Separated in Life, Segregated in Death

Richard D. L. Fulton

Orange flags denote where the previously unknown locations of bodies buried in the cemetery have been found.

It is believed that over 400 individuals were buried in the Lincoln Cemetery.

Photos Courtesy of the Lincoln Cemetery Project Association

There are few sites in Gettysburg that better illustrate the days of a two-tiered system of “citizenship” than the Lincoln Cemetery on Long Lane in Gettysburg.

More than 160 years ago, more than 91,000 troops in the Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of General George G. Meade, collided with more than 70,000 troops in the Confederate Army of Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, on July 1-3 in 1863.

In the wake of the engagement, the Union forces sustained more than 22,000 casualties (of which 3,126 were killed), while the Confederate forces suffered about the same in the numbers of casualties, of which 4,400 were killed. By the end of the three days of battles, about 30 percent of the total forces engaged by both sides had been killed, wounded, or reported missing.

The white Union soldiers killed in the battle had the “luxury” of being interred in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. As for the Black Union soldiers who served during the Civil War and died in the war or died later in life after the end of the war, they were not permitted to be buried in the National Cemetery.

Thus, Black soldiers (and the preponderance of Blacks, in general) were compelled to establish their own cemeteries.

One such cemetery is located on Long Lane in Gettysburg and is known as the Goodwill Cemetery (also known as the Lincoln Cemetery). The cemetery was established in 1867 by the Sons of Goodwill “for the burial of the colored citizens of Gettysburg,” according to a historic bronze placard at the site. The Sons of Goodwill founding officers included Lloyd F.A. Watts, Basil Biggs, and Owen Robinson, among others, according to the Lincoln Cemetery Project Association (LCPA).

The Goodwill Cemetery was also called the Lincoln Cemetery after the site was acquired by the Lincoln Lodge 145, a Black Elks Lodge, according to Savannah Labbe, a Gettysburg College student, whose research paper, “Separate but Equal? Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery,” was published in The Gettysburg Compiler (The Gettysburg Compiler is written and edited by students and staff of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College).  The lodge ceased caring for the cemetery in 1934. 

The commemorative plaque also states, “Interred in this burial ground are 38 ‘United States Colored Troops’ (USCT), veterans of the Civil War, who were denied burial in the Gettysburg’s National Cemetery.”

Also interred in the cemetery, according to another historic marker located at the cemetery, “are many of the town’s earliest Black residents, reinterred when the town’s ‘Colored Cemetery’ was cleared in 1906 to provide space for new houses.”

After the Lincoln Lodge 145 ceased caring for the cemetery, various citizens and citizen groups provided care for the cemetery over the years, but eventually the gravesite fell into disrepair and overgrown, and was subjected to vandalism, according to The Sons of Goodwill/Lincoln Cemetery Digital History, citing Betty Dorsey Myers’ Segregation in Death: Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery (Gettysburg: The Lincoln Cemetery Project Association, 2001).

In 1999, the Lincoln Cemetery Project Association (LCPA) was established to oversee the management and care of the cemetery, under the leadership of Myers, who was then the historian and chair of the organization. According to the LCPA, the organization established a new  board of directors in 2013 “to continue this important work and take action to save the cemetery from further deterioration.”

During her tenure, in addition to all her efforts, along with that of the organization as a whole, Myers had directed the cemetery gates to be locked in an effort to prevent further vandalism.

For additional information, or to donate to aid the organization in its efforts to continue with the maintenance of the Lincoln Cemetery, visit the LCPA website at

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