The National Cemetery in Fort Smith has been the site where men and women that have served their country were buried since 1819. Post Surgeon Thomas Russell was the first to be buried at the 5.5 acre cemetery.
The ground where the cemetery is located served as garrisons for Union and Confederates during the Civil war. It was not until 1867 that the grounds were established as one of the three national cemeteries in the state of Arkansas.
Burials include U.S. soldiers, hundreds of Confederate soldiers and more than 160 civilians that died at the fort.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster General’s Office constructed a brick lodge and permanent marble headstones on the graves in the 1870’s. Much of what was built had to be restored after a tornado ripped through the area in 1898 causing widespread damage. The current building has stood since 1904.
Since 1819 the cemetery has grown to over 32 acres.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. A Veteran's spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.
The cemetery is also home to several memorials and monuments including:
A carillon (a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower of a church or municipal building) was donated by the American Veterans as part of their international living memorial program, which began shortly after World War II. The carillon was dedicated on Veteran’s Day, 1986.
A marble memorial to Unknown Confederate Dead also commemorates Brig. General James McIntosh, CSA, who was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 8, 1862 and Brig. General A. Steen, CSA, who was killed at Prairie Grove on Dec. 7, 1862.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial of granite and bronze was dedicated May 30, 1998 to honor all who served their country during the Vietnam War.
The Pearl Harbor Memorial was dedicated on Dec. 7, 1997 by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in memory of all who served on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 during the attack by Japan.
Office Hours at the cemetery are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
It is closed for federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day.