemetery is closed to new interments. The only interments that are being accepted are subsequent interments for veterans or eligible family members in an existing gravesite. Periodically however, burial space may become available due to a canceled reservation or when a disinterment has been completed. When either of these two scenarios occurs, the gravesite is made available to another eligible veteran on a first-come, first-served basis. Since there is no way to know in advance when a gravesite may become available, please contact the cemetery at the time of need to inquire whether space is available.
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When Spain colonized what would become California, this area was selected as the site for a fort, or presidio, to defend San Francisco Bay. About 40 families traveled here from northern Mexico in 1776 and built the first settlement, a small quadrangle, only a few hundred feet west of what is now Funston Avenue. Mexico controlled the Presidio following 1821, but the fort became increasingly less important to the Mexican government. In 1835, most soldiers and their families moved north to Sonoma, leaving it nearly abandoned. During the Mexican War, U.S. troops occupied and repaired the damage to the fort.
The mid-century discovery of gold in California led to the sudden growth and importance of San Francisco, and prompted the U.S. government to establish a military reservation here. By executive order, President Millard Fillmore established the Presidio for military use in November 1850. During the 1850s and 1860s, Presidio-based soldiers fought Native Americans in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 re-emphasized the importance of California’s riches and the military significance of San Francisco’s harbor to the Union. This led, in 1862, to the first major construction and expansion program at the Presidio since the United States acquired it.
The Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s resulted in additional expansion of the Presidio, including large-scale tree planting and a post beautification program. By the following decade the Presidio had shed its frontier outpost appearance and was elevated to a major military installation and base for American expansion into the Pacific.
In 1890, with the creation of Sequoia, General Grant and Yosemite national parks in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, the protection of these scenic and natural resources was assigned to the U.S. cavalry stationed at the Presidio. Soldiers patrolled these parks during summer months until the start of World War I in 1914. The Spanish American War in 1898 and subsequent Philippine-American War, from 1899 to 1902, increased the role of the Presidio. Thousands of troops camped in tent cities while awaiting shipment to the Philippines. Returning sick and wounded soldiers were treated in the Army's first permanent hospital, later renamed Letterman Army General Hospital. In 1914, troops under the command of Gen. John Pershing departed the Presidio for the Mexican border in pursuit of Pancho Villa and his men. When World War I began, Pershing became commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.
When the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Presidio soldiers dug foxholes along the nearby beaches. Fourth Army Commander Gen. John L. DeWitt conducted the internment of thousands of Japanese and Japanese-Americans on the West Coast while U.S. soldiers of Japanese descent were trained to read and speak Japanese at the first Military Intelligence Service language school organized at Crissy Field. During the 1950s, the Presidio served as the headquarters for the Nike missile defense program and headquarters for the famed Sixth U.S. Army. The Presidio of San Francisco, encompassing more than 350 buildings with historic value, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962. In 1989, the Presidio closed as a military entity and was transferred to the National Park Service in October 1994.
On Dec. 12, 1884, the War Department designated nine acres, including the site of the old post cemetery, as San Francisco National Cemetery. It was the first national cemetery established on the West Coast and, as such, marks the growth and development of a system of national cemeteries extending beyond the battlefields of the Civil War. Initial interments included the remains of the dead from the former post cemetery as well as individuals removed from cemeteries at abandoned forts and camps elsewhere along the Pacific coast and western frontier. In 1934, all unknown remains in the cemetery were disinterred and reinterred in one plot. Many soldiers and sailors who died overseas serving in the Philippines, China and other areas of the Pacific Theater are interred in San Francisco National Cemetery.
The cemetery is enclosed with a stone wall and slopes down a hill that today frames a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Its original ornamental cast-iron entrance gates are present but have been unused since the entrance was relocated. Tall eucalyptus trees further enclose the cemetery. The lodge and rostrum date to the 1920s and reflect the Spanish Revival styling introduced to several western cemeteries.
Two unusual interments at San Francisco National Cemetery are “Major” Pauline Cushman and Miss Sarah A. Bowman. Cushman’s headstone bears the inscription “Pauline C. Fryer, Union Spy,” but her real name was Harriet Wood. Born in the 1830s, she became a performer in Thomas Placide’s show Varieties and took the name Pauline Cushman. She married theater musician Charles Dickinson in 1853, but after her husband died of illness related to his service for Union forces, she returned to the stage. During spring 1863, while performing in Louisville, Ky., she was asked by the provost marshal to gather information regarding local Confederate activity. From there she was sent to Nashville, where she had some success conveying information about troop strength and movements. In Nashville, she was also captured and nearly hanged as a spy. She returned to the stage in 1864, to lecture and sell her autobiography. Entertainer P.T. Barnum promoted her as the “Spy of the Cumberland” and through Barnum’s practiced boostership she quickly gained fleeting fame. After spending the 1870s working the redwood logging camps, she remarried and moved to the Arizona Territory. By 1893 she was divorced, destitute and desperate; she applied for her first husband’s military pension and returned to San Francisco, where she died from an overdose of narcotics allegedly taken to soothe her rheumatism. Members of the Grand Army of the Republic and Women’s Relief Corps conducted a magnificent funeral for the former spy. “Major” Cushman's remains reside in Officer’s Circle.
