Civil War  |  Historic Site

New Bern National Cemetery

North Carolina

1711 National Avenue
New Bern, NC 28560
United States

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New Bern National Cemetery, New Bern, N.C.
New Bern National Cemetery, New Bern, N.C. Tradewinds (2010) CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the 6,500+ veterans buried in the New Bern National Cemetery are more than 404 United States Colored Troop (USCT) soldiers and an unknown number of Black sailors who fought for freedom.

To protect the graves of Union fallen scattered throughout the Inner Banks region from neglect or desecration by defeated Confederates, the U.S. Army removed and reburied soldiers here between 1867 and 1869. In the 1870s, the brick wall and stone markers replaced the original whitewashed fence and wooden headboards. Freedmen, who in 1868 became citizens, likely performed much of labor to landscape the cemetery and bury the dead.

Although listed in the Roll of Honor alphabetically alongside their white comrades, the graves of USCT men, who served in some 15 different regiments, are found segregated in sections 14, 16, and 17. The vast majority of the known USCT soldiers buried here died of disease in the early months of occupation after the war. Nearly half of the USCT soldiers buried here remain unknown. Perhaps reflecting the more integrated nature of their service, it is impossible to distinguish the graves of Black and white sailors on the roll or on the ground.

The African Americans honored here include: Private George Peppers (section 16, site 2797) of North Carolina’s 37th USCT who died April 18, 1865; Sergeant Luke Letcher (section 14, site 2548) of Maryland’s 39th USCT, who was the subject of a post-war property claim by his former master; J. Coffee, (section 14, site 2385) a Black woman who cooked for the white 2nd Iowa Infantry; and Lofton Irons (section 16, 2838), who was one of a few civilian “pioneers” — freedmen who labored in support of the troops — laid to rest here.

New Bern National Cemetery: What's Nearby

New Bern, NC