Zachary Taylor National Cemetery is located in the northeastern section of Louisville, Kentucky alongside Brownsboro Road. Thousands of cars pass by it daily and few stop and visit one of the 2 national cemeteries in the city; one of 7 in the state. The gates are open sunrise to sunset daily.
The nationally registered cemetery is situated on 16 acres of land and the silence is magical once you pass through the gates and get out of your car. Sounds from the road and the nearby interstate are suddenly nonexistent.
Right inside the gate is the main office off to the right, which is open Monday thru Friday from 8 AM until 4:30 PM. Across from the stone exterior office is a short road that leads back to a covered pavilion where burial ceremonies are performed. So, there are only two roads in the cemetery, but all around there is much history present.
White tombstones, in neat rows are a stark contrast to the green grass which is manicured by a staff from the government. The markers seem to go on forever over the rolling landscape. Names, dates, ranks, the wars fought in are chiseled in the face of the stone. Some are buried from battle related deaths; others many years after the end of the war in which they fought. On the backside of the tombs are the names of spouses.
There are too many gravesites to look at individually, but I am consumed with the thought of what happened in these soldier’s lives. Represented by the dash on each tombstone, what story could be told if the dash could only speak. Stories of fear, lost lives, lost love, pain, tragedy, returning home, trying to forget, starting over – too many questions but all related to fighting for peace.
The cemetery was founded in 1928 by an act of Congress. Before that, President Zachary Taylor’s body had been moved here from Washington, DC and was interred on a half acre of the family grave site. The Taylor family asked Congress to take the title to the family burial site and they were turned down. The State of Kentucky gave 15.5 acres of land to bring the total acreage to 16. The federal government still refused and they did agree to maintain the land.
In 1883, the state built a granite shaft as a memorial to the 12th President. On top there is a life size statue of Zachary Taylor.
President Taylor was originally buried here in an earthen tomb with his wife Margaret Taylor, which is still present. 43 years later a mausoleum made of limestone was built and both bodies were moved. The inside of the new tomb is lined with marble, the front doors are made of bronze and they have double paneled glass through which you can see inside. The back has two windows, allowing light to illuminate the interior. The inscription over the door is "1784 Zachary Taylor 1850." In this case, the dash is the president’s name. What a story his life tells.
There are 13,486 interments in the cemetery. The men and women buried here served in 6 wars: Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.
Near the entrance, beside the main office, there is a small section of tombs of soldiers whose bodies were never found. A Missing in Action flag flies over this area on a flagpole. A sheltered computer as well as a binder full of pages are present to aid in locating a person buried here in the cemetery.
Zachary Taylor is buried in the back along with his family members.
My wife and I were there for 60 minutes and two other cars came and went in that time period. All of the tombstones face the east, which means those on the right hand side of the road as you enter have their backs to the road, except for the tombs of the MIA soldiers. They get to witness the sunrise every day and they all fought for the day when that sun would rise and there would be peace over the land.