Rare burial at National Cemetery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The gates of Vicksburg National Cemetery opened Monday afternoon to admit what has become a rarity within the 116-acre spread of tombstones — a funeral procession.

The hearse-led caravan carrying the body of Dorothy Haggard, 82, of Jackson, wended its way through the rows of graves until it reached a burial site adjacent to that of Cleveland Haggard, a World War II veteran whose 1960 death left Dorothy a widow. After his death, she moved with the couple’s children to Jackson from Vicksburg, where Cleveland had been working for Westinghouse Electric Co. She never remarried. 

“She always said, ‘Take me home to him when I die. Take me home to Vicksburg,’” recalled Haggard’s daughter, Ruby Scott.

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Veterans have not been able to reserve grave plots in Vicksburg National Cemetery for nearly five decades, rendering burials infrequent.

According to Vicksburg National Military Park historian Terry Winschel, Dorothy Haggard requested her burial space immediately after the February 1960 death of her husband.

The cemetery, created in 1866 to accommodate Union Civil War casualties but later opened to veterans of subsequent conflicts and their immediate family members, stopped taking reservations in 1961.

Veterans and their family members remain eligible for burial in other national military cemeteries.

Vicksburg National Cemetery contains roughly 18,000 graves, only about 1,300 of which are final resting places of veterans of military confrontations that occurred after 1865. Fewer still represent family members of those younger veterans, many of whom are interred in the newer section of the cemetery that abuts North Washington Street and contains the Haggards’ graves.

Winschel said that records kept by the park, which has administered the cemetery since 1947, suggest that as many as 50 reservations remained outstanding before Monday’s burial.  The last interments before Haggard’s occurred in April and August of 2007, he said.


Contact Ben Bryant at bbryant@vicksburgpost.com