The United States National Cemetery System is a system of 147 nationally important cemeteries in the United States. The authority to create military burial places came during the American Civil War, in an act passed by the U.S. Congress on July 17, 1862. By the end of 1862, 14 national cemeteries had been established (see text of photo). A national cemetery is generally a military cemetery containing the graves of U.S. military personnel, veterans and their spouses, but not exclusively so. The best known national cemetery is Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C.. Some national cemeteries, especially Arlington, contain the graves of important civilian leaders and other important national figures. Some national cemeteries also contain sections for Confederate soldiers. In addition to national cemeteries, there are also state veteran cemeteries.
The National Cemetery Administration of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs maintains 131 of the 147 national cemeteries as well as the Nationwide Gravesite Locator, which can be used to find burial locations of American military veterans. The Department of the Army maintains two national cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery and United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery, and 39 other cemeteries across the United States under Army National Military Cemeteries. The National Park Service (NPS) maintains 14 cemeteries associated with historic sites and battlefields.
The American Battle Monuments Commission, an independent agency, maintains 26 American military cemeteries and other memorials outside the United States.
Final military honors are provided for qualified veterans by several volunteer details known as a Memorial Honor Detail (MHD) upon request of family members through their choice of mortuaries handling the deceased's remains.
After the war Whitman became assistant quartermaster in charge of national cemeteries and mortuary records for the same district. Charged with inspecting cemeteries and battlefields, he located Union soldiers buried in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.