Little Rock National Cemetery is located in Little Rock, Arkansas., approximately two miles southeast of the state capital and, though closed to new internments, is one of the most visited cemeteries in Little Rock Arkansas.
The first European visitor to this region was Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto who, in 1541, first crossed the Mississippi into what would become Arkansas. Unable to locate the fabled city of gold, de Soto left the region and it was almost 200 years before French explorer Bernard de la Harpe brought new attention to area. In 1722, during his survey of the Arkansas River, Le Harpe named the river bluff La Petite Roch, or “the Little Rock.”
The area turned out to be a convenient point for crossing the Arkansas River and was near a Quapaw Indian settlement, so La Harpe established his trading post here. When Arkansas became a territory in 1819, the capital was located at Arkansas Post, a site downriver. Two years later it moved to the busy town of Little Rock. Little Rock was incorporated as a city in 1831 and became the capital in 1836 when Arkansas was admitted to the Union.
In 1866, the land that is now the cemetery was outside the city limits of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and served as a Union encampment for the troops who continued to occupy the city. In September 1866, the first 9.1 acres were purchased by the government from the new city cemetery to be used for military interments. Another 3.2 acres were added in April 1868, and on April 9 of that year, the cemetery was designated as Little Rock National Cemetery, its specific purpose being the interment of the remains of Union soldiers in Arkansas. That same year, the remains of 1,482 individuals were removed from different battlefields in the area and reinterred at the cemetery.
In 1869, the cemetery was enclosed by a fieldstone wall three feet high, and the firstsuperintendent’s lodge was built. The lodge was a simple three-room brick building. In 1908, the lodge was replaced by a two-story, six-room building; in the 1930s, a sunroom and sleeping porch were added. In 1916, the Minnesota Monument was dedicated to honor the soldiers from Minnesota who had died in the Civil War and were buried in southern states. It is one of seven Minnesota monuments found in the national cemeteries. Parts of the rock wall were renovated to wrought iron in 1921 and 1929.
In 1884, the eleven-acre Confederate Cemetery was established next to the Little Rock National Cemetery. A monument, known as the Confederate Monument, was placed in the cemetery by trustees of Mount Holly Cemetery that year. Within the cemetery is also a fourteen-and-a-half-foot brick and cement rostrum with asphalt shingle roofing. It is not known exactly when it was constructed, but it was built by the Memorial Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the plaque is dated 1907. The remains of 640 Confederate soldiers were moved from Mount Holly Cemetery to the Confederate Cemetery. The soldiers died in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana between 1861-1863.
This cemetery became part of the Little Rock National Cemetery in 1913 when the Secretary of War accepted the deed from the City of Little Rock. The deed came with the stipulation that only Confederate veterans would be buried in the new section. In 1938, the restriction was dropped, and the cemetery became the Confederate section of the National Cemetery.
In 1990, five acres of land adjacent to the National Cemetery were donated to the cemetery by the National Expansion Corp., which had purchased the land from the Oakland Fraternal Cemetery. In 1996, a brick administration building with public restrooms and a committal service shelter were added. That same year, at a little over thirty-one acres, the Little Rock National Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The last addition of land came in November 1999, when the City of Little Rock donated one acre. The Little Rock National Cemetery is not accepting new burials, with the exception of spouses or dependents being interred in an existing grave.
Little Rock National Cemetery contains the remains of Medal Of Honor recipient Lieutenant Maurice L. Britt, (World War II) U.S. Army, 3rd Infantry Division. North of Mignano, Italy, Nov. 10, 1943.
Here is a moving video tribute to Little Rock National Cemetery: