Pruning the Parks: Chattanooga National Cemetery (NPS 1933-1944) Was Born on Christmas Day

Andrews Raiders Memorial at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Larry Miller photo via Flickr.

For the 11 years it was administered by the National Park Service,Chattanooga National Cemetery enjoyed a distinction among NPS units that we’re unlikely to ever see again. It was born on Christmas Day.

In the late fall of 1863, as the Civil War dragged on and the dying continued, Union General George Thomas, who had earned the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga” for his battlefield valor, established a cemetery near Orchard Knob in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This burial ground was needed for the graves of Union soldiers killed in the November 23-27 Battles of Chattanooga, including the hard-won Union victory at nearby Missionary Ridge. Thomas confiscated about 75 acres for the cemetery.

On December 25, 1863, General Thomas took pen in hand and issued General Orders No. 296 creating a national cemetery commemorating the Battles of Chattanooga. In this way Chattanooga National Cemetery came into existence under War Department administration.

After the Civil War ended, the Federal government purchased the land General Thomas had confiscated, plus some adjacent land. The enlarged cemetery (current size 120.9 acres) was then used to bury the remains of Union soldiers disinterred from hasty graves and cemeteries on battlefields and encampments throughout Georgia and Tennessee. Eventually, the remains of nearly 13,000 Union soldiers were buried there, including the bodies of six “Andrews Raiders” who received the Medal of Honor -- posthumously, sad to say -- for their role in the Great Locomotive Chase. The sentiment of the times being what they were, no Confederate burials were allowed.

Chattanooga National Cemetery was transferred to National Park Service administration on August 10, 1933, incident to the agency reorganization initiated via presidential executive order. It was then returned to War Department administration by act of Congress on December 7, 1944, after existing for 11 years as the only NPS unit that was -- at least in the deep historical sense -- born on Christmas Day.

Postscript
: Among the more than 46,000 graves at Chattanooga National Cemetery are the graves of at least 78 German soldiers from both World Wars, most of whom died while confined as prisoners-of-war in Georgia’s Fort Oglethorpe internment facility. Chattanooga is the only national cemetery containing the graves of foreign POWs.

Comments

During World War I and World War II Fort Oglethorpe was used for the internment of German American civilians.

The reader can learn more of German American internment at

http://www.foitimes.com

http:www.gaic.info

@ ADJacobs: The fact that there were German-American internees as well as German soldier POWs at Fort Oglethorpe is interesting (and sad), but not relevant to this particular story. As far as I know, only the remains of German POWs who died at Fort Oglethorpe were transferred to Chattanooga National Cemetery for re-interment.

Mr. Janiskee...your statement that my comment is interesting (and sad) but not relevant to this particular story is your opinion. The could have been German American civilian internees died at Fort Oglethorpe during World War I--in fact highly likely!

I have a question about your "Postscript." Do you have a list of names of the "at least 78 German soldiers from both World Wars, most of whom died while confined as prisoners-of-war in Georgia's Fort Oglethorpe internment facility"?

Did you complile the list by looking at gravestones? If the information is from gravestones, is there information such as dates and place of birth?

Or is there a list of names or other information documented somewhere, which you were able to use?

F. Allen

@ F. Allen: If you visit the Chattanooga National Cemetery website you will find the basic information about German POWs at the cemetery, but no names are listed. Here are the relevant statements from this website:

In addition to Civil War veterans, there are 78 German prisoners of war buried here. Pursuant to provisions included in the peace treaty between the United States and Germany at the end of World War I, the German government sought the location and status of the gravesites of Germans who died while detained in the United States. An investigation conducted by the War Department found that the largest number of German POWs was interred at Chattanooga National Cemetery. For a short time, thought was given to removing all other German interments to Chattanooga. In the end, however, the German government decided that only 23 remains from Hot Springs National Cemetery should be reinterred here. The German government assumed the cost of disinterment and transportation to Chattanooga, and erected a monument to commemorate the POWs.

Reading further on, you will also see this information under "Others"

Prisoners of War
Chattanooga is the only national cemetery that has both World War I and World War II foreign POWs reinterred. There are 186 POWs from both wars.

Seventy-eight are World War I German POWs, twenty-two part of group burials (Post C Graves 66, 67 and 68); and 108 POWs are from World War II consisting of 105 Germans, one French, one Italian and one Pole

.

It would appear that there are 183 German POWs buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery, including 78 from WW I and 105 from WW II. No names are listed.

For a very good discussion of Fort Oglethorpe's POW internment camp functions in both world wars, visit this site.

Fort Oglethorpe's northern Georgia location made it geographically convenient to move the remains of deceased foreign POWs to nearby Cahttanooga National Cemetery for reburial, and that is what was done.

Perhaps one of our readers has additional information.

Mr Jacobs, I'm sorry if my comment offended you. My point is simply this: My article dealt with the Chattanooga National Cemetery, a former component of the National Park System. The story was not about Fort Oglethorpe. In fact, Fort Oglethorpe was mentioned in connection with this article about the cemetery only because some German prisoners of war who died at Fort Oglethorpe were moved to Chattanooga National Cemetery for reburial. To the best of my knowledge, no German-Americans who died at Fort Oglethorpe were disinterred and reburied at Chattanooga. If you know of any German-Americans whose remains were disinterred at Fort Oglethorpe, transported to Chattanooga National Cemetery, and reburied there, please let me know. I will then change my mind and agree that German-American deaths at Fort Oglethorpe are relevant to this story. Let me emphasize that I have nothing against you, the German-Americans who were interned at Fort Oglethorpe, other German-Americans, the German diaspora, or Germans in general. I lived in Germany for three years and speak the language (though not as fluently as I used to). Both of my sons were born there. I don't know what else to say except that I think this thread has gotten way off track.