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Dead Federal soldiers on battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Dead Federal soldiers on a battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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National Cemeteries Were Authorized by the U.S. Government
July 17, 1862

What happens to soldiers when they die during a battle? During the Civil War, soldiers who died on the battlefields, in field hospitals, or in prison camps were buried where they fell. At the end of the war, search and recovery teams visited all the places where soldiers might have been hastily buried and dug up the remains to bring them home. It took five years to complete this process, and more than 250,000 sets of remains were recovered.

On July 17, 1862, President Lincoln signed legislation authorizing the creation of national cemeteries by the U.S. government. By 1870, 73 national cemeteries had been established, many in the southeastern United States, the site of many battles and field hospitals during the war.

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