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Copyright © 1998-2006, Gary Martens, All Rights Reserved
Located in the Platte River Valley of Nebraska, Fort McPherson National Cemetery is a reflection of the people and their ancestors who settled in the American West. Through the valley passed traders and trappers in their search for furs, settlers in their quest for land and freedom, miners seeking the riches of the Rocky Mountains and the first transcontinental railroad linking the East and West Coast. From these people and their descendants came a special breed of men who were willing to fight in battles both foreign and domestic for which the American freedoms have been guaranteed and preserved. These grounds are maintained as both a tribute and as a memorial to those who were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to continue the American heritage.
Established on September 27, 1863, the fort provided protection for the building of a railroad and for settlers in their western trek. Initially named Fort McKean and for a brief time Post of the Cottonwood Springs, the present name of Fort McPherson was given on February 20, 1866, in honor of Major General James B. McPherson who was killed in action on July 22, 1864, during the Battle of Atlanta. As the settlement of the area progressed, the need for the soldiers decreased and Fort McPherson took on a new role of importance in the area.
On March 3, 1873, the Fort McPherson National Cemetery was established on a 107 acre tract of the Fort McPherson Military Reservation. This resulted from an Act of Congress which provided for the burial of all honorably discharged Union veterans of the Civil War in National Cemeteries if they so desired. These cemeteries were located on or near the grounds of battlefields or hospital of the Civil War. Because some of these first cemeteries were inaccessible to some eligible veterans, new cemeteries in diverse areas became a necessity. Therefore, with many forts in the area closed and their cemeteries deteriorating, it was decided that the remains be reinterred in the Fort McPherson National Cemetery.
Many of these early interments characterized the people and the events
of the times. In August of 1854, Lieutenant John L. Grattan and
twenty-eight of his men were killed near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in
what has come to be known as the 'Grattan Massacre.' A cow from a
passing Mormon wagon train had run into a nearby Indian village.
When seeking to discover the Indian responsible for killing the cow
and receiving no answer, Lieutenant Grattan ordered his men to fire
on the Indians. In the process, Brave Bear, a chief who was noted
for his efforts to establish peace between the white men and the
Indians, was killed. Incensed at this great loss the Indians returned
the fire killing Lieutenant Grattan and his entire troop. In 1891,
their remains, along with others buried at Fort Laramie, were
reinterred at Fort Mcpherson. Subsequently, Lieutenant Grattan
was reinterred at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Kansas.
Death on the western frontier came in many ways. Section A,
Graves 384-389, mark the burial site of six members of Company F,
3rd U.S. Cavalry, who drowned on May 31, 1873, when a flash flood
swept through their campsite on Blackwood Creek in the Republican
The first white inhabitants of the plains were the traders and trappers. Section 5, Grave 5900, contains the remains of Baptistie Gamier, also known as 'Little Bat'. Son of a French trapper father and a Sioux Indian mother, he served as a scout and trailer for General Crook. Little Bat was murdered in the late 1880's at Crawford, Nebraska, and was originally buried at Ft. Robinson.
Nearby lies Moses Milner, nicknamed 'California Joe.' Milner left Kentucky at age 14 and spent his first winter learning to hunt and trap on the North Platte River. In 1848 he built a cabin on Brady Island and traded with friendly Indians on the Loup, Daniel, Platte and Republican Rivers. He fought in the Mexican War, was with Kit Carson at Adobe Wells, and scouted for General Custer and General Crook. In 1876 he was shot in the back by an unknown assailant and was originally buried at Ft. Robinson.
An important part of traversing and settling the west was the assistance offered by Indian scouts. Section C, Grave 258, is the resting place of Spotted Horse, a Pawnee Indian. In his early years as a warrior he fought hard against white settlement of the plains. Spotted Horse later became friendly with the soldiers of the area and joined their service as a scout.
The last of the Civil War veterans of Lincoln County, Nebraska was buried in Section C, Grave 1270. Private Cyrus Fox, a member of Company C, 7th Iowa Infantry, died on June 12, 1942. Coincidentally, Private Fox had served under General McPherson for whom the cemetery was named.
GROUP BURIALS - Fort McPherson National cemetery has served as the final resting place for American men and women who have served their country at many different times in many wars throughout the years. In some instances, positive identification has been impossible due to the circumstances of the deaths. There are 81 group burials in Ft. McPherson National Cemetery which represent 35 decedents.
MEMORIAL MARKERS - On August 14, 1958 Congress authorized the placement of memorial markers in the national cemeteries to commemorate those members of the Armed Forces who had died in service and whose remains could not be recovered, identified, buried at sea, or had their ashes scattered. The memorial section is located near the main entrance of the cemetery.
MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS - '...above and beyond the call of duty. He who has been awarded the Medal of Honor holds the highest award for bravery that can be bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress. The Medal of honor is earned by a deed of personal bravery and self-sacrifice, above and beyond the call of duty. Most of the medals have been awarded for an act of heroism while engaged in war, conflict, or campaign. However, Congress has in the past awarded this honor for peace-time exploits. The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration which can be given in any of the Armed Forces, in consideration for entitlement of the medal, there can be no margin or error or doubt. The deed of the recipient must be proven by incontestable evidence of at least two eyewitnesses and his deed must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguish his gallantry.
Over the years, this small piece of Nebraska has become the final resting place for four recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Section A, Grave 380, is the resting place of Pvt. Daniel A. Miller, Company F, 3rd U.S Cavalry. Medal recipient for gallantry in action during the Indian War, Oct. 6, 1874.
Section F, Grave 1040 marks the grave of Sgt. Emanuel Stance, Company F, 9th U.S. Cavalry. On May 20, 1870, at Kickapoo Springs, Texas, gallantry while on scout after Indians. Sgt. Stance was a Buffalo Soldier.
Section F, Grave 1131, is the resting site of Sgt. George Jordan. Sgt. Jordan was awarded the Medal of Honor on two occasions, first for gallantry on May 14, 1880, and again on August 12, 1881. Both times were for repulsing a force of more that 100 Indians, while commanding a detachment of only a few soldiers. Sgt. Jordan was also a Buffalo Soldier.
Section G, Grave 685 is the final resting site for PFC James W. Fous. A member of Company E, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, PFC Fous on May 14, 1968 distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While participating in a reconnaissance mission in Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam, PFC Fous detected three Viet Cong maneuvering toward his position. After alerting the other men, he directed accurate fire upon the enemy and silenced two of them. The Third Viet Cong soldier managed to escape after throwing a hand grenade into his position. Without hesitation, he shouted a warning to his three comrades and leaped upon the lethal explosive, absorbing the blast with his own body. His gallantry and heroism was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Our heritage is the privilege to work for freedom, and the daily opportunity to deserve it. The struggle to create and pass on this birthright is symbolized in the Medal of Honor. In it is cast the loyalty which impelled these men to scale the heights of courage and strength for their country, at the risk of their lives '...above and beyond the call of duty...'
To contact the cemetery:
Fort McPherson National Cemetery
HCO1, Box 67
Maxwell, NE 69151
Phone: (308) 582-4433