Florida National Cemetery is located in the Withlacoochee State Forest, approximately 50 miles north of Tampa in Sumter County, Fla. Withlacoochee State Forest was acquired by the federal government from private landowners between 1936 and 1939 under the provisions of the U.S. Land Resettlement Administration. The U.S. Forest Service managed the property until a lease-purchase agreement transferred it to the Florida Board of Forestry in 1958. Currently, Withlacoochee State Forest is the second-largest state forest in Florida, divided into eight distinct tracts of land.
In 1842, Congress encouraged settlement here by establishing the Armed Occupation Act. The law granted a patent for 160 acres to any man who kept a gun and ammunition, built a house, cultivated five acres of the land and remained there for at least five years. Settlers moved in to take advantage of the generous offer. The area contained abundant timber and suitable farmland, appealing attributes to frontiersmen. In 1845 Florida was granted statehood.
During the Civil War, a sugar mill on the Homosassa River supplied sugar to the Confederacy. A robust citrus-growing industry developed in the eastern part of the area and became a focus of intense economic expansion soon after the war.
In 1980, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it would establish a new national cemetery in Florida, it's fourth. Two major locations for the cemetery were studied: Cross Florida Barge Canal and Withlacoochee State Forest. The Withlacoochee site, though more environmentally sensitive, was supported by government officials. On Feb. 15, 1983, the state transferred land to the VA for the development of a Florida National Cemetery. The first interment was in 1988.
Monument and Memorials
The cemetery features a Memorial Pathway that is lined with a variety of memorials that honor America’s veterans. As of April 2018, there were 51 such memorials at Florida National Cemetery — most commemorating soldiers and veterans of 20th-century conflicts.
The American Veterans (AMVETS) donated a carillon on Oct. 9, 1993, which is located in the open meadow adjacent to the original administration building. The main assembly area is adorned with an open colonnade where Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies are held.