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Pilgrimage: Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

By Mary E. Adair

In this issue we have chosen to honor service people and veterans. Here you can take a "Virtual Walk" through a real cemetery. You will see tributes to Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who were buried here. You may be surprised to discover the time-scope covering the burials throughout the area. The when's and why-for's spin quite a tale...a tale that personifies why we honor these dead and the ones serving currently in armed forces.

(Editor's Note: permission received from Ralph Church, Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, to reprint the majority of the actual pilgrimage brochure which is usually available at the cemetery site.)

The PILGRIMAGE was founded by Boy Scout Troop 905 of the Gravois Trail District of the St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery was established in 1863 by an Executive Order from President Abraham Lincoln, and by an Act of Congress in 1866, which makes it one year older than Arlington National Cemetery!

There are over 114 National Cemeteries in the United States under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration, while Arlington National Cemetery is supervised by the Department of the Army and our foreign National Cemeteries are supervised by the American Battle Monuments Commission in Washington, DC.

Of the over 114 National Cemeteries, according to number of annual interments, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery is ranked fourth, with over 3,500 annually. It is the regional cemetery for Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas and parts of Tennessee.

You are about to take a short walk through the history of the United States of America from July 4, 1776 to the present. Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery contains the graves of veterans from every war that the U.S. has fought. It is a short walk, 2.8 miles, but every step is full of patriotism and history. Park and start your walk at the Administration Building parking lot. Proceed back up Grant Drive to Jefferson Boulevard (the street you came down after entering the Cemetery) and turn right onto the drive around the flag pole. Follow this drive around to Longstreet Drive. Follow Longstreet Drive to the end (a little over a half mile) at Old Post West Drive. Turn right onto Old Post West Drive and follow it south to Old Post South Drive. Turn left and walk east along Old Post South Drive until it ends at Old Post East Drive. Finally, turn left onto Old Post East Drive and walk north along it until you spot a large red granite boulder among the graves off to your left. Here your walk through history begins. In the next two miles you will walk where many of those who are buried here walked and you will learn what they and others buried here did to preserve our country.

Jefferson Barracks was established in 1826 replacing Fort Bellefontaine which had housed the military for the protection of St. Louis from 1806 until 1826. The Cemetery was established as a post cemetery at the same time. It did not become a national cemetery until 1866.

1. The large red granite boulder was donated by the Daughters of the Revolution to commemorate the burial place of the unknown officers and soldiers who died while stationed at Fort Bellefontaine in the early 1800's.

After reading the inscription on the boulder, continue walking north up Old Post East Drive to the overlook on the right hand side. From the overlook you can see the eastern boundary of the Cemetery as well as the Mississippi River beyond.

2. Elizabeth Ann Lash, the infant daughter of an officer stationed at Jefferson Barracks, was the first known burial in the Cemetery. Her grave is four rows of graves west of the overlook in OPSI (Old Post Section 1), grave 2229-A.

Now walk 30 graves to the south (left) and three rows of graves further west.

3. Here lies the two-year old daughter of Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, the soldier who explored much of the territory of the Louisiana Purchase including the mountain in Colorado which bears his name. Her grave is number 2288-E.

There are three veterans of the Revolutionary War buried in the Cemetery. They are all buried in the Old Post Sections.

Walk one row of graves west and one grave south.

4. Major Russell Bissell, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars, is buried in this grave (2289-B). He was born in the Colony of Connecticut. He was promoted to Lieutenant in the 2nd US Infantry on March 4, 1791. He became a Captain on February 19, 1793. He transferred to the 1st US Infantry on April 1, 1802, and was promoted to Major upon his transfer back to the 2nd US Infantry on December 9, 1807. He was the Commanding Officer at Fort Bellefontaine when he died on December 18, 1807. He was removed to the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in April of 1904.

