The Presidio's San Francisco National Cemetery is a stunning final resting place for military veterans, the way it's framed by Monterey Cypress and Eucalyptus trees, on a slope overlooking Golden Gate. There are 30,000 Americans laid to rest here — Civil War generals, Medal of Honor recipients, Buffalo Soldiers (black American soldiers), and even a Union spy.
The cemetery is part of the 1,480-acre Presidio and is a peaceful, even breathtaking, location. The National Cemetery Overlook was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2009, and provides you a dramatic views of the cemetery below. The surrounding low stone walls are inscribed with lines from the Young Dead Soldiers by American poet Archibald MacLeish. The trail leads to benches where you can spend a quiet moment viewing the rolling hills dotted with white headstones.
Look for a kiosk near the entrance gates that gives you access to a search for those buried here. It's recommended to search by last name. The kiosk will provide you with the plot number and location.
If you're visiting the city during Memorial Day weekend, stop by for the cemetery's annual celebration. It's one of the biggest celebrations in the city.
The first known burial here dates back to 1854. After a petition to the War Department by a Presidio commander, the San Francisco National Cemetery was established. Just ten acres at the time, in 1884, it was under the jurisdiction of the Quartermaster General's office, It was the first National Cemetery on the west coast.
Over the following fifty years, the cemetery increased in burials and in size. One of of biggest architectural changes happened in 1915, when a rostrum (raised platform) was built for official services. In 1921, a chapel and mortuary were built. During a five-year restoration plan that started in 1924, the lodge was remodeled to conform to the Mission Revival style of architecture found throughout The Presidio. The final cemetery expansion was in 1932, when it reached its current size just shy of 29 acres. In 1973, the cemetery was officially closed to new interments.
MAJOR GENERAL IRVIN MCDOWELL, CIVIL WAR LEADER & GARDENER (1818 TO 1885)
McDowell was a career American army officer best known for his defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War. He also unsuccessfully fought against Stonewall Jackson during the Valley Campaign of 1862, and was blamed for the defeat of at the Second Battle of Bull Run. After his retirement he took to landscape gardening, and served as San Francisco's Park Commissioner until his death. He built a park in the neglected areas of the Presidio, and laid out drives with commanding views of the Golden Gate.
Officers' Section, Section 1, Grave 1
MAJOR DANA CRISSY, AVIATION PIONEER (DIED 1919)
Dana Crissy was a Presidio Army artilleryman and was fascinated with aviation. In October 1919, the Presidio hosted the army's first transcontinental test flight across North America. The race was to see who would make the trip the fastest. Dana Crissy died while he was attempting to land his De Haviland DH-4 aircraft near Salt Lake City, Utah. Crissy Field is named for him.
Officers' Section, Section 98, Grave 5
PAULINE CUSHMAN-FRYER, UNION SPY, (1833 TO 1893)
Born Harriet Wood, Pauline Cushman-Fryer was an actress and a spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War. She was caught and nearly executed, but was eventually freed. She later toured the USA, telling stories of her exploits. Later in life she suffered with arthritis and rheumatism, and self-medicated herself with opium. Nearly destitute, she moved to San Francisco, and worked as a seamstress and charwoman. She died of an opium overdose at the age of 60.
Officers' Section, Section 18, Grave 1
MAJOR GENERAL FREDERICK FUNSTON, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT (1865 TO 1917)
Known as Fighting Fred Funston, he was a general in the US Army, famous for his role in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War where he received the Medal of Honor. His life was filled with adventure; he took part in an early surveying expedition in Death Valley, then traveled to Alaska to work for the Department of Agriculture. He joined the Cuban Revolutionary Army that fought for independence from Spain in 1896. He was a colonel of the US Infantry and 1898, fought in the early days of the Spanish-American War. In 1906, he was in command of the Presidio when the 1906 earthquake and fire hit.
Fighting Fred Funston suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of fifty-one. In the moments leading up to his death, Funston was relaxing in The St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, listening to the orchestra play The Blue Danube waltz. "How beautiful it all is," were his final words before he collapsed and died. He was holding his six-year-old daughter in his arms.
Officers' Section, Section 68, Grave 3
MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM SHAFTER, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT (1835 TO 1906)
Nicknamed Pecos Bill, William Shafter was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War and received the highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. He also played a prominent role in the Spanish–American War. Shafter was portrayed in the 1997 film Rough Riders.
Officers' Section, Section 30, Grave 2
COLONEL CHARLES A. VARNUM, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT (1849 TO 1936)
Varnum is most noted as the commander of the scouts for George Armstrong Custer in the Little Bighorn Campaign during the Great Sioux War. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions in a conflict following the Wounded Knee Massacre. When he died in 1936 at the age of 86 years old, Varnum was the last surviving officer who had participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Officers' Section, Section 3, Grave 3A
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