Chalmette National Cemetery
Chalmette National Cemetery is one of six sites located within Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Chalmette, Louisiana. This United States National Cemetery is a graveyard adjacent to what was once the battleground for the Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812.
Everyone in the Civil War-era United States was affected by the war in some way. Some people gained their freedom, some people lost their homes, hundreds of thousands lost their lives, and millions lost their loved ones. On July 17, 1862, Congress authorized President Lincoln to purchase cemetery lands for the soldiers who died in service, leading to national cemeteries being established across the United States. In May of 1864, Chalmette National Cemetery was established just a few miles away from New Orleans, right next to the site where the Battle of New Orleans was fought.
While there were thousands that died during many of the Civil War’s battles, there were many more soldiers and sailors that died in hospitals after the war was over due to wounds and illnesses.
Chalmette National Cemetery was originally built to provide a resting place for Union soldiers that died in Louisiana during the Civil War. However, there are also civilians that were buried there as well. This practice ended in 1867 out of fear that the cemetery would turn into a paupers’ graveyard.
Around 7,000 troops who were buried in local cemeteries were reinterred at Chalmette National Cemetery by 1868. These troops were moved from cemeteries in New Orleans and Mississippi, including Algiers, Cypress Grove No. 2, Camp Parapet, and Metairie Ridge. Over 12,000 Civil War troops are buried at Chalmette National Cemetery, 7,000 of which are unknown and only identified by small square markers.
The gates of the cemetery were originally facing the Mississippi River, since the river and the road along the levee were the most convenient ways to travel in the 1860s. A wide avenue divided the cemetery into two sections lined with trees and flowerbeds. After an inspection was done in 1871, a report found that the wooden grave markers were in poor condition. By 1875, all of the wooden markers began being replaced with marble headstones. Over time, buildings were also built and demolished, including stables, restrooms, a wooden water tank, a carriage house, a rostrum where ceremonies were held, and a home for the caretaker.
As the years went on, more than 16,000 men and women have slowly filled the Calmette National Cemetery. Troops from every American conflict have been buried there, including unknown soldiers. In 1933, Chalmette National Cemetery traded hands from the War Department to the National Park Service. In 1939, Chalmette National Historical Park was established on the ground where the Battle of New Orleans took place, and it became responsible for the national cemetery. Both sites then became part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in 1978.