8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette, LA (denoted by historic marker – go out the opening from cemetery to the battlefield)
Date of Burials: 1867-1876
Defunct, Open to Public
Link: Find A Grave
Freedmen’s Cemetery is marked with a plaque in an area between the Chalmette Battlefield and the Chalmette National Cemetery.
The Freedmen’s Bureau (Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) was established in 1865 to help newly freed people and poor white people. With the South passing laws with the Black Codes and continuing racism, the Bureau did what it could during Reconstruction.
In 1867, Monument Cemetery (Chalmette National Cemetery) realized it would run out of room for veterans and decided to remove all non-military burials. The Freedmen’s Cemetery was started to house over 4,000 bodies from the original cemetery. About 800 of the bodies were unknown- it was most likely hurried burials from major small pox outbreaks. Black soldiers remain in Chalmette National Cemetery.
From 1867-1876, about 3,000 more people were buried here. The grand majority were people who died at the Freedmen’s Hospital. Sadly, many people had conditions from being enslaved and were already in poor health. Freedmen’s Hospital had trouble staffing doctors and was often unsanitary.
In 1872, the Freedmen’s Bureau was abruptly shut down. No group picked up maintenance of the grounds and the National Cemetery in 1873 built a brick wall to separate the cemeteries.
With no group affiliated as a keeper of the grounds, the markers and crosses disappeared rather quickly. Cattle roamed the grounds freely and at the time, the levee wall was about knee high so the area flooded often building sediment and dirt over top. It is estimated that the bodies are about 15 feet under at this point, which makes studies with ground penetrating radar inconclusive.
The names of the people buried (minus the 800-some re-interments and some unknown) are all recorded at the National Archives.
As I transcribe the interment records, they are here and Find A Grave.