Lying in the heart of Missouri’s capital, the Jefferson City National Cemetery has been preserving the memory of soldiers from across the region since 1867. One of the smallest National Cemeteries, the two acre site is located less than a mile from the capitol building, and unlike a number of other veterans cemeteries, has changed very little in the 156 years since its founding. As such, this cemetery gives visitors a unique glimpse into how these cemeteries were designed over a century and a half ago - ashlar stone is what makes up the oldest parts of the cemetery, with the border wall and superintendent’s lodge both being particular highlights, going up four years after the cemetery’s founding. Other, later architectural additions include a rostrum built in 1942, and a smaller utility building, which went up in 1937.
Like a large number of National Cemeteries in the Missouri/Kansas region, the Jefferson City National Cemetery has a history intrinsically linked with the Civil War. Jefferson City, like Missouri itself, was in a kind of limbo during the war - a slave state that did not secede, a city firmly under Union control with a population deeply sympathetic to the Southern cause. The city remained under martial law for years until the end of the war, and military burials at the cemetery would begin years before it was given national status. Because of the Union’s control over Jefferson City, the Civil War-era burials there have little Confederate presence. Instead, the most prominent soldiers interned there include Logan Bennett, a black soldier in the 62nd Colored Infantry regiment and co-founder of Lincoln University, an historically black college in the city, and the members of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry, who died during a battle in Centralia in 1864.
Since 2017, folks in the Jefferson City area have advocated for the expansion of the cemetery, but concerns about available space and the need for additional burial space for veterans in the area have slowed expansion. Despite expansion woes, the Jefferson City National Cemetery has remained a pertinent capsule of the earliest years of the National Cemetery system, as well as a monument to the unique political crossroads that both the city and the state were in all those generations ago.