Civil War Soldiers in Danville National Cemetery

Just beside Green Hill Cemetery on the other side of a stone wall in Danville, Virginia, is Danville National Cemetery, which appears as a sea of uniform marble tablet stones marking the graves of thousands of United States veterans from many different wars/conflicts (and a number of civilians who were related to veterans). You can read about the general history of the cemetery from the previous link, but until a few months ago I didn’t know that somewhere around (if not over) 1,000 of the burials were Union prisoners of war who died in Danville’s disease-ridden and overpopulated prison camps. These men were initially buried in mass graves and moved to individual graves at the newly formed National Cemetery in 1866. (I wonder if they were able to identify the bodies in the trenches to accurately match them with names for the headstones.) Just from the small sampling of prisoner of war causes of death that I found in a few hours’ worth of research, a picture of how unsanitary and hellish conditions in Danville’s prison camps begins to form. (Not all of the markers shown in this post are of Civil War veterans.)






I’m not sure if this is a carving or naturally-occurring.




National Cemetery and Green Hill Cemetery, divided by the wall




I didn’t stay at National long enough to photograph many individual markers, but here are a few:

Augustus Seip, of Pennsylvania was single & 25 in 1863
Cpl. Zach Westbrook, d. Nov. 7, 1864
Pvt. Henry Layfield, d. Dec. 12, 1863
Several “Unknown Soldier” markers





Lavel F. Hull, d. Nov. 22, 1864


Pvt. Recompense Conover, d. Dec. 11, 1864 in a prison camp of “chronic diarrhea.”
Lewis Whitney, d. Dec. 11, 1864
Elias Darling, d. Jan. 20, 1864 of “Sickness/Variola” (Smallpox outbreaks were common in the prison camps.)
J.M. McDowell, d. Apr. 16, 1864 of chronic diarrhea
Jasper Hand, d. Apr. 2, 1864 of chronic diarrhea
Hiram Gillispie, d. Jan. 2, 1864 of chronic diarrhea
Zachariah Collins, d. Dec. 21, 1863 in the “Rebel Hospital” of chronic diarrhea
David Park, d. Mar. 2, 1864 of “Typhoides Febris”
Pvt. Freeman Ham of Maine, d. Aug. 20, 1864 of “Febris Typhoid”
J.W. McElfresh of Ohio, d. Mar. 28, 1864 of chronic diarrhea

These are photos around Danville’s Confederate Prison No. 6.


The building in the background is not the prison.
According to this, the original building consisted of only 3 stories.



It looks like there’s some “work” being done in the area between the old prison and the building beside it. Through the opening you can see size of the prison more clearly.


“…the crop reap’d by the mighty reapers, typhoid, dysentery, inflammations—and blackest and loathesomest of all, the dead and living burial-pits, the prison-pens of Andersonville, Salisbury, Belle-Isle, &c., (not Dante’s pictured hell and all its woes, its degradations, filthy torments, excell’d those prisons)—the dead, the dead, the dead—our dead—or South or North, ours all, (all, all, all, finally dear to me)—or East or West—Atlantic coast or Mississippi valley—somewhere they crawl’d to die, alone, in bushes, low gullies, or on the sides of hills—(there, in secluded spots, their skeletons, bleach’d bones, tufts of hair, buttons, fragments of clothing, are occasionally found yet)—our young men once so handsome and so joyous, taken from us—the son from the mother, the husband from the wife, the dear friend from the dear friend—the clusters of camp graves, in Georgia, the Carolinas, and in Tennessee—the single graves left in the woods or by the road-side, (hundreds, thousands, obliterated)—the corpses floated down the rivers, and caught and lodged, (dozens, scores, floated down the upper Potomac, after the cavalry engagements, the pursuit of Lee, following Gettysburgh)—some lie at the bottom of the sea—the general million, and the special cemeteries in almost all the States—the infinite dead—(the land entire saturated, perfumed with their impalpable ashes’ exhalation in Nature’s chemistry distill’d, and shall be so forever, in every future grain of wheat and ear of corn, and every flower that grows, and every breath we draw)—not only Northern dead leavening Southern soil—thousands, aye tens of thousands, of Southerners, crumble to-day in Northern earth.   
  And everywhere among these countless graves—everywhere in the many soldier Cemeteries of the Nation, (there are now, I believe, over seventy of them)—as at the time in the vast trenches, the depositories of slain, Northern and Southern, after the great battles—not only where the scathing trail passed those years, but radiating since in all the peaceful quarters of the land—we see, and ages yet may see, on monuments and gravestones, singly or in masses, to thousands or tens of thousands, the significant word Unknown." -Walt Whitman, Specimen Days


One thought on “Civil War Soldiers in Danville National Cemetery”

  1. It is so grounding just to see such an amount of war graves in one place. To everyone of these stones there was a family mourning a loss. Humbling to think that many of these men died from a condition that would be considered a minor aliment today.

    Thank you for linking up with Cemetery Sunday


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