Woodlawn National Cemetery
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday - 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed federal holidays.
Visitation Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
This cemetery has space available for cremated remains in a columbarium. We can accommodate casketed remains of subsequent family members in the same gravesite of previously interred family members.
Cemetery is located in Chemung County, Elmira, N.Y., next to Woodlawn City Cemetery. Take Interstate 86 to Exit 52B, Route 14 South, Elmira Heights. Follow Route 14 South for approximately two miles until you come to a Y in the road. Bear right at the Y. Follow Oakwood Avenue. After one mile Oakwood Avenue will change to Davis Street. Follow Davis Street. The cemetery will be on your right.
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 gravesite locator is located to the right of the office door.
Military Funeral Honors
The cemetery staff can assist funeral homes by providing the telephone numbers for the Military Funeral Honors contacts.
Military Funeral Honors are organized under the Department of Defense and should be arranged by the funeral director. In the event there is not a funeral director involved in making arrangements please refer to the telephone numbers listed below or contact your local American Legion or VFW.
Army and National Guard - (607) 661-5056
Navy and Merchant Marine - (860) 694-3475
Air Force - (716) 236-3182 or (518) 344-2586
Marine Corps - (516) 228-5666
Coast Guard - (216) 902-6117
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 will be allowed on graves from Oct. 15 to April 15. Artificial flowers and potted plants may be placed 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 plantings, 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 two weeks 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.
VA regulations 38 CFR 1.218 prohibit the carrying of firearms (either openly or concealed), explosives or other dangerous or deadly weapons while on VA property, except for official purposes, such as military funeral honors. Possession of firearms on any property under the charge and control of VA is prohibited. Offenders may be subject to a fine, removal from the premises, or arrest.
Woodlawn National Cemetery is located in Elmira, N.Y., in Chemung County. In 1861, the town was both a training and marshalling center for Union soldiers during the Civil War. As trainees were eventually assigned to military units and the barracks emptied, the federal government used the buildings as a prisoner-of-war camp. Originally known as Camp Rathbun, and designated Camp No. 3 during its existence from summer 1864 until the end of the war, this camp housed approximately 12,000 Confederate enlisted men. Approximately 3,000 men died here.
Confederate POWs were transported by rail from locations such as Point Lookout, Md., and Old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C., to Elmira. Upon arrival, most of the captives were in poor physical condition, which was only exacerbated by their incarceration. While the weather was mild during summer and fall, in its first year approximately 900 prisoners were without housing until early January. Prison records show that men died from typhoid fever, dysentery and pneumonia, as well as malnutrition. The Confederates lacked adequate rations and medical care thanks to insufficient medical supplies. Prisoners infected with smallpox were often moved to a remote location and forgotten. It was not uncommon to see a frozen body lying outside a tent waiting to be loaded for transportation to the cemetery. Another contributing factor to the problem of disease was a stagnant pool known as Foster’s Pond. This pond stood between the camp and the river.
Each day, deceased soldiers were placed in coffins and loaded on a buckboard wagon, up to nine at a time. The wagons traveled approximately a mile and a half to the cemetery, where a long trench was dug and the coffins placed in it side by side. At the time of the Confederate burials, John Jones, an escaped slave who found freedom in Elmira, was the sexton of Woodlawn Cemetery. He kept a meticulous record of each Confederate burial so that when, in 1907, the federal government was authorized to erect a small marble headstone at each grave, it was possible to inscribe them with the soldier’s name, company regiment and grave number.
Beginning in February 1865, prisoners who swore allegiance to the Union were deemed eligible for release. Groups of approximately 500 men were allocated food rations, money and/or transportation vouchers and placed on a train bound for the major Union army supply depot in City Point, Va., where arrangements were made for the final trip home.
Soldiers who survived were released in groups at the end of the war and provided the same assistance. Approximately 140 went to the regional army hospital in Elmira where they were treated until fit to travel. Seventeen of them never recovered and died in New York. By the end of 1865, the camp was fully closed and all buildings razed or moved to nearby locations.
Woodlawn National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 6, 2004.
Monuments and Memorials
The United States government erected the Shohola Monument in 1911 to commemorate a tragic railroad accident that took the lives of both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Starting in 1906, the government began a program to mark the graves of Confederate prisoners of war and this monument was one of the earliest monuments to be erected. One side of the Shohola monument honors 49 Confederate prisoners of war who were killed in the accident. According to 1864 newspaper accounts of the accident, the Confederate soldiers killed were among 853 Confederate prisoners being transported by train from the prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland, to Elmira, New York, in July 1864. The 18-car passenger train which carried the prisoners of war was hit by a 50-car coal train on July 15, 1864. A total of 64 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed, along with the passenger train's engineer, 2 firemen, and a brakeman. One hundred and twenty other passengers were wounded. The other side of the Shohola monument commemorates the 17 Union guard sentinels - all privates of the 11th Veteran Reserve Corps - who accompanied the prisoners enroute to Elmira. Original burial location for the dead was in a trench near the accident site. They were later reinterred at Woodlawn National Cemetery and their individual remains were unidentifiable.
In 1937, the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument in memory of those Confederate prisoners of war who died while imprisoned at Elmira and who are buried at Woodlawn National Cemetery. The bronze figure and granite monument overlooks the entire length of the Confederate area, facing eastward.
On Aug. 13, 1988, the Chemung County Veterans dedicated a monument in memory of all veterans from New York and Pennsylvania. The granite and bronze plaque memorial features military insignia from all five branches of the military.