Fort McPherson National Cemetery holds special place

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The orderly rows of corn and soybeans, alfalfa fields and sweeping meadows of the Platte Valley, so peaceful on a calm spring day, was the scene of violent conflict in years past, as European settlers tried to make their way to the West Coast or build a home on the prairie by displacing Native Americans.

An Army post, Fort McPherson, was established near present-day Maxwell, Neb., in 1863, to protect the Oregon Trail immigrants and workers building the first transcontinental railroad.

Soon a post cemetery was established, and in 1873, Fort McPherson National Cemetery was established on 20 acres southwest of the fort, and 50 remains were moved to the new site.

A cemetery lodge was built in 1876 and rehabilitated in 1951 and 2000. A monument about a mile southeast of the cemetery marks the site of the flagstaff of the old military post, and another monument marks the route used by the short-lived Pony Express over the Oregon Trail, which passes through the cemetery.

Fort McPherson National Cemetery is the final resting place for four recipients of our nation’s highest award for valor in military combat, the Medal of Honor:

— Private Daniel A. Miller, (Indian Campaigns) Company F, 3rd. U.S. Cavalry. Whetstone Mountains, Ariz., May 5, 1871.

— Emanuel Stance was born in Louisiana in 1848 and he enlisted in the Army in 1866. Sgt. Stance received the Medal of Honor in May 1870 for unquestioned courage but had a volatile personality, was demoted to private and restored to rank several times, and was murdered, likely by his own men, on Christmas Day 1887, at Fort Robinson, Neb.

— George Jordan, born about 1850 in Tennessee, enlisted in the U.S. Army in Nashville in 1866. In 1890, Sgt. Jordan received the Medal of Honor for holding ground against greater numbers of the enemy in 1880 and 1881. He was the first African American so recognized in two decades. After retiring in April 1897, Jordan remained in Nebraska and, as a landowner, lobbied for the right to vote. In fall 1904 he sought medical attention at the Fort Robinson hospital but he was denied admission; he died that October.

— Private First Class James W. Fous, (Vietnam) U.S. Army, Company E, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam, May 14, 1968.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it had bought 18 acres on the north side of the cemetery to nearly double its current size.

The VA operates two other national cemeteries in Nebraska: Omaha National Cemetery on the south side of Omaha and Forest Lawn Cemetery Soldiers’ Lot in Omaha.

Fort McPherson National Cemetery is a beautiful place to visit to honor those who have served in our military, especially those who paid the ultimate price in the process.

Let’s hope it never has to be expanded again.

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