Cairo Association of Teachers

Cairo History
The Mounds City National Cemetery has almost as many unknown soldiers buried on the grounds as those with names. (CHUCK NOVARA / THE SOUTHERN)

Mound City National Cemetery was one of 12 original sites established in 1864


Located in Pulaski County, Mound City National Cemetery was first designated by the federal government as a national cemetery in 1864 and the original 1,644 burials there were of Civil War soldiers who died at the Union Army's general hospital located on property adjacent to the cemetery.

It is one of 12 original National cemeteries established in 1864, after an act of July 17, 1862, authorizing President Abraham Lincoln to purchase cemetery grounds to be used as a National Cemetery for soldiers who shall have died in the service of their country.

Mound City and nearby Cairo were not in the actual combat theater of the Civil War, but their location near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers made these areas ideal staging points for dispatch of men and material during the campaigns of the west.

This area was thus the home of large naval shipyards that provided warships to the Union's Mississippi Squadron during the Civil War. The Mississippi Squadron was composed of 80 vessels including the famous ironclads USS Cairo, USS Cincinnati, and USS Mound City.

Mound City was also the site of a large Civil War hospital complex. Originally, the city's hotel and foundry were converted to hospitals to house both Union and Confederate wounded pouring into the city in the wake of battles at Shiloh, Vicksburg and elsewhere.

Later interments would include casualties of battles at Cairo; Belmont, Mo.; and Paducah. An 1871 report by the inspector of national cemeteries lists about 2,300 known servicemen buried at Mound City and over 2,400 unknowns.

Since then it has become the final resting place for veterans, their spouses and dependent children from numerous wars including World Wars I and II, and the Korean, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf conflicts.

It was not until 1997 that the Mound City National Cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.