The History of
Fort Snelling National Cemetery
The Fort Snelling cemetery was established in 1870 to serve as a burial ground for the soldiers who died while stationed at the post. Following World War I, as new legislation expanded the eligibility requirements for burial in a national cemetery, the citizens of St. Paul organized a petition to designate a national cemetery in their area. In 1937, Congress responded with legislation that authorized a portion of land at Fort Snelling Military Reservation for this purpose. Fort Snelling National Cemetery was established in 1939 with the first burial on July 5, of Capt. George H. Mallon, whose acts of heroism at Meuse-Argonne in France were recognized with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Following the dedication of the new cemetery, arrangements were made for the exhumation of the remains of those buried at the older post cemetery and the reinterment of the 680 soldiers who served from 1820-1939 buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery. The 1930s were also a major boom era for national cemetery growth. Ft. Snelling is one of a dozen or so very large cemeteries conceived between World War I and World War II to serve large veteran populations in some cities.
Fort Snelling National Cemetery is located in Minneapolis, Minn. The original Fort Snelling was established in 1805 near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. However, it was not until 1820 that a permanent post named Fort St. Anthony was constructed under the supervision of Col. Josiah Snelling. Gen. Winfield Scott was so impressed with the conditions at Fort St. Anthony during his first inspection in 1824 that he recommended the installation be renamed Fort Snelling.
Its original purpose was to keep peace on the western frontier, but in 1855 as the frontier moved further west, troops were withdrawn from Fort Snelling. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the fort was reopened and functioned as both an assembly ground and training camp for Minnesota volunteers. It remained open at the end of the Civil War and continued to be used as a training center. In 1947, the Fort Snelling Military Reservation was deactivated as a post, although it continues to function today as the headquarters for the 88th Army Reserve Command.
Several cemetery locations have been used by Fort Snelling throughout its history. In 1870 the Fort Snelling National Cemetery was created to serve as a burial place for soldiers who died while stationed at the fort. After World War I the citizens of St. Paul petitioned to have a national cemetery established in the vicinity. Congress passed legislation in 1937 that designated a portion of the Fort Snelling Military Reservation as a national cemetery. The entire site, administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, comprises 436 acres and remains the final resting place for over 180,000 service men and women.