Remembering UNC’s War Dead

Postcard of Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill
Memorial Hall was the University of North Carolina’s first monument to graduates killed in war. Occupied in 1885, the building honored the University’s Civil War dead as well as David Lowry Swain, who served as the University’s president from 1835-1868, and others who served the University. Memorial Hall was the first building erected on campus after the Civil War. It served as an auditorium, chapel and gymnasium. The walls featured marble tablets listing the names of war dead and others who served the University. A total of 287 UNC graduates died during the Civil War.

By the 1920s Memorial Hall’s interior wood trusses had decayed, leading University officials to declare the building unsafe. Its Victorian Gothic architectural style was also considered outdated. Consequently, the building was demolished in 1930 and a new one, in the Colonial Revival style, constructed in its place. The marble tablets were moved to the new building, and both the tablets and the building remain today. There’s more on Memorial Hall and other campus buildings in the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s exhibit A Dialogue Between Old & New: Notable Buildings on the UNC campus.

A total of 716 UNC alumni have died in military actions that span from the War of 1812 through Vietnam, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their names are included on The Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of Those Lost in Military Service, which sits between Memorial and Phillips halls. The UNC General Alumni Association has created an online database with the names and biographies of the war dead.

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