During the Civil War, Annapolis was under Union control, but the prevailing sentiments were with the Confederacy. Exchanged soldiers were processed at St. John’s College, and were taken to the military hospital at Strawberry Hill or to Camp Parole, outside the city. This cemetery is the site of many graves from these soldiers who died of their wounds or diseaseduring their stay here. Gravestones with curved tops mark the burial of Union soldiers, while rooftop points indicate graves of Confederate soldiers. Some say the point was to ward off the devil, so that he couldn’t sit down and stay a while. Older graves are distinguished from the newer because the letters are raised; newer stones are engraved or chiseled.
As you enter the parking area the cemetery has a rectangular shape with the small end facing West Street. Two large shagbark hickories can be seen in the adjacent Brewer Hill Cemetery, also fronting on West Street. Brewer Hill is an historic African-American cemetery of local importance. The shagbark hickory, as its name implies, has long, narrow strips of bark that are loosely attached to the tree. According to the ©1980 (Knopf), hickory “milk” was made from the nuts during colonial times, by steeping and then pounding the kernals. The milk was used in cooking corn cakes and hominy.
In the center of the National Cemetery are two large sugar maples near graves #493 and 892. Just beyond the second maple is a very large tulip poplar just outside the cemetery fence.
The National Cemetery contains a number of large evergreen (conifers) including two Norway spruces in the center of the cemetery, near markers #1760 and 2284. Norway spruces have the larges cones of any of the spruces. A particularly fine Oriental spruce is located near marker #2098. This is one of the most handsome conifers in town with a circumference of nearly 9’ and height of nearly 80’.
Near the flagpole in the center of the cemetery is a northern red oak with a plaque (1976) honoring the recipients of the Medal of Honor. A Norway maple is located near marker # 1204 and a scattering of overcup oaks line the fence on the left side of the Cemetery. The name of these oaks refers to the fact that the cup or cap on the acorn almost completely covers it
Most fittingly, a mature white cedar is located at the far end of the cemetery near grave marker # 2330, easily recognized by its reddish-brown, fibrous bark. White cedar, sometimes called Arborvitae, meaning “tree of life”, is often planted in cemeteries because of its fragrant, evergreen foliage.
This site is unique for its historic connection but it also reminds us that trees need on-going care to survive and flourish. The trees in this cemetery need professional attention to ensure that they won’t fall victim to insects or disease. This is federal property, but the interest of local citizens can prompt government to protect old trees and plant new ones, when and where needed.
Last updated on November 20, 2001.
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