From the Richmond Dispatch, 5/31/1876, p. 1, c. 5

Richmond National Cemetery.

Yesterday was Federal Decoration-day, and the graves of over 300,000 Union soldiers, in 175 national cemeteries, were adorned with floral tributes. There are seventeen of these cemeteries in Virginia: Arlington, Alexandria, Ball’s Bluff, Cold Harbor, City Point, Culpeper, Danville, Fredericksburg, Fort Harrison (eight miles south of Richmond), Glendale (near Malvern Hill), Hampton, Poplar Grove (five miles southeast of Petersburg), Richmond, Seven Pines, Staunton, Winchester, and Yorktown. In these are interred the remains of 6,843 Federal soldiers; 28,644 white known, 36,783 white unknown; 2,244 colored known, and 1,152 colored unknown. In addition, these cemeteries contain the remains of 4,295 citizens and of 596 Confederate prisoners of war. Richmond National Cemetery contains the remains of 6,541 Union soldiers – 841 known, and 5,700 unknown. The few colored dead interred in this cemetery are among the unknown.


Richmond National Cemetery lies three miles east of the city of Richmond, on the southside of the Williamsburg turnpike. It is nearly a perfect rectangle of about eight acres, which originally cost $2,400. It is surrounded by a good wall of cemented granite rubble six feet high, coped with flat slabs of dark stone. There is a drive all around the cemetery on the interior of this wall, and there are two avenues, each twenty feet wide, intersecting each other in the centre of the cemetery, dividing it into four equal parts. These parts are sub-divided each into six smaller sections by paths ten feet wide. All these avenues and paths are nicely levelled, graveled, and guttered, and bordered by thrifty trees, shrubbery, and flowers. The main entrance from the pike consists of a carriageway with double iron gates for the admission of pedestrians. Obliquely to the right of the main entrance, inside the wall, is the lodge of the superintendent, Mr. Mathias Glynn, a veteran United States soldier, straight and stalwart, who hails from the city of New York, as he has some relatives there. This lodge is a very handsome structure of brick, with a Mansard roof, and is completely embowered in trees, vines, shrubbery, and flowers, the whole being enclosed by a neat railing painted white. There is a green-house attached to the lodge.


The graves are in parallel rows, flat, with wooden headboards painted white. These headboards will soon be displaced by marble headquarters, which are daily expected. None of the graves being elevated above the general level, one close sward of green grass covers each section. The trees that are profusely scattered around consist of cedars, junipers, elms, spruces, weeping-willows, &c. Each of the four quarters of the cemetery has a tasteful arbor, over which clamber roses, honeysuckle, &c., and around which flowers and evergreens now flourish luxuriantly. At the intersection of the main avenues there is a mound eight feet high and fifty feet in circumference, upon which is erected a pretty little summer-house, or arbor, through the centre of which rises a tall flag-staff, from which floats the Federal flag on every fair day. From this central arbor every part of the cemetery and the surrounding country is visible. At each of the four corners of the principal squares that are next to this central point is place a twenty-four pounder, breech downward, with a ball protruding from its muzzle, and one bearing on its side a bronze shield, upon which, in raised letters, are the name of the cemetery, the date of its establishment (September 1, 1866), the number of interments, &c. The total cost of the cemetery to date, including the expenses of gathering the remains, salary of the superintendent, &c., is near $120,000.


Of the remains here some have come from Cold Harbor, Belle Isle, the hospital-grounds in and near Richmond, Hollywood and Oakwood cemeteries, Fort Harrison, Gaines’s Mill, Garnett’s Farm, Savage Station, Beaverdam Station, Hungary Station, Seven Pines, Bottom’s Bridge, the Halfway House, &c. On the superintendent’s register is entered the following in regard to a number of graves in section 4 of division F: “The forty-three bodies in graves one to forty-three inclusive were found in a well in front of Fort Gillmore, on the farm of Captain Childrey. The well had been sought for two years, but none of the neighbors could show where it was. The men were supposed to have been killed when the charge was made upon Fort Gillmore, the 2d of October, 1862.”


The route to the cemetery from the city is down Main street through Rocketts, and thence to the Williamsburg turnpike, upon the south side of which the cemetery is situated. This way is a long and tiresome one, but is at present the only feasible road to the cemetery. And yet the cemetery is so near Richmond that a good avenue can be opened between it and the city that will cut off half the distance and three fourths of the difficulty of the existing route. A petition, numerously signed by our best citizens of both political parties, has been forwarded to Congress asking for an appropriation to construct such an avenue, and it will be made, no doubt, some of these days. The cemetery is already very attractive, but as the years pass it will become more beautiful in all its features, and if made easily accessible will in time grow to be a popular resort.


This cemetery yesterday was visited by a large number of persons of both colors and sexes, although no great crowd was there at any one time. Hacks, omnibuses, and other vehicles were running constantly to and fro between the city and the cemetery, and nearly every visitor bore a tribute of flowers. The grounds of the cemetery themselves now afford almost a sufficient quantity of flowers to deck every grave, but Superintendent Glynn very properly confined his decorations to the handsome garlanding of the main entrance and the enwreathing of the huge black twenty-four pounders, leaving the graves to the ministrations of the visitors. Never was a more lovely day, and the bloom and verdure of the place were in their glory. The stars and stripes floated at half-mast on the flagstaff, and at the principal gate were clustered a number of small United States flags amidst the evergreens and roses of the decorations there.

The thanks of our reporter are due to Superintendent Glynn for information and courtesies.

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