National Cemetery Administration
History: Historic Resource Documentation
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the National Cemeteries
The affiliation among President Abraham Lincoln, his Gettysburg Address, and the national cemeteries is relevant today. The speech Lincoln gave at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, is iconic. In 1909, for the nation's observation of the centennial of Lincoln's birth through activities formal and popular alike, Congress directed that cast-iron Gettysburg Address tablets be placed in the national cemeteries. In November 2018, one of these historic tablets was installed at the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters for employees and visitors to see.
- New Gettysburg Address Tablets for National Cemeteries to Honor Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial
February 2009 marked the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth. In 1909, to celebrate the centennial of this event, the U.S. Army placed his Gettysburg Address, cast in iron, in all national cemeteries. Over the years some tablets were removed, and the number of national cemeteries increased. This project assures that all national cemeteries contain this symbolic artifact of NCA's origin.
Federal Stewardship of Confederate Dead
Civil War-era national cemeteries were created to bury Union dead. But the U.S. government was also responsible for Confederate dead--most associated with prisoner-of-war camps. This cultural resource study examines 9 all-Confederate cemeteries and 9 national cemeteries containing the greatest number of Confederate graves. The 311-page book contains 245 illustrations (GPO 2016, ISBN 978-0-16-093255-7).
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Cleaning and Caring for Government Headstones and Markers
The National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology & Training completed a study in 2011 to evaluate general cleaning needs of marble government-issued headstones.
Cleaning should be safe for the individuals involved and prolong the life of Federal headstones and markers produced over the past 150 years. The NCA 2011 study (above) addressed marble headstones. This 2020 fact sheet provides current guidance for treating marble, granite and bronze grave markers.
Rostrums in National Cemeteries
Rostrums or speakers' platforms were introduced to national cemeteries in the decades after the Civil War. Of all the rostrums built between 1873 and 1956 in what are now NCA-managed properties, thirty-seven are often still the centerpiece of Memorial Day events. These structures are significant as contributing features to their historic cemetery landscapes and are a testament to commemorative traditions in the United States.
- Rostrums Documented for the Historic American Landscapes Survey
As components of historic cemeteries, rostrums were the subject of a research and documentation project completed in 2014 for the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), National Park Service. The HALS Collection is housed at the Library of Congress. History reports, drawings, and photographs about the national cemetery rostrums may be found here.
- Rostrums Over the Years – Illustrated
This interactive timeline was developed by Mallory Bordonaro, M.A. in Public History, Central Connecticut State University, who was an NCA History Program intern in 2017-18 through the Virtual Student Federal Service program.
NCA and the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and Designated National Historic Landmarks
Many of the oldest national cemeteries and soldiers lots managed by NCA are recognized as historically significant and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and/or designated as a National Historic Landmarks (NHL).
- National Register Eligibility of National Cemeteries -
A Clarification of Policy
This 2011 guidance outlines how the National Park Service determined that all national cemeteries are eligible for the NRHP regardless of age.
Lodges in National Cemeteries
Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs approved a prototype for superintendent lodges to be built in national cemeteries in August 1871. The prototype came from a design by architect Edward Clark, which civil engineer Thomas Chiffelle then refined. The 1½-story building with an L-shaped floorplan included a small front porch and a mansard roof. Once Meigs approved the design, 55 of the French Second Empire-style lodges were constructed between 1871 and 1881 of brick or stone.
Since the mid-1880s, the prototype has been known as the "Meigs Plan" for its association with the quartermaster. Several lodges exist at national cemeteries, including Richmond, Virginia; Keokuk, Iowa; and Port Hudson, Louisiana. They originally served as a dwelling for the superintendent and his family; one first-floor room, accessed through a separate door, was designated as a cemetery office. Today NCA oversees 18 lodges, and these historic resources house NCA offices or other tenants.
- Recording Historic Lodges
In 2014, NCA funded a study of the lodges built for superintendents assigned to national cemeteries, built between 1867 and 1960. Research about designers, builders, and materials was completed for the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) collection, National Park Service. History reports, drawings, and photographs about the lodges may be found here or at the Library of Congress.
- Preserving Historic Lodges
NCA has engaged in partnerships with the National Park Service, Historic Preservation Training Center, to help preserve some of the oldest and most significant cemetery buildings: the first permanent superintendent lodges.
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