Straddling the eastern border of Kansas, the Fort Scott National Cemetery is one of three veterans cemeteries run by the federal government in the state, as well as being one of the oldest in the entire country. Founded in 1842, nearly twenty years before Kansas was actually admitted to the Union, the Cemetery and the fort itself operated for a decade before being abandoned by Union forces in 1853. With the onset of the Civil War, the fort was reoccupied, and the cemetery, which already housed seventeen deceased, was now opened to serve as the final resting place for Northern soldiers.
When President Abraham Lincoln established the National Cemetery System in the summer of 1862, Fort Scott was one of the original twelve inductees, along with Kansas’s own Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. After the war, as the nation turned its attention towards Reconstruction, the cemetery was expanded and remodeled to include architectural features like a rock wall, an administrative lodge, and a wrought iron gate. Over the years, the soldiers buried there have expanded to include veterans of not just the Civil War, but even the World Wars and Cold War conflicts like Korea.
Still, the Civil War remains at the heart of Fort Scott. Two of the most prominent monuments honor specific Union soldiers - one, for his creative work published after the war, and the other, for their bravery and sacrifice in fighting a conflict that held major implications for their futures in particular. The first is a sandstone boulder marking the grave of Eugene Fitch Ware, a Union captain who spent his time after the war writing poetry under the pen-name “Ironquill”, as well as becoming a senator in the Kansas state legislature. The second is a granite pillar erected in memory of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, who lost fifteen soldiers in a battle in nearby Sherwood, Missouri. Monuments like these display the storytelling power of veterans cemeteries, and their ability to bring to life the lives of those who gave them up for the country.