Another Civil War era cemetery, the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery was founded in 1862 as part of President Lincoln’s National Cemetery System, but the cemetery and its surrounding environs are part of a larger history within Eastern Kansas. Like all American land, the area that would become Fort Leavenworth was originally occupied by Native Americans, most prominently the Kansa tribe. In the 1820’s, the fort was built to defend and supply trade routes as Americans strove west. It retained this purpose for thirty years until the onset of the Civil War, when it became a prime training ground and major outpost for the Union in the Western front of the war, being placed directly between the free state of Kansas and the slave state of Missouri, where the fort had also seen use during the ‘Bleeding Kansas’ border war that preceded the Civil War.
By 1862, Lincoln’s initiative to set aside federally maintained graveyards for American soldiers made the pre-existing cemetery operated by the fort a prime site. During and after the war, the remains of Union soldiers from nearby Kansas City and Independence, the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, and even Henry Leavenworth, the fort’s namesake, found their final resting places in the cemetery. Because of the fort’s historical ties to the Civil War, many of the veterans buried here were of that era, but some others have found their final rest here - Medal of Honor recipients John Kile (of the Indian Wars), William E. Hall (of the Second World War), and Fitz Lee, a Spanish-American War veteran who rescued a number of wounded men on the beaches of Cuba, before retiring to Leavenworth to live amongst other black veterans.
Today, the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery has grown into a much larger complex than the original site from the 1860’s - initially 5.5 acres upon its founding, the cemetery is now 36 acres of land stretching across the landscape. Beyond the actual burial sites, the cemetery contains a number of administrative structures, including the Superintendent’s Lodge, a quaint two-story brick home built in 1875, and much later, a committal shelter built in 2004. Leavenworth remains one of the oldest National Cemeteries, and through its proximity to the local history of both Kansas and Missouri, as well as the broader national history of the Civil War.