Located between Canton and Cartersville, Georgia, the Georgia National Cemetery is the 123rd National Cemetery overseen by the Veterans Administration. The cemetery was dedicated on June 4, 2006 and permits burial of eligible servicemen. Computer-driven kiosks direct visitors to each of the 33,000 grave sites, 3,000 cremation burial sites and 3,000 cremation urn sites.
The first cemetery designated a "National Cemetery" was created by General Winfield Scott in Mexico City as a site for a common grave for 750 American dead in the Mexican-American War. It was declared an American military cemetery by Congress in 1851 and is administered separately from the National Cemetery system.
Memorial to men and women who served our nation
In 1862 Congress authorized the President to purchase grounds "to be used as a national cemetery for soldiers who die in service to their county." The first fourteen designated National Cemeteries were:
Alexandria National Cemetery, Alexandria, Va.
Annapolis National Cemetery, Annapolis, Md.
Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Md.
Camp Butler National Cemetery, Springfield, Ill.
Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Danville National Cemetery, Danville, Ky.
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.
Fort Scott National Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kan.
Keokuk National Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa
Loudon Park National Cemetery, Baltimore, Md.
Mill Springs National Cemetery, Nancy, Ky.
New Albany National Cemetery, New Albany, Ind.
Philadelphia National Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pa.
Soldier’s Home National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
73 National Cemeteries had been created by 1870 holding nearly 300,000 soldiers from the American Civil War. In 1920 Congress extended rights for burial in the National Cemeteries to "...all soldiers, sailors or marines dying in the service of the United States."
Lone US Flag waves at the highpoint of the National Cemetery
The Georgia National Cemetery grew out of a needs assessment done by the Veterans Administration in 1994 that highlighted Atlanta as one of ten areas in need of a new National Cemetery. The original assessment in 1987 had failed to list Atlanta, but by 1994 the city made the top ten list. In 1999 the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act mandated six new National Cemeteries.
The first step was to locate a parcel of land large enough to satisfy the needs of the Atlanta area. When the site on Georgia 20 between Cartersville and Canton was selected, an environmental impact statement was completed, showing the area just west of the Knox Creek Bridge was previously used by Cherokee and settlers mostly for hunting. The site was donated by Scott Hudgens, a World War II veteran and philanthropist.
J. M. Wilkerson Construction Company of Marietta, Georgia was selected to build the Georgia National Cemetery in December 2004. The first burial within the cemetery occurred on April 24, 2006 and dedication occurred on June 4, 2006.
From the Georgia National Cemetery entrance the road winds up to the Visitors Center, housing bathrooms, general information on the cemetery including a map of the grounds and kiosks that allow visitors to search for a specific grave. Past the Visitors Center the grounds spread out over most of the nearly 800 acres the the cemetery encompasses. Less than half the total acreage will be used for graves, with the rest reserved for a memorial trail, where groups and individuals can place memorials.
At the highpoint of the cemetery, which feature expansive views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, a single flagpole carries the American Flag.
Each marker is standardized in the National Cemetery system. The stone can denote Medal of Honor awardees. For Civil War era graves the headstone can contain written designation of Union or Confederate, the Union Shield, and the Confederate Southern Cross of Honor.
The only other emblems permitted show the religious affiliation of the deceased. There are 41 approved religious symbols, the most common is the Christian Cross(see photo). Other visible symbols include the Star of David (Jewish), Methodist, Episcopal, and Lutheran. For a complete list, most with pictures, see the Veterans Affairs Available Emblems page.
The Veterans Administration has 2 National Cemeteries in Georgia, the Marietta National Cemetery and the Georgia National Cemetery. The National Parks System maintains a smaller National Cemetery at Andersonville.
===Directions from I-75===
Take exit 290 (Highway 20) toward Canton (east). Travel 12 miles, turn left into cemetery entrance located near Knox Bridge.
===Directions from I-575===
Take exit 16, go left at the overpass and follow the signs to GA Highway 20. Turn left (west) on to GA Highway 20 for approximately six miles, cross the Knox Bridge and the cemetery entrance is on the right.