Originally established in 1866 by General George Henry Thomas as Marietta and Atlanta National Cemetery, it was intended to provide interment for nearly 10,000 Union dead from General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.
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The land for the cemetery was donated by local resident Henry Cole, as a place to inter both Union and Confederate soldiers. His idea was that by burying together those who had fallen together in battle, it could help foster a kind of peace. Both sides rejected his proposal, and the land was used primarily to inter Union soldiers, while the others were buried in the Marietta Confederate Cemetery. As part of the land sale agreement, the Cole family has their own plot within the National Cemetery.