Battleground to Community
Brightwood Heritage Trail
13 Battleground National Cemetery
After the rebels were turned back as the Battle of Fort Stevens ended in 1864, scores of Union Soldiers lay cold and silent. Forty-one of them are buried here in this tiny plot dedicated to their sacrifice. President Abraham Lincoln, who observed the battle, spoke at the dedication. At barely one acre, Battleground National Cemetery is one of the nation's smallest.
Memorial Day once drew hundreds to this hallowed place. The holiday was established by veterans in 1868 to honor the Civil War dead. John I. Whites grandfather, Lewis Cass White, was a veteran of the battle of Fort Stevens. John later recalled Memorial Day ceremonies here during the early 1900s that attracted veterans from both sides. A military band would play, and crowds listened to patriotic speeches and poems. Students from the Brightwood School placed flowers and American flags on the graves, and artillery men would fire a salute. "Following the ceremonies," White wrote, "the surviving comrades of the Grand Army of the Republic, who traded shots with the Confederates before Fort Stevens, converged ... for a light lunch" on his grandfather's porch "and fought the battle all over again."
Memorials to units that fought in the battle are located at the cemetery's entrance, where two six-pound, smoothbore guns stand guard. The small, rough-hewn sandstone house was built for the cemetery's superintendent and family. General Montgomery Meigs, engineer architect of the Pension Building (now the National Building Museum), and veteran of the Battle of Fort Stevens, created its design.