U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM
BEAUFORT NATIONAL CEMETERY
A brick wall surrounds the cemetery which is laid out in the shape of a half wheel; the cemetery's oyster shelled roads form the "spokes", and the large iron gates are set at the "hub". The cemetery grounds are serenely landscaped with numerous shrubs and large trees, predominately magnolia, live oak, and palmetto (The State Tree of South Carolina).
Beaufort was one of the first U.S. National Cemeteries designated by President Abraham Lincoln, who personally authorized its establishment, in a letter dated February 10, 1863.
The Commanding General of federal occupation troops bought the twenty-nine acre tract known as Polly's Grove for $75 at a tax sale March 11, 1863. It became the final resting place for soldiers who gave their lives during the War Between the States.
The cemetery contains a cross section of veterans of every conflict between the Civil War and the Persian Gulf. Remains of Union troops were removed from several places in Eastern Florida, Savannah, Charleston, Morris Island, Hilton Head Island, and islands near Beaufort. About 2,800 remains were removed from Millen, Georgia and reinterred in the Beaufort National Cemetery.
There are more than 7,500 Civil War soldiers interred here, including 4,019 unknown Union soldiers and 117 known Confederates. Many of the troops fell on battlefields in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. In addition, there are presently more than 6,500 veterans of Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, as well as peacetime veterans, who have joined their comrades in final rest here.
Ralph H. Johnson is interred in section 3 grave 21. PFC Johnson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for service as a marine reconnaissance scout on March 5, 1968, near Quan Duc Valley, Republic of Vietnam. His courage and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
A German World War II Prisoner of War is interred here. He was a crew member of the German submarine U-Rathke which was sunk May 9, 1942 off of Cape Lookout, North Carolina by the Coast Guard Cutter Icarus. He died while enroute to Charleston, SC.
A Memorial Section has been established between sections 58 and 59 for those veterans whose remains were unrecoverable (Missing in Action and Missing in Service) or buried at sea, or whose remains were scattered.
On May 29, 1989, nineteen Union Soldiers of the all Black Massachusetts 55th Infantry were reinterred with full military honors. Their remains were found on Folly Island, South Carolina in 1987. Their grave is marked with a bronze plaque near section 56.
This cemetery is under administrative control of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery System. Visitors are welcome at the Beaufort National Cemetery daily. Memorial Day services are observed annually in May.