Memphis National Cemetery
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Visitation Hours: Open daily 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
This cemetery has space available for cremated remains. We may be able to accommodate casketed remains in the same gravesite of previously interred family members.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial. For more information visit our eligibility web page.
The cemetery is located in the northeastern section of Memphis. From Memphis International Airport, travel north on Parking toward Winchester Road. Turn left onto Airport Exit. Turn slight left to take ramp toward Interstate 240. Merge onto Plough Road. Merge onto Interstate 240 east toward Nashville. Travel Interstate 240 east 15 miles to exit 8B (Jackson Avenue South). Note that Interstate 240 east will change to Interstate 40 west. Travel Jackson Avenue 1.5 miles to Townes Avenue. The cemetery entrance is immediately on your left.
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.
The cemetery is located in Shelby County, Memphis, Tennessee, in the northeastern part of the city.
For educational materials and additional information on this cemetery, please visit the Education section, located below.
Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted at the main entrance to the cemetery.
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.
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.
During the lawn mowing and grounds maintenance season, all floral items will be removed from graves on the first and third Fridays of each month. All floral items will be removed when they become unsightly. Christmas wreaths, grave blankets and other seasonal adornments may be placed on graves from Dec. 1 through Jan. 20.
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 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.
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.
Memphis originated as a campground of the Chickasaw nation. The first European explorer, Hernando De Soto, arrived in 1541 and claimed the territory for Spain. More than a century later, in 1682, the French would also claim the land on behalf of King Louis XIV. It was not until 1797 that the United States took possession of the territory and erected Fort Adams. In 1818, the Chickasaw signed a treaty granting much of what is West Tennessee to the United States. A year later, three Nashville speculators founded the city of Memphis: John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson, future president of the United States.
Once Memphis fell under Union control, it became a convenient location to care for the sick and wounded troops flooding in from surrounding areas. General hospitals capable of caring for thousands of men at a time were set up in and around the city. A board of officers who purchased 32 acres northeast of the city chose the cemetery site. It was originally known as Mississippi River National Cemetery. At the end of the war, burials included reinterments from camps and hospitals throughout the region.
Memphis has the second-largest group of unknowns interred in any national cemetery. The large quantity of unknowns may be attributed to the long interval between battlefield burial and reinterment at Memphis National Cemetery. Often, the crude wood markers that identified original burials had been removed or deteriorated to the point where they were no longer legible. As soldiers were not required to carry personal identification, it was often difficult to determine the identity of the remains.
Memphis National Cemetery is also the burial place of the victims of one of the nation's most tragic maritime disasters—the explosion of the USS Sultana. On April 23, 1865, after undergoing boiler repairs, the vessel had picked up a number of Union prisoners of war released from Andersonville prison in Georgia and Cahaba prison in Alabama. The captain, a part owner of the vessel, was paid $5 a head for enlisted men and $10 for officers, so he did not baulk when the steamer was overloaded with passengers. The USS Sultana was certified to carry 376 passengers, but it carried well over 2,000 soldiers anxious to return home.
The steamer left Vicksburg and reached Memphis on the evening of April 26, where the passengers heard the news of President Lincoln's assassination. From Memphis, the ship stopped at a coaling station on the Arkansas side of the river, bound for Cairo, Ill. About 2 a.m. a boiler exploded and the blast toppled the smokestack and cut the deck in two. Many men were killed instantly by the fire and steam, others began going over the side. Many of the wounded were put over the side to avoid the inferno, only to drown miles away. Only about 800 persons survived.
Monuments and Memorials
The granite Minnesota Monument was erected in 1916 by the state of Minnesota in memory of its soldiers who fought in the Civil War and were buried at the cemetery. John K. Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., is the sculptor. Daniels also did three other Minnesota monuments, found at Little Rock (1920), Nashville and Jefferson Barracks (1922) national cemeteries. Seven Minnesota monuments were commissioned in all for national cemeteries during the post-Civil War years. The others are located at the national cemeteries at Vicksburg, Miss. (1906-07); Shiloh, Tenn. (1908); and Marion, Ind. (1913).
The Illinois Monument is a granite-and-bronze sarcophagus commissioned by the state of Illinois. Dedicated in 1929, it depicts a soldier in repose.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Private James H. Robinson, (Civil War) Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry. Brownsville, Ark., Jan. 27, 1865 (Section H, Grave 4131).
Educational content is being developed for this national cemetery. New materials will be posted when the information becomes available. For additional information on the Veterans Legacy Program or the NCA History Program, please visit the web page for the Veterans Legacy Program and the NCA History page. Thank you for your interest in learning about the National Cemetery Administration.