All Together Now

by Editorial Staff--SouthJersey.com | Jul 14, 2014
All Together Now Very few cemeteries in the United States contain the remains of both Confederate and Union soldiers from the American Civil War. Finns Point National Cemetery, which was officially designated as a national cemetery in 1875 by the United States government, is one of them. The fact that Union and Confederate soldiers are buried within the confines of the same national cemetery, albeit in separate sections, makes Finns Point somewhat unique.

Arlington National Cemetery has a Confederate Circle, and Philadelphia National Cemetery encloses a separate Confederate section, and there may be others; however, more typical are the separate national cemeteries for Confederates at Camp Chase, Elmira, Point Lookout, and Johnson’s Island. Created during the war, these cemeteries were designated as national cemeteries and reserved exclusively for the Confederate soldiers and sailors who died while prisoners of war.

Completed in 1877, Finns Point National Cemetery was enhanced and improved in response to the urging of Governor James L. Kemper of Virginia. Governor Kemper had been a brigade commander under Major General George E. Pickett in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and was wounded in action at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Many of Kemper’s Virginians were sent to Fort Delaware and those who died there were buried at Finns Point.

United States Adjutant General E. D. Townsend wrote to Governor Kemper in 1875: "Most of the bodies of the Confederate prisoners of war who died at Fort Delaware are interred in the soldier’s burial ground at Finns Point on the New Jersey shore, opposite to the fort, which is enclosed by an osage-orange hedge, and while not in as good [an] order as might be desired, is reported as presenting a more respectable appearance than many country church-yards." Nevertheless, the United States War Department removed the few Union and Confederate remains to be found still on Pea Patch Island and placed them inside the newly designated national cemetery.

The remains of 135 of the Union guards who died while on duty at Fort Delaware are interred in a separate section to the front of the cemetery. Union remains buried at Finns Point during the war were placed in individual graves. Sadly, these are now unmarked. A monument to these Union guards was erected in 1879 listing 105 names and noting that 30 others could not be identified. The Grecian style columned cupola over the smaller obelisk seen today was added in 1936.

As a further gesture of reconciliation following the successful conclusion of the war against Spain to which the former Confederate states contributed significant support, the United States government in 1910 authorized the erection of an 85 foot tall obelisk memorializing the Confederates buried at Finns Point. The obelisk was constructed with reinforced concrete at its core and was covered with slabs of Pennsylvania white granite. Bronze memorial plates surrounding its base contain the names of 2,436 Confederate prisoners of war known at the time to have died at Fort Delaware.

Finns Point National Cemetery continued in active use as a burial site for members of the Coastal Artillery garrison at nearby Fort Mott through the end of World War I. It is in active use today for American service veterans of all wars, but burials are now limited to cremains. The cemetery is operated and maintained under the direction of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Finns Point National Cemetery is open year round for visitation and is located off east Route 49, on Fort Mott Road in Salem. For more information, call 609-877-5460 or click here.

Information provided by the Fort Delaware Society, 2010.

For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

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© SouthJersey.com 2014. All rights reserved. This article or parts thereof may not be reprinted or reproduced by any other party without the express written consent of SouthJersey.com. For more information, please call 856-797-9910.

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Author: Editorial Staff--SouthJersey.com

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