St. Augustine National Cemetery in Florida’s “Ancient City” was my next stop along the Atlantic coast. The cemetery is fascinating for many reasons, not least of which are its age and size. NCA will be documenting it for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places starting this year.
The first interment here actually took place in 1828, long before Congress authorized establishment of the national cemeteries in 1862 . Prior to its designation as a national cemetery in 1881, the site was part of a Franciscan monastery and later occupied by military forces from Spain, England and the United States.
The cemetery grounds take up just 1.4 acres—quite small by modern standards. Perhaps because of its size it feels entirely appropriate to its surrounding neighborhood of cottages and larger homes.
The unique Dade Monuments honor Army Veterans of the Seminole Indian Wars. One monument is comprised of three pyramids constructed of native coquina stone; the second is a coquina-and-marble obelisk. A bronze plaque explains: “These three pyramids cover vaults containing the individually unidentified remains of 1468 soldiers of the Florida Indian Wars, 1835-1842.” Major Francis Langhorne Dade, Commander of Company B, 4th Regiment of Infantry, is buried with his men and recognized in the obelisk’s inscription; Miami-Dade County, Florida is his namesake. The pyramids and the obelisk were restored in early 2010 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The 1938 Superintendent’s Lodge at St. Augustine National Cemetery is currently occupied by the Florida National Guard, which can trace its own heritage back to 1565. Its headquarters adjoin the cemetery.
Available are photographs of the St. Augustine National Cemetery.
Ron Walters is VA’s Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs and Chief Financial Officer of the National Cemetery Administration. This is the second in his ten-part series on Veterans cemeteries in the southeastern U.S. Next in the series: Jacksonville: Emphasizing Local Connections.