5. Just one grave to the south (left) in grave 2289-C Colonel Thomas Hunt is buried. He was born in the Colony of Massachusetts. He was a Sergeant in Captain Croft's Company of Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. He enlisted in a Massachusetts Regiment from May to December 1775. On January 1, 1776, he became a member of the 25th Continental Infantry. He transferred to Jackson's Continental Regiment as a Captain on February 1, 1777. At the Battle of Stoneypoint on July 16, 1779 he was wounded. On January 1, 1781, he transferred to the 9th Massachusetts Regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Yorktown on October 14, 1781. After the Revolution he remained in the Army. He transferred to the 3rd Massachusetts Regiment on January 1, 1783 and returned to Jackson's Continental Regiment in November 1783. He became a Captain in the 2nd US Infantry on March 4, 1791, and was promoted to the rank of Major on February 18, 1793. He was reassigned to the 1st US Infantry on November 1, 1796, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on April 1, 1802. He became a Colonel on April 11, 1803, and died August 18, 1808 and was buried at Fort Bellefontaine. He was removed to the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in April of 1904.

Now walk seven graves to the north.

6. Major Aeneas MacKay, a veteran of the War of 1812, the Indian Wars and the Mexican War is buried here (grave 2287-B) among his daughters.

Walking five rows of graves west and sixteen graves north you will arrive at the grave of the third Revolutionary War veteran.

7. Richard Gentry (grave 2093-A) was born in the Colony of Virginia on September 26, 1763. A Private in the Continental Army at the age of 17, he was just 18 years old at the capture of Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781. After the Revolution he moved westward, fighting in the various Indian Wars. He died on February 12, 1843, near Richmond, Kentucky. He was removed to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on June 20, 1958.

You now need to walk west to the Old Post West Drive and follow it south to Old Post South Drive. Seven rows of graves east of Old Post West Drive and twenty-six graves north of Old Post South Drive in section 4 you will come upon the grave of one of seven veterans buried in the Cemetery who are recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor which was created by an Act of Congress July 12, 1862, for acts of exceptional valor beyond the mere performance of duty. Originally struck for noncommissioned officers and Privates, this limitation was later lifted to include all officers and enlisted men of the Army and Navy.

8. First Lieutenant Lorenzo D. Immel (grave 12342) was cited for bravery in action at Wilsons Creek, Missouri on August 10, 1861, while a Corporal in Company F, Second US Artillery.

Five graves north you will find another recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

9. First Lieutenant Martin Schubert (grave 12310) was cited for his actions at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862, where he

"relinquished a furlough granted for wounds, entered the battle, where he picked up the colors after several bearers had been killed or wounded, and carried them until himself again wounded." At the time, he was a Private in Company E, Twenty-Sixth New York Infantry.

Now follow Longstreet Drive west to its intersection with Monument Drive. Here we find another monument.

10. This bronze female figure was erected by the State of Minnesota in memory of the 164 soldiers from that state who served the Union cause during the Civil War and are buried here in the Cemetery.

Now follow Monument Drive south to South Drive and turn west (right) onto South Drive. Walk to the monument on the left side of the Drive in section 14.

11. This monument is the Memorial to the Unknown Dead 1861-1865, dedicated by the Annie Wittenmeyer Tent No. 3 daughter of Veterans USA.

Continue to follow South Drive west until you come to another monument on the left side in section 66.

12. This monument is the Memorial to the Confederate Dead 1861-1865, erected by the Jefferson Barracks Civil War Historical Association, the Missouri Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Missouri Society Military order of the Stars and Bars.

There are 1,140 Confederate Civil War dead interred in sections 19, 20, 21, 22, 66 and 67. A 1906 law authorized the marking of Confederate dead in National Cemeteries and Confederate burial grounds, however the design of the headstones was altered from a rounded top to a pointed one and the sunken shield was omitted. The Confederate Cross of Honor was added in 1929.

Among the Confederate dead there are 824 soldiers, one gunboat crewman, one conscript, 162 civilians - including one woman, and 116 not classified as either soldier or civilian.

Samuel Marion Dennis, the founder of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Arkansas, is buried in section 21.

In section 20, graves 4605-4610, are buried six Confederate prisoners of war executed by the Union Army to avenge the death of Major James Wilson and a six man patrol massacred by Confederate guerrillas under the command of Major Timothy Reeves during the Battle of Pilot Knob on October 3, 1864.

