A Blue and Gray Trail Site
More than 12,000 Union soldiers are interred at the beautiful National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, located near Orchard Knob. The park-like setting includes 121 acres of land, making it the largest cemetery in the state. With more than 37,000 interments presently, the cemetery is near capacity and scheduled to close to new interments in 2015. Only veterans, their wives and families may be buried here.
On November 23, 1863, Ulysses S. Grant ordered George Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland to take Orchard Knob in preparation for the battle of Missionary Ridge. As Thomas' men advanced, the Confederate skirmishers fell back after a heavy engagement.
Two days later Grant, Thomas and General Gordon Grainger were standing on the knob watching the battle of Missionary Ridge. From this vantage point they watched as the Army of the Cumberland routed Bragg's Army of Tennessee in what some scholars believe was the South's last chance for victory in the Civil War.
Thomas needed a place to bury his dead and established a small cemetery near the position at Orchard Knob. He personally supervised the burial of the Union soldiers who died at Chattanooga. When asked by a chaplain if he wanted them buried by state as they had done at Gettysburg he replied, "No, No, mix them all up. I'm sick of state's rights."
After the end of the Civil War the United States government decided to consolidate the graves of soldiers who died in battle and purchased the land Thomas had used and additional acreage from three men. On these original 75 acres they buried Union soldiers from battles in Tennessee and Georgia, disinterring the remains from the battlefield and reinterring them in Chattanooga. No Confederate soldiers are buried in the park because of prevailing sentiment at the time.
The cemetery holds the remains of veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War and 186 graves of German prisoners-of-war from both World Wars. It is the only national cemetery to contain the graves of foreign POW's. These men, many of whom were members of General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps, died while prisoners-of-war at a internment facility in Fort Oglethorpe
On a small hill at the center of cemetery are four cannon facing the sky. A large arch down the hill is the original entrance to the park. Behind the arch is a memorial to the men who served in each branch of service.
The cemetery has the graves of 6 Medal of Honor winners, men who were captured and hung by the Confederates for their role in The Great Locomotive Chase. The "Ohio Monument" is a tribute to these first awardees of the MOH, and contains a replica of The General, the locomotive they stole and rode from Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), to Ringgold, Georgia. Given to the cemetery by the state of Ohio at a cost of $5,000, the monument was unveiled at ceremonies on Decoration Day, 1891**.
Hours:The cemetery grounds remain open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for visitors.
Directions:To visit the cemetery take I-75 North to I-24 West to the Fourth Avenue exit. Turn right at the light, then turn left at the next light (23rd Street). Continue on 23rd Street to Holtzclaw Avenue (approximately nine blocks). Turn right. Stay on Holtzclaw Avenue until you come to the main entrance of the cemetery which will be on the left. When you enter the cemetery, turn right and you will come to the office.
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