the remains of soldiers killed at Cold Harbor in 1864 were excavated and reburied in 1866
Source: Google Arts and Culture (by John Reekie, 1866)
Dead bodies of soldiers were typically buried quickly on the battlefield. Confederate or Union forces that ended up with possession of a site would direct enslaved people, or hire local laborers, to dig graves. If troops moved too fast to perform that duty, local residents had to bury the dead.
After the Civil War, in many cases the remains were exhumed and transported to permanent cemeteries. Many of the buried Union soldiers could not be identified by name. In 1866, General Montgomery Meigs created a monument in Arlington Cemetery for reburial of unidentified Union dead excavated from Virginia battlefields. ,/p>
unidentified Union soldiers were reburied at Arlington Cemetery in 1866
Source: Library of Congress, Civil War Unknowns monument, designed by Montgomery Meigs and dedicated in 1866, at Arlington Cemetery
The National Park Service lists 18 cemeteries in Virginia specifically created to bury Civil War veterans, the most of any state:1
Alexandria National Cemetery, Alexandria
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington
Ball's Bluff National Cemetery, Leesburg
City Point National Cemetery, Hopewell
Cold Harbor National Cemetery, Mechanicsville
Culpeper National Cemetery, Culpeper
Danville National Cemetery, Danville
Fort Harrison National Cemetery, Richmond
Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Fredericksburg
Glendale National Cemetery, Richmond
Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton
Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) National Cemetery, Hampton
Poplar Grove National Cemetery, Petersburg
Richmond National Cemetery, Richmond
Seven Pines National Cemetery, Sandston
Staunton National Cemetery, Staunton
Winchester National Cemetery, Winchester
Yorktown National Cemetery , Yorktown
There are many other cemeteries across the state in which soldiers were buried. Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond highlights that it is the final resting place for Confederate soldiers, officers, and even Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America.
Many soldiers lie in family or community graveyards, such as John Singleton Mosby in Warrenton Cemetery. Others who died of disease or as the result of fighting were hastily buried on the spot, or not even buried at all. After the Civil War, the Federal government made a concerted effort to excavate burials of Union soldiers and move remains to new national cemeteries. The remains of many Confederate soldiers were also exhumed and moved to formal cemetery sites.
Battlefields are often described as "hallowed ground" because not all bodies were removed. At any location, there may be an unknown grave. It is not uncommon for modern construction projects around Civil War hospitals to encounter bones and archeological remnants such as metal buttons from uniforms.
Reburials are still occurring in Civil War cemeteries. In 2021, the National Park Sevice searched for a new gravesite in Fredericksburg National Cemetery. The last Civil War veteran had been buried in the cemetery in 1945 and it had been declared "closed" in 2010, but new remains were discovered in 2015 at the site of a hospital during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Ground penetrating radar was used to identify a spot with no previous burial and no archeological resources.
About 15,000 men were killed in battles around Fredericksburg between 1862-64. Many were buried without identification by name, and the 2021 remains were not expected to be associated with any particular soldiers.2
in 2021, the National Park Service searched for a site in Fredericksburg National Cemetery for burial of remains of Civil War soldiers discovered in 2015
Source: Facebook, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Military Park (June 30, 2021)