Thursday, January 10, 2019

Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: The Fredericksburg National Cemetery's Story

Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: A History of Fredericksburg National Cemetery, 1866-1933, Donald C. Pfanz, Southern Illinois University Press, 253 pages, 40 illustrations, appendices, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $26.50.

Civil War Librarian:The SIU Press' Engaging Civil War Series'  continues to offer public history titles on topics less frequently covered by other university and popular publishers. Visitors to the Fredericksburg Military Park have often stood in the Sunken Road with their back to a hillside and have thought 'well this is it.'
Little do they realize that at the top of the hill behind them is the Fredericksburg National Cemetery which is the final resting place for over 15,000 United States soldiers. Most of the soldiers died during the Civil War, but there are about 100 20th century soldiers and a few of their spouses.

The Union Civil War soldiers buried here include those who died of illness in the camps around Fredericksburg, in the four major battles around Fredericksburg as well the Mine Run and North Anna campaigns. Only about 20% of the soldiers are identified. Confederates who died in the Fredericksburg area were interred in other cemeteries in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania. In July 1865, Congress authorized the establishment of a National Cemetery in Fredericksburg to honor the Federal soldiers who died on the battlefields or from disease in camp. The site chosen was Marye's Heights, the formidable Confederate position which had proven so impregnable to repeated Federal attacks on December 13, 1862.

Pfanz's splendid work describes wartime and postwar burials, the demand to create this cemetery and the the final implementation of the plan. The author pays attention to the care given by the superintendents, the cemetery employees, Memorial Day commemorations and the supervision of the National Park Service. Where Valor Proudly Sleeps will serve as a model of future public history narratives. The writing style is accessible to advanced placement history students and the general public.

From the publisher: Many books discuss in great detail what happened during Civil War battles. This is one of the few that investigate what happened to the remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Where Valor Proudly Sleeps explores a battle’s immediate and long-term aftermath by focusing on Fredericksburg National Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries created by the U.S. government after the Civil War. Pfanz shows how legislation created the National Cemetery System and describes how the Burial Corps identified, collected, and interred soldier remains as well as how veterans, their wives, and their children also came to rest in national cemeteries. By sharing the stories of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, its workers, and those buried there, Pfanz explains how the cemetery evolved into its current form, a place of beauty and reflection.

About the Author: Donald C. Pfanz has written five books, including Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life and War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg. In his thirty-two-year career with the National Park Service, he worked at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, Petersburg National Battlefield Park, and Fort Sumter National Monument.

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