Abstract. The dead, particularly the war dead, play a central role in the development of nationalism, nowhere more so than in America. America's mid-nineteenth century Civil War produced a recognisable and influential ‘cult of the dead’, comparable in its construction with similar developments in Europe following World War I. Focused on the figure of the fallen soldier, especially the volunteer soldier, this cult found physical expression in the development of national cemeteries devoted not just to the burial of those who fell in the war but to the idea of America as a nation, in the development of monuments to the dead that, again, reinforced the new national symbolism of the war era, and in the beginnings of Memorial Day, an American sacred ceremony with clear parallels with the later Armistice Day ceremonies in Europe. In all these developments, America preceded the European nations by several decades, making America a valuable case study for the role that the cult of the fallen soldier plays in national development more generally.