The Florence National Cemetery is located a quarter of a mile from the site of the former Florence Stockade. It became a National Cemetery in 1865, and remains from nearby Civil War battlefield cemeteries were transferred and reinterred there.
The first woman to be interred in a National Cemetery was Florena Budwin, a Pennsylvania woman who dressed as a man to follow her husband to battle in the Civil War. Her grave marker stands amidst the mass of unmarked graves at the Florence National Cemetery. The cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
The Stockade was built was built in September 1864 to hold Union soldiers and was in operation during the final fall and winter of the Civil War. During its time of operation, anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 captives were held there. After General Sherman captured Atlanta on September 1, 1864, Andersonville prison in south Georgia was thought to be in the path of Sherman, and the Confederate prison authorities determined to relocate the approximately 30,000 Union prisoners being held at Andersonville.
Because Florence was located at the intersection of three railroads it was chosen as a site for a newly constructed prison. Most of the prisoners who initially came to Florence were first transported to Charleston before making their way 90 miles inland to Florence. The Florence Stockade was still under construction when the first several thousand prisoners arrived.
The Florence Stockade covered 23.5 acres with a trench dug out around the outside to prevent prisoners from tunneling out. After about a month of operation, there were about 12,000 prisoners and a death rate of 20 to 30 per day. Supplies were scarce for both the prisoners and the guards. Of the total number of prisoners that passed through the Florence Stockade, 2,802 Union soldiers died there, and most were buried in unmarked trenches in what would become the Florence National Cemetery.
The site is open to the public and is a component of the City of Florence Trail System. The City of Florence and the Friends of the Florence Stockade have developed a walking tour of the site. There is also an informational gazebo on-site containing a permanent display detailing the history of the site. The Stockade was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Florence National Cemetery
803 East National Cemetery Road
Florence, SC 29506