In 1866, Lt... Colonel James Moore began his survey of the Petersburg area to locate land for a National Cemetery. Eventually, a farm just south of the city was chosen. This tract of land had been the campground for the 50th New York Volunteer Engineers. During the war they constructed a gothic-style, pine log church called Poplar Grove.
With the cemetery now established, work began to move approximately 5,000 Union soldiers from nearly 100 separate burial sites around Petersburg. Bodies were moved from nine Virginia counties, reaching as far west as Lynchburg, Virginia.
About 100 men comprised the "burial corps." With ten army wagons, forty mules, and 12 saddle horses, these men began their search and recovery mission. One observer noted "a hundred men were deployed in a line a yard apart, each examining half a yard of ground on both sides as they proceeded. Thus was swept a space five hundred yards in breadth . . .In this manner the whole battlefield was to be searched. When a grave was found, the entire line halted until the teams came up and the body was removed. Many graves were marked with stakes, but some were to be discovered only by the disturbed appearance of the ground. Those bodies which had been buried in trenches were but little decomposed, while those buried singly in boxes, not much was left but bones and dust." Remains were placed in a plain wooden coffin; if there was a headboard, it was attached to it. The burial corps worked for three years until 1869. In that time they reinterred 6,718 remains. Sadly, only 2,139 bodies were positively identified.
Much the same fate was suffered by the nearly 30,000 Confederate dead buried at Blandford Church Cemetery in Petersburg. Of them, only about 2,000 names are known.
GPS Coordinates: 37.15976, -77.42954
- Added: 2 Jan 2000
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #51707
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