Finns Point National Cemetery was officially designated as a national cemetery in 1875 by the United States government. The fact that Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War are buried within the confines of the same national cemetery, albeit in separate sections, makes Finns Point somewhat unique. Arlington National Cemetery does have a Confederate Circle and Philadelphia National Cemetery encloses a separate Confederate section. More typical are the separate national cemeteries for Confederates at Camp Chase, Elmira, Point Lookout, and Johnsonís Island. Created during the Civil War, these separate cemeteries were designated as national cemeteries and reserved exclusively for the Confederate soldiers and sailors who died while prisoners of war.
Completed in 1877, Finns Point National Cemetery was enhanced and improved in response to the urging of Governor James L. Kemper of Virginia. Governor Kemper had been a brigade commander under Major General George E. Pickett in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and was wounded in action at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Many of Kemperís Virginians were sent to Fort Delaware during the war and those who died there were buried at Finns Point.
United States Adjutant General E. D. Townsend wrote to Governor Kemper in 1875: "Most of the bodies of the Confederate prisoners of war who died at Fort Delaware are interred in the soldierís burial ground at Finns Point on the New Jersey shore, opposite to the fort, which is enclosed by an Osage-orange hedge, and while not in as good [an] order as might be desired, is reported as presenting a more respectable appearance than many country church-yards." Nevertheless, the United States War Department removed the few Union and Confederate remains to be found still on Pea Patch Island and placed them inside the newly designated national cemetery. A superintendent was appointed who proceeded to improve the grounds creating much of what a visitor sees today including the Meigs lodge for the superintendent.
The remains of 135 of the Union guards who died while on duty at Fort Delaware are interred in a separate section to the front of the cemetery. Union remains buried at Finns Point during the war were placed in individual graves. Sadly, these are now unmarked. A monument to these Union guards was erected in 1879 listing 105 names and noting that 30 others could not be identified. The Grecian style columned cupola over the smaller obelisk seen today was added in 1936.
As a further gesture of reconciliation following the successful conclusion of the war against Spain to which the former Confederate states contributed significant support, the United States government in 1910 authorized the erection of an 85 foot tall obelisk memorializing the Confederates buried at Finns Point. The obelisk was constructed with reinforced concrete at its core and was covered with slabs of Pennsylvania white granite. Bronze memorial plates surrounding its base contain the names of 2,436 Confederate prisoners of war known at the time to have died at Fort Delaware.
Continuing research into the National Archives records by Fort Delaware Society archivists has produced the names of an additional 500 Confederate prisoners who died during their captivity at Fort Delaware. Based upon Adjutant General Townsendís statement to Governor Kemper in 1875 and the lack of any records to the contrary, many of these Confederates were also buried at Finns Point. Society archivist Jocelyn P. Jamison compiled the names of 2,925 Confederate prisoners of war, 109 Union guards [26 others are still unknown], and 39 civilian detainees along with additional personal data on each. This information has been published under the title "They Died at Fort Delaware 1861 - 1865" by the Fort Delaware Society in June 1997. A copy can be obtained from the Society for $8.00 plus postage.
Finns Point National Cemetery continued in active use as a burial site for members of the Coastal Artillery garrison at nearby Fort Mott through the end of World War I. It is in active use today for American service veterans of all wars, but burials are now limited to cremains. The cemetery is operated and maintained under the direction of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more information and specific data on all burials at Finns Point, write to the Director, Beverly National Cemetery, Department of Veterans Affairs, Beverly, New Jersey 08010 or call (609) 877-5460. Beverly National Cemetery