CHOOSE CHATT™ BLOG

Historic Cemeteries of the Scenic City

Are you a history buff? Or maybe you like walking around different historical places? Though Chattanooga is relatively young by international – even national – standards, its 1839 founding still gives the city its fair share of significant moments and important people. Generally speaking, one of the most critical tethers holding our present and past tied together are our cemeteries, the final resting places of those who’ve gone before. The Scenic City is home to a notable set of cemeteries that offer a glimpse of these generations past. 

Here, we’ve compiled a list of Chattanooga’s historic cemeteries, ordered by their establishment dates and described in brief. While some share a few similarities, we will be sure to highlight their differences to display their uniqueness and valuable contribution to our city.

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Chattanooga National Cemetery - Est. in 1863

Founded by Major General George H. Thomas, this cemetery is the pièce de résistance of historic cemeteries in the Scenic City. Now considered a United States National Cemetery and operated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Soldiers from many different time periods and walks of life have been laid to rest on this spacious historic site. Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain battle casualties are buried here, along with those who fought in both World Wars, the War of 1812, and even one Revolutionary War vet named Samuel Miller. This is also the only national cemetery to house prisoners of war from both World Wars, including POW from Germany, Italy, Poland, and France. Several veterans who were awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor are buried here, and many monuments and memorials stand proud throughout the landscape. There are also some interesting people buried with family or spouses, like Sara Wiltse – a prominent elementary education advocate, writer of children’s stories, and editor of a Grimm’s Fairy Tales volume – who is buried with her brother Jason, a Civil War veteran. If you are into history, this is definitely a place to add to your itinerary and a must-see for those interested in record-keeping and genealogy.

Citizens’ Cemetery – Est. around 1837

Citizens’ Cemetery is Chattanooga’s oldest cemetery, located right next to UTC’s Aquatic and Recreation Center. The land for was purchased by Colonel William Lindsay in 1838, though there are stories that suggest the land was selected by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Rush Montgomery, who dedicated it to the burial of their 2-year-old child who passed away in 1837. Along with a handful of prominent early citizens, many victims of yellow fever are buried here, with Harry Savage, who devoted part of his short life to orphan children, as one of them. As it is the oldest cemetery, Citizens’ Cemetery has quite the historic past as well as historic people buried there. During the Civil War, many of the stones were taken from the cemetery to use as building materials. Bonus for those who want to continue exploring: The Confederate Cemetery and Mizpah Cemetery are right next to it!

This 2-acre cemetery was created after the Battle of Chattanooga in 1863 as a burial site for Confederate soldiers who died in Chattanooga hospitals. The cemetery is open to the public, and houses a few thousand soldiers both in individual graves and a mass grave. 

Forest Hills Cemetery – Est. in 1880

Located in the scenic shadow of Lookout Mountain, this carefully cared-for area was created by Colonel Abraham Malone Johnson and others. Johnson, an important figure locally and responsible for founding the original companies that became Tennessee American Water and Sanofi, is far from the only reason this cemetery is of interest. Fascinatingly, many gravesites bear the reason for their occupant’s passing, ranging from consumption to insanity. That, combined with the ability to simply see the changing from historic period to period by catching the details of different sets of headstones, makes this cemetery an interesting one to walk around in. In addition, an area segregated from the rest of the cemetery holds African Americans, many of whom were slaves prior to the Civil War; a monument of both the progress and price our nation has made and paid. When you visit, make sure you take the time to smell the metaphorical roses, too, since Forest Hills has many rare species of plant life cultivated by the Forest Hills denizens.

Mizpah Cemetery (also Ochs Memorial Cemetery) – Est. in 1866

This Jewish cemetery was created by the Hebrew Benevolent Association as the first-ever Jewish cemetery in Chattanooga. Though the cemetery has not been able to achieve its long-standing goal of moving Jewish soldiers there from other sites due to low funding, there are several prominent Jewish members from Chattanooga’s history buried there. Most notably, the Adolph Ochs monument, along with the Ochs family, is there. Adolph Ochs was a prominent member of Chattanooga society and newspaper publisher whose parents, Julius and Bertha, were divided on Civil War loyalties. Julius served in the Union army, and Bertha was loyal to the Deep South Confederacy that she grew up in. Their stories and others would not be possible without historic sites like this one!

Silverdale Confederate Cemetery – Est. around 1882

Surrounded by a fieldstone fence, this Confederate cemetery contains a plot dedicated to 155 unnamed soldiers who belonged to the Army of Tennessee. Due to wooden grave markers, this place was once lost to time. In 1890, Captain Joseph F. Shipp called for attention to the place, and now a memorial gate and stone wall stands to mark the front.

 

Maybe you like walking through the scenery of cemeteries, or you are fascinated with times gone by and the monuments that are testament to them. Either way, Chattanooga definitely has places to cater to whichever adventure you would like to embark on! If you find yourself wanting to get away from the speed of our modern day, consider going back in time and walking among those who lived before in the Scenic City.

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