There are 15 Confederate Unknowns buried in the Cemetery. Most of the Unknowns were reported as having died from smallpox and buried on Smallpox Island, from whence the remains were subsequently removed to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The individual graves on the island were not identifiable at the time of removal.

There are 3,255 other Unknowns interred in the Cemetery. You have probably seen some of these graves already. Sections 63, 64, 68 and 69 are composed almost entirely of over 600 graves of Unknown US Soldiers.

From the Memorial to the Confederate Dead 1861-1865, walk north and cross South Drive continuing to the thirtieth grave in the row directly across from the Memorial.

13. First Sergeant Alonzo Stokes, on July 12, 1870, while serving with Company H of the Sixth US Cavalry, displayed gallantry in action at Wichita River, Texas and thus became another recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. (section 63, grave 11450)

14. Another Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was Sergeant David Ryan. As a Private in Company G of the Fifth US Infantry, he displayed gallantry in action at Cedar Creek, Montana Territory on October 21, 1876. To get to his grave (grave 11715) go north to Longstreet Drive. Walk west ten rows of graves, then turn north (right) and go to the thirty-first grave.

From this grave, walk further north until you come to First Drive South. Walk west seven rows of graves. Turn right (north) and go to the obelisk at the twentieth gravesite. (section 57 grave 15009)

15. This obelisk monument honors the memory of 175 non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the US Colored Infantry who died of cholera in August of 1866.

Return to First Drive South (the street you just came from) and walk twelve rows of graves east (toward the Mississippi River) to the section 57 1/2/88 marker at the edge of the drive.

16. There are seven Prisoners of War from World War II buried here in section 57 in this row in the first, second, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth graves. As you can see there are two German Prisoners of War and five Italian. (graves 325 and 326 and graves 330, 331, 332, 333, and 334)

Continue on eastward on First Drive South until you come to Monument Drive. Here you will find twin cannon barrels. Turn left and pass between them and walk up (north) on Monument Drive a short distance until you come to a water fountain on the right hand side.

17. This water fountain was donated as a monument by the 35th Division Association.

Continue on Monument Drive until you come to Middle Drive. Turn right (east) onto Middle Drive and follow it east until it curves around to the left. Continue around the curve, staying to the left, and follow it north until it intersects with North Drive.

Off to the left are a number of gravesites of group burials. There are over five hundred and sixty group burials, consisting of the remains of two or more individuals interred in a common gravesite, in the Cemetery.

18. The first gravesite southwest of the intersection of Middle Drive and North Drive, just through the small stand of cedar trees, is a group burial which includes Major Ralph Cheli, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. As a Major in the US Army Air Corps

"on August 18, 1943 near Wewak, New Guinea, he displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. While Major Cheli was leading his squadron in a dive to attack the heavily defended Dagua Airdrome, intercepting enemy aircraft centered their fire on his plane, causing it to burst into flame while still two miles from the objective. His speed would have enabled him to gain necessary altitude to parachute to safety, but this action would have resulted in his formation becoming disorganized and exposed to the enemy. Although a crash was inevitable, he courageously elected to continue leading the attack in his blazing plane. From a minimum altitude, the squadron made a devastating bombing and strafing attack on the target. The mission completed Major Cheli instructed his wingman to lead the formation and crashed into the sea."

19. Across North drive are the Memorial Markers which commemorate those veterans whose remains were buried at sea, non-recoverable, or whose bodies were donated to science and were cremated with the remains scattered.

Walking west along North Drive near the Memorial Markers you will come to the section 83 marker. Directly across the drive are a number of group burials. The second gravesite in from the Drive in the second row to the west is the grave of another recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

20. Lieutenant Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis, US Navy

"displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Plane commander of a PB4Y-1 patrol bomber operating against the enemy on Japanese-held Greenwich Island during the battle of the Solomon Islands, July 6, 1943. Fully aware of the limited chance of surviving an urgent mission, voluntarily undertaken to prevent a surprise Japanese attack against our forces, Lieutenant Commander Van Voorhis took off in total darkness on a perilous 700 mile flight without escort or support. Successful in reaching his objective despite treacherous and varying winds, low visibility and difficult terrain, he fought a lone but relentless battle under fierce antiaircraft fire and overwhelming aerial opposition. Forced lower and lower by pursuing planes, he cooly persisted in his mission of destruction. Abandoning all chance of a safe return he executed six bold, grounmd-level attacks to demolish the enemy's vital radio station, installations, antiaircraft guns and crews with bombs and machine-gun fire, and to destroy one fighter plane in the air and three on the water. Caught in his own bomb blast, Lieutenant Commander Van Voorhis crashed into the lagoon off the beach, sacrificing himself in a single-handed fight against almost insuperable odds, to make a distinctive contribution to our continued offensive in driving the Japanese from the Solomons and, by his superb daring, courage and resoluteness of purpose, enhanced the finest traditions of the US Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."

Continue walking west along North Drive to the second section 84 marker, on the right-hand side. Walk two rows of graves west of the marker and nine graves north of Circle Drive. Here lies the seventh recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor buried in the Cemetery.

21. First Lieutenant Donald D. Pucket, US Army Air Corps, 98th Bombardment Group. He took part in a highly effective attack against vital oil installation in Ploesti, Rumania, on July 9, 1944.

"Just after 'bombs away' the plane received heavy and direct hits from antiaircraft fire. One crew member was instantly killed and six others were severely wounded. The airplane was badly damaged two (engines) were knocked out, the control cables cut, the oxygen system on fire and the bomb bay flooded with gas and hydraulic fluid. Regaining control of his crippled plane, First Lieutenant Pucket tuned its direction over to the copilot. He calmed the crew, administered first aid, and surveyed the damage. Finding the bomb bay doors jammed, he used the hand crank to open them to allow the gas to escape. He jettisoned all guns and equipment but the plane continued to lose altitude rapidly. Realizing that it would be impossible to reach friendly territory he ordered the crew to abandon ship. Three of the crew, uncontrollable from fright or shock, would not leave. First Lieutenant Pucket urged the others to jump. Ignoring their entreaties to follow, he refused to abandon the three hysterical men and was last seen fighting to regain control of the plane. A few moments later the flaming bomber crashed on a mountainside. First Lieutenant Pucket, unhesitatingly and with supreme sacrifice, gave his life in his curageous attempt to save the lives of three others."

Return to Circle Drive and walk a short distance west to a point about half-way between the two section 85 markers. Here in section 85, one of the last group burials you will come to along Circle Drive, is the largest single group burial in the Cemetery. The gravesite is just off Circle Drive, the second gravesite in its row of graves.

22. This burial consists of 123 victims of a massacre of Prisoners of War by the Japanese in December 1944 on Palawan Island, Philippines.

From Circle Drive follow Flagstaff Drive west to the circle near the Administration Building. From this circle follow Miravalle Drive to its end.

23. This is the Memorial Chapel. It was built to remember the selfless acts of Americans to defend their love for God, Home and Country. Dedicated in 1978, this is the first such building in a national cemetery! It is a twelfth century and modern design architectural expression of unity, strength, and purpose. Symbol of this expression is found in the art additions to the Chapel interior and exterior. Pursuant to stipulation by the Veterans Administration that all Chapel beautification and improvements be financed by private and public contributions, the Jefferson Barracks Chapel Association, Inc. was chartered in 1979. It is a private foundation with all volunteer membership working in trust with the Veterans Administration to plan a fine arts program to embellish the Memorial Chapel.

You may now return to your vehicle(s).

You have now completed a short walk through the history of this Cemetery and of this great country, our country, the United States of America. Walk on now with a greater knowledge of what those who have gone before us have given that this Country and freedom may ever remain strong. As you walk from here into your future, decide what you will do to help maintain freedom and our Country, that all that those who lie here have done will not have been in vain.


An online map can be printed out with directions to this and other National Cemeteries by going to the following web address:


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