In honor of Memorial Day, here’s a look at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which is California Historical Landmark No. 55. The military cemetery, located on the top of Point Loma, overlooks both the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. The cemetery, located within the Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation, dates back to the late 1800s, with the re-interment of the casualties from the Battle of San Pasqual. The cemetery contains the graves of over 100,000 military veterans and their family members and covers 77.5 acres. It is split by Cabrillo Memorial Drive into two sections: west, facing the Pacific Ocean, and east, facing San Diego Bay.
California Historical Landmark No. 55
The site was in use as a burial plot before 1847, and became a military cemetery as a burial plot for Fort at Ballast Point in the 1860s (later renamed Fort Rosecrans in 1899), the cemetery’s first major use was for the re-interment of the American casualties from the 1846 Battle of San Pasqual (Mexican-American War). Initially the remains were buried at the battleground site near Escondido, but were later moved to the San Diego Military Reservation by 1874 and then re-buried at Fort Rosecrans in 1882. After the boiler explosion aboard the USS Bennington in San Diego Bay in 1905, the dead sailors were buried at the cemetery (with the Bennington Monument obelisk added in 1908), and for a while, the cemetery was known as Bennington National Cemetery.
Designated a California Historical Landmark on December 6, 1932, the burial grounds were officially designated Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Oct. 5, 1934, joining the national cemetery system, after the burial rules for national cemeteries were revised and San Francisco National Cemetery, the only existing West Coast national cemetery, was reaching capacity.
The cemetery was expanded over time, with the west side added later on (The aerial photo from 1948 at the bottom of this page only shows the east side in existence, perhaps covering less than a third of the size of the current east section). Eventually columbarium walls were added on both the west and east sections, and currently no new burial plots for caskets are available. Only cremated remains are accepted. Special memorial markers, such as for the Mormon Battalion, the San Pasqual dead, and for various ships in WWII are found throughout the cemetery.
FORT ROSECRANS NATIONAL CEMETERY
A burial ground before 1847, this graveyard became an Army post cemetery in the 1860s. It is the final resting place for most who fell at San Pasqual in 1846, and for the USS Bennington victims of 1905. It became Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934 and was placed under the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System in 1973. Over 50,000 who served the U.S. honorably in war and peace lie here.
California Registered Historical Landmark No. 55
First registered Dec. 6, 1932. Plaque placed by the State Deparment of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus. May 28, 1990.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is located on Point Loma, west of downtown San Diego. It is located on both sides of Cabrillo Memorial Drive, on the Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation, en route to Cabrillo National Monument. The cemetery is open: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The California Historical Landmark plaque is located immediately on the right side of the main entrance to the west section, just inside the entry gateway. There are three driveway entrances to each side of the cemetery, and the northernmost entrance is the main one for both sides.
- Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Official page at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs – National Cemetery Administration
This page contains a good history of the cemetery, as well as a list of notable veterans buried at the site
- Fort Rosecrans Memorial Day
The committee that organizes the annual Memorial Day services at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The site has a basic history of the cemetery, and the annual memorial services. It also contains lots of photos from previous years’ services.
- Historic images of the Bennington Monument at the Naval Historical Center, including photos from the 1908 dedication. Later historical images of the cemetery are found here.
- California Historical Landmark No. 55: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Official Listing at California State Parks – Office of Historic Places
- Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Wikipedia. Most of the history is copied from the VA site.
- USS Bennington Monument on Wikipedia
- Fort Rosecrans on FortWiki. This page has a 1921 map of the fort site, including the location of the Bennington Monument.