Also buried at San Francisco National Cemetery is Sarah Bowman, also known as “Great Western,” a formidable woman over 6 feet tall with red hair and a fondness for wearing pistols. Married to a soldier, she traveled with Zachary Taylor’s troops in the Mexican War helping to care for the wounded, for which she earned a government pension. After her husband’s death she had a variety of male companions and ran an infamous tavern and brothel in El Paso, Texas. Bowman left El Paso when she married her last husband. The two ended up at Fort Yuma, where she operated a boarding house until her death from a spider bite in 1866. She was given a full military funeral and was buried in the Fort Yuma Cemetery. Several years later her body was exhumed and reburied at San Francisco National Cemetery.
San Francisco National Cemetery was listed as a National Historic Landmark as part of the Presidio in 1962.
Monuments and Memorials
Monuments and memorials include a Grand Army of the Republic Memorial (1893), the Pacific Garrison Memorial (1897), a monument to the Marines who died at the Tartar Wall in Pakia, China (1900) and a monument to the Unknown Dead (1934).
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Medal of Honor Recipients
First Sergeant William Allen (Indian Campaigns), Company I, 23rd U.S. Infantry. Turret Mountain, Ariz., March 27, 1873 (Section OS, Grave 48-2).
Chief Machinist’s Mate William Badders U.S. Navy. At sea following sinking of the U.S.S. Squalus, May 13, 1939 (Section A, Grave 788-A).
Major James Coey (Civil War), 147th New York Infantry. Hatchers Run, Va., Feb. 6, 1865 (Section OS, Grave 89-1).
Sergeant James Congdon (served under the name James Madison) (Civil War), Company E, 8th New York Cavalry. Waynesboro, Va., March 2, 1865 (Section OSA, Grave 15-7).
Second Lieutenant Matthias W. Day (Indian Campaigns), 9th U.S. Cavalry. Las Animas Canyon, N.M., Sept. 18, 1879 (Section OS, Grave 2-11).
Major General William F. Dean (Korean War), U.S. Army, commanding general, 24th Infantry Division. Taejon, Korea, July 20 – 21, 1950 (Section GHT, Grave 353-B).
Captain Reginald B. Desiderio (Korean War), U.S. Army, commanding officer, Company E, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Near Ipsok, Korea, Nov. 27, 1950 (Section OS, Grave 128-20).
Lieutenant Abraham DeSomer (Mexican Campaign), U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Utah. Vera Cruz, Mexico, April 21 – 22, 1914 (Section MA, Grave 15).
Colonel Kern W. Dunagan (Vietnam War), U.S. Army, Company A, 1st Battalion, 46 Infantry, American Division. Republic of Vietnam, May 13, 1969 (Section WS, Grave 117-I).
Sergeant William Foster (Indian Campaigns), Company F, 4th U.S. Cavalry. Red River, Tex., Sept. 29, 1872 (Section WS, Grave 197).
Colonel Frederick Funston, Sr., (Philippine Insurrection), 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. Rio Grande de la Pampanga, Luzon, Philippine Islands, April 27, 1899 (Section OS, Grave 68-3).
Seaman Rade Grbitch U.S. Navy. On board the U.S.S. Bennington, July 21, 1905 (Section A, Grave 44).
Major Oliver D. Greene (Civil War), U.S. Army. Antietam, Md., Sept. 17, 1862 (Section OS, Grave 49-8).
First Lieutenant John Chowning Gresham (Indian Campaigns), 7th U.S. Cavalry. Wounded Knee Creek, S.D., Dec. 29, 1890 (Section OS, Row 4-A Grave 5).
Chief Carpenter’s Mate Franz Anton Itrich (Spanish-American War), U.S. Navy. On board the U.S.S. Petrel, May 1, 1898 (Section OSA, Grave 83-5).
Staff Sergeant Robert S. Kennemore (Korean War), U.S. Marine Corps, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. North of Yudam-ni, Korea, Nov. 27 – 28, 1950 (Section H, Grave CA- 404).
Sergeant John Sterling Lawton (Indian Campaigns), Company D, 5th U.S. Cavalry. Milk River, Colo., Sept. 29, 1879 (Section NAWS, Grave 1392).
Private Cornelius J. Leahy (Philippine Insurrection), Company A, 36th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers. Near Porac, Luzon, Philippine Islands, Sept. 3, 1899 (Section NA, Grave 970).
First Sergeant John Mitchell (Indian Campaigns), Company I, 5th U.S. Infantry. Upper Washita, Tex., Sept. 9-11, 1874 (Section NAWS, Grave 411).
Private Albert Moore (Spanish-American War), U.S. Marine Corps. Peking, China, July 21 – Aug. 17, 1900 (Section WS, Grave 1032-A).
Second Lieutenant Louis Clinton Mosher (Philippine Insurrection), Philippine Scouts. Gagsak Mountain, Jolo, Philippine Islands, June 11, 1913 (Section NA, Gave 1408).
Private Adam Neder (Indian Campaigns), Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Sioux Campaign, December 1890 (Section NAWS, Grave 1805).
First Lieutenant William R. Parnell (Indian Campaigns), 1st U.S. Cavalry. White Bird Canyon, Idaho, June 17, 1877 (Section OS, Grave 68-8).
Corporal Reuben Jasper Phillips (Boxer Rebellion), U.S. Marine Corps. China, June 1900 (Section OSD, Grave 3).
Corporal Norman W. Ressler (Spanish-American War), Company D, 17th U.S. Infantry. El Caney, Cuba, July 1, 1898 (Section WS, Grave 134-A).
Sergeant Lloyd Martin Seibert (World War I), U.S. Army, Company F, 364th Infantry, 91st Division. Near Epinonville, France, Sept. 26, 1918 (Section OS, Grave 128-10).
First Lieutenant William Rufus Shafter (Civil War), Company I, 7th Michigan Infantry. Fair Oaks, Va., May 31, 1862 (Section OS, Grave 30-2).
Private George Matthew Shelton, Sr., (Philippine Insurrection), Company I, 23rd U.S. Infantry. La Paz, Leyte, Philippine Islands, April 26, 1900 (Section OSD, Grave 799).
Gunner’s Mate Second Class Andrew V. Stoltenberg (Philippine Insurrection), U.S. Navy. Katbalogan, Samar, Philippine Islands, July 16, 1900 (Section A, Grave 242).
Sergeant Bernard Taylor (Indian Campaigns), Company A, 5th U.S. Cavalry. Near Sunset Pass, Ariz., Nov. 1, 1874 (Section WS, Grave 1090).
Coxswain Karl Thomas (Boxer Rebellion), U.S. Navy. China, July 18, 1900 (Section NA, Grave 369).
Private William H. Thompkins (Spanish-American War), Troop G, 10th U.S. Cavalry. Tayabacoa, Cuba, June 30, 1898 (Section WS, Grave 1036-A).
Captain Charles A. Varnum (Indian Campaigns), Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. White Clay Creek, S. D., Dec. 30, 1890 (Section OS, Grave 3-3-A).
Second Lieutenant George W. Wallace (Philippine Insurrection), 9th U.S. Infantry. Tinuba, Luzon, Philippine Islands, March 4, 1900 (Section OS, ROW 39A, Grave 1).
Seaman Axel Westermark (Boxer Rebellion), U.S. Navy. Peking, China June 28 – Aug. 17, 1900 (Section A, Grave 32).
Sergeant William Wilson (Indian Campaigns), Company I, 4th U.S. Cavalry. Colorado Valley, Texas, March 28, 1872 and Red River, Texas, Sept. 29, 1872 (Section WS, Grave 527).
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Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted and readily visible to the public.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. Natural cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Artificial flowers and potted plants will be permitted on graves during periods when their presence will not interfere with grounds maintenance. As a general rule, artificial flowers and potted plants will be allowed on graves for a period extending 10 days before through 10 days after Easter Sunday and Memorial Day.
Christmas wreaths, grave blankets and other seasonal adornments may be placed on graves from Dec. 1 through Jan. 20. They may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent planting, statues, vigil lights, breakable objects and similar items are not permitted on the graves. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit adornments that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel. For example, items incorporating beads or wires may become entangled in mowers or other equipment and cause injury.
Permanent items removed from graves will be placed in an inconspicuous holding area for one month prior to disposal. Decorative items removed from graves remain the property of the donor but are under the custodianship of the cemetery. If not retrieved by the donor, they are then governed by the rules for disposal of federal property.
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