National Cemeteries at Crown Hill

Crown Hill National Cemetery

Crown Hill National Cemetery (Section 10, located behind the Gothic Chapel), is a result of the American Civil War. The Indianapolis City Cemetery, Greenlawn, was filling up, thus prompting the need for a new cemetery. Crown Hill Cemetery was incorporated on September 25, 1863, and the Crown Hill National Cemetery was created on August 27, 1866 when the government paid $5,000 for a 1.4-acre section within Crown Hill.

More than 700 Union soldiers were originally buried in Greenlawn Cemetery. In October 1866, the federal government hired local undertaker William Weaver to supervise their transfer to Crown Hill. Weaver’s men relocated the remains of 712 soldiers. Among those buried are 217 United States Colored Troop soldiers.

On May 30, 1868, the first Decoration (Memorial) Day observance at Crown Hill National Cemetery was held, in the same location where it’s been held annually every year since, making it the longest consecutively held Memorial Day ceremony in Indiana.

In 2011, Section 9 (the land adjacent to the National Cemetery) was donated to the federal government. Sections 9 and 10 cover approximately 2.67 acres and hold the remains of 2,097 veterans and their dependents. Most were moved to this location when the National Cemetery opened in 1866. While the vast majority (74%) are Civil War Union soldiers, there are veterans from multiple wars from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. The second-largest number of soldiers is from World War I (17%). The only Revolutionary War soldier buried in the National Cemetery, John Morrow, was relocated in these sections.

The last burial made in the National Cemetery was for Vietnam Air Force pilot, Major Robert W. Hayes. The Crown Hill National Cemetery is officially closed.

The Confederate Mound

The “Confederate Mound,” Crown Hill’s second National Cemetery, is located on the north side of Section 32. It is the final resting place of 1,616 Confederate prisoners of war. They died while confined at Camp Morton from 1862-65. (Camp Morton was a former Union Army Training Camp on the site of the old fairgrounds where a historical marker is now erected at 1900 North Alabama Street.)

In February 1862, Fort Donelson, a Confederate stronghold on the Cumberland River west of Clarksville, Tennessee, surrendered. Suddenly, the Union Army had 15,000 Confederate prisoners and no place to house them. Indiana offered to take 3,000 prisoners at Camp Morton, which closed in June 1865 after many prisoners died of disease. Most of them died at City Hospital and were originally buried in City Cemetery before it closed. The War Department had the Confederate dead removed and transferred to Crown Hill Cemetery in 1931.

Indianapolis police officers, Steve Staletovich and Wayne Sharp, led a two-year project to identify these veterans. As a result, ten bronze plaques mounted on granite bases were placed at the site. Each bears the names of all southerners who died at Camp Morton. The monument and plaques were rededicated on October 3, 1993, in a ceremony that included representatives from 14 former Confederate states and territories. Two annual memorial services honor these fallen Confederates: the Confederate Memorial Day at the end of April and the traditional Memorial Day in May. It is only on these two dates that a Confederate flag can fly on the lot.

A Third National Cemetery

In 2019, the federal government purchased 15 acres of land from Crown Hill to develop a third National Cemetery (not yet named), beginning in the spring of 2020. It will be located north of the Community Mausoleum and Garden Mausoleums in the northeast corner of the cemetery and will be developed for cremated remains only.

Additional Military Sections

In addition to Crown Hill’s three national cemeteries, multiple military burial sections are located on the grounds. These sections honor thousands of military veterans from the Revolutionary War through today’s global conflicts. Three Civil War Medal of Honor winners — Charles Brouse, Jacob Swanson Johnson and John McKenzie — are among those buried in private family lots.

In 1991, Crown Hill opened Section 28 as a military section. The Field of Valor section and mausoleum were dedicated in 2004. Both are located on the north grounds, just west of the Community Mausoleum. Eagle Plaza and an Eternal Flame are featured in this section as well. Five soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are interred there as well as hundreds of others, including many of our “Greatest Generation” from World War II. The Garden of America I military mausoleum was built on the northwest side of the Community Mausoleum, and the Freedom Field Mausoleum will be built on Section 209, located north of the Field of Valor. Ground burials are available there now.

The addition of the third National Cemetery brings the total acreage dedicated to military burials at Crown Hill to 26.76 acres.