Civil War  |  Historic Site

Memphis National Cemetery


3568 Townes Avenue
Memphis, TN 38122
United States

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This heritage site is a part of the American Battlefield Trust's Road to Freedom: Tennessee Tour Guide app, which showcases sites integral to the Black experience during the Civil War era. Download the FREE app now.

Memphis National Cemetery
Graves decorated in the Fort Pillow section of the Memphis National Cemetery Lydon Comstock/

The Memphis National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 4,208 soldiers who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War.

Originally called the Mississippi River National Cemetery and established two years after fighting ceased, the identities of most of the Civil War dead reburied here could not be matched to specific plots. All but 250 of the original USCT gravestones bear only the designation “Unknown U.S. Soldier.” In the decades after the war, many USCT veterans joined their comrades in this hallowed ground. The Black soldiers, laid beneath known and unknown headstones, served in at least 41 USCT regiments.

Also among these honored dead are at least 24 Black sailors, buried separate from white sailors, who they had served alongside on U.S. Navy vessels. These vessels partook in the battles for control of the Mississippi River and maintained the river and its tributaries as vital supply lines.

The graves of 109 USCT soldiers from the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery and the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery reinterred from Fort Pillow are found together in section B, graves 1512, 1523-1630, alongside the graves of many of their white officers and comrades. Most of these men died April 12, 1864, at the hands of Confederate soldiers who massacred them as they surrendered. A memorial marker placed just outside the cemetery gate on Townes Avenue bears witness to this atrocity and honors the sacrifice of the men buried here. In recent years, USCT descendants and others gather to “Remember Fort Pillow” for an annual memorial service at the cemetery honoring these soldiers.

Memphis National Cemetery: What's Nearby

Memphis, TN
Mississippi River Museum at Mud Island
Memphis